I returned from Rollercon on Saturday. The annual meeting, skatefest, partying etc was overpowering this year. I believe there were somewhere near 2500 in attendance but don’t really know. There were participants from all over the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany and more, including South America.
There is a difference. Amongst all the fun more women (and now men) are becoming even more serious athletes. Many of the leagues are tightening up on fundamentals and other aspects. Chicago, for example, has a Haymarket league for those who aren’t quite good enough to be in the Windy City Rollers. They skate an additional 18-week program to see if they will qualify. And there are an additional 150 (!) skaters who are in preliminary training (called “fresh meat”).
One reason this fastest growing women’s sport in the world has remained a subculture is that all leagues are owned by the participants and are independent. Over 70 of the 570 leagues are affiliated with the WFTDA for rules and other standards. There is also an organization for one aspect of banked track skating, and another for old style banked track skating. There are organizations in the UK, Canada, Australia, etc. And this is all about a fully legitimate competitive game that grows in popularity.
I cannot generalize on the players. I met a wonderful woman from Bremen, Germany, who had a bit of an Ingrid Bergman look who is an air controller (“I was off during the first volcano explosion in Iceland, but was on hand for the second). There were teachers, pathologists, copy editors (“I make certain Roller Derby gets coverage in my newspaper”), and you name it. There were mothers and daughters, grandmothers, students all of whom were so interesting. I had a little problem with all the tattoos (not on everyone), but that is me and my generation.
There was constant training and skating scrimmages so the different areas and styles all meshed. I headed a seminar on how to promote and “grow” the sport, but couldn’t have done it without the help of Val Capone, Mildred Fierce, and others. I probably learned as much as they did.
More people than not didn’t know that Roller Derby has such a rich history. Most thought the game started when the Roller Girls started and were shocked to hear that it is approaching its 75th anniversary. Also, a great number of the new leagues starting up do not know how to promote or present their events and that’s where I think the seminars were helpful. I hope if anyone took notes during mine will post them to facebook (Mine had the largest attendance of any at Rollercon, so there).
The growth will not stop and I will be working with a number of the cities and personnel to see how the game can go to the next level for those who want to participate. Several are being approached now to go into larger venues and the next logical step is a super leagues of the existing leagues. I suggested and Grace Killy, the president of the WFTDA agreed, that regions should form their teams into a league, so that when they play each other they can post league standings and scores….each game now just stands on its own except for the national rankings of the WFTDA.
What makes it difficult is there is no super governing body or organization that can negotiate in terms of national advertising, television, merchandise and more for the benefit and revenue of all the leagues. I don’t think anyone is aware of the sacrifices these women make in training to skate, volunteering for their matches and community events, and yet having to pay a fee every month to belong.
There were approximately 30 booths of merchandise at the main hall at the Las Vegas Sports Center, which shows that those who have chosen to affiliate with Roller Derby realize the revenue that can be achieved.
I would like to work in the future with these wonderful women in creating a national revenue stream that will allow the sport its natural progression without the heavy burden on the wives, mothers, students, and others who have made this unbelievable phoenix rise from the ashes of its almost 40-year demise.
God Bless them all.
This is on July 22, 2012. in a day and a half we are driving to Las Vegas to the Riviera…..see us in the GoMerch/seltzer brand booth #61…..to get a preview, go to http://www.seltzerbrand.com.