Should we go ahead?


This might be getting boring to those who are not affiliated with Roller Derby, but before I go back to other topics I have to write about one that is really concerning me.

Photo by Warley Rossi from stock.xchng.com

We all get excited about publicity and breakthroughs with the amazing game and people connected with it.  Some of the journalists and TV producers get it others don’t.  The article on the front page of the Sports section of the L. A. Times semi-got it:  Chris Hawkins reported on the game, but still had to get the question in about the legitimacy.  I wish all of these writers would do a little more research on the sport.  Marsha Jordan of  WLS-ABC Chicago really got it, and she was a fan of the classic game.  She covered the Nationals, featuring the Windy City Rollers (Chicago, of course), but managed to get excellent interviews of why the women are in the game and what it means to them.  I hope you all read the article and saw the ABC Chicago piece.

How can we all get together and form a unified product that can be presented on a national basis. interestingly enough, there is already a national TV network (Derbynewsnetwork.com) that could be easily integrated into am existing cable network (ESPN, Fox, Comcast, Versus, etc) that would get viewers.  If all cities compiled who their sponsors are and what success they have had, it would be a compelling document (and I mean to get real money for sponsorship, not just trade for merchandise).  There should be promoter involvement, as there already is with Live Nation for the RMRG and AEG-LIVE for the Denver Roller Dolls.  Boise also has a promoter, and I am certain there are others out there.  We also should know total paid attendance per month in the US as a selling point to show the national impace.

I would gladly work with the WFTDA, the OSDA, the Men’s leagues and whomever else to make it happen.  It is time, and if the current participants do not do it in some form, some smart people out there will take the concept and run with it, and it may end up again as an exhibition and a lost opportunity.

I also believe that in the long run the game in the major cities and arenas will be skated on the banked track.  There are so many advantages to doing it, and not because that is what I did.  The game is faster, actually safer (falling on the masonite is a bit like a trampoline, and the rails can be used to protect) and more spectator friendly.  I am not advocating the abandoning of the flat track game, that would be impossible for many of the leagues.  However with funding and more money available to the leagues and the participants, the expense would not be as much of a factor. We solved the storage factor by having the arenas we skated continuously buy their own tracks and set them up.

Maybe this concept is impossible now.  Initially it may have to be flat track only; however television is fickle, and if the best presentation by the best athletes is not available, there would have to be a great love of the game for it to continue in an expanded form, without any of you losing control of what you have created.

Photo by Quil from stock.xchng.com

Please give feedback and I would like to hear from those who would like to at least discuss Roller Derby going forward together, and how it should be accomplished.  I think all of you know you can post a comment here or on my facebook page.

2011 can be an amazing year.

21 comments on “Should we go ahead?

  1. While I agree that flat track is faster, I don’t agree that it is the future of the sport. The banked track game is just simply not as exciting as the flat track and is much less an exhibition of strategy and more of a race to try to get two scoring passes in a minute. The one minute jams and quarters really ruin the natural flow that flat track has (as long as refs don’t screw it up with long huddles).

    The WFTDA has laid so much groundwork that I don’t believe there’s any chance of a widespread adoption of banked track. I could see the LA Derby Dolls getting a show but as far as something that ESPN or any sports network would cover, it would be national or international games, not a home league.

    • Derbytron, you have no idea what you are talking about. The banked track game can be just as much an exhibition of strategy as the flat track game, and has periodically done that at its highest moments. Sometimes the higher speeds dilute your ability to see the strategy unless you’re attuned to it. Sometimes the players just forget what they know, which I think we saw at the WFTDA Championships (DON’T CHASE AFTER THE BLOCKERS AT THE HEAD OF THE PACK, PUT THEM OUT OF PLAY TO GET YOUR JAMMERS OUT!).

      Banked track was in its own bubble for a long time. Part of it was self enforced, and part of it was thrust upon it by mean people who were trying to build a separate identity for flat track, essentially tagging all modern banked track as being the same as that which resulted from the first derby league divorce.

      That changed in 2008 when Team Awesome was invited to Battle on the Bank in Los Angeles. It turns out, flat track tactics that can be adapted to the bank work very well. The ones that can’t: anything involving outside OOB, clockwise skating, running the clock on the pivot line, the second jammer out of the pack getting lead, and bridging, have compensating strategies. For example, a tight call off can result in a loss of lead jammer status in banked track if the other skater passes while the original lead jammer is being distracted by a block. There’s one simple additional level of awareness and calculation involved.

      A slow jammer will lose lead jammer status if passed by a faster jammer who exited second. Use it or lose it. Yes, it does deprive the lead jammer of the ability to skate around the track slow and wait for the other jammer to reach the pack and then call it off, but the end result is the same: the jam gets called before the second jammer can score. Which LJ technique you prefer is an aesthetic judgment, but one is not more strategic than the other by its nature. In all honesty, all jammers should be fast, since it is an athletic competition.

      The rules defining the pack in WORD rules banked track are very similar to WFTDA (not at all a coincidence, as I helped to bring that about, and it took some negotiation to make that happen).

      Currently, the proximity is 5′ instead of 10′, which keeps the packs tighter, and many people think this works better for the game. That may or may not continue in the next WORD rules revision. Also, no bridging. The pack is the pack, and if you can’t catch the jammer in that 20 feet and pull her back into the pack, you lose your shot. But a team can still grab a goat from the opposing team and put on the brakes to put the opposing team’s blockers at the head of the pack out of play. They can still form walls, shut the door, booty block for a hammer/nail, juke through the pack, jump an apex, pull an OOB skater to the back of the pack (if the pack is moving forward), slow the pack to a near stop with a goat to optimize scoring, etc.

      And I (and several leading Derby Dolls) agree: home teams if a league has them, should be the farm teams that feed a main travel team: not an all star team that has skaters doing double duty and are constantly unable to give a 100% effort to interleague. It’s a cultural shift they haven’t made yet in LA since the people with that opinion are a minority, but one that the San Diego Derby Dolls have down pat.

      And I have to add, that most of the exciting banked track will come from banked track teams vs top level flat track teams. There may be a point where you have two top level flat track teams wind up playing each other at banked track tournaments if the current policies continue. I hope it does.

      Widespread adaptation of banked tracks isn’t necessary for it to be a competitive sport. Anymore than it making a difference that flat track has 600+ leagues when the real sports action is all in the top 25 or 30. But then, even if there are 20 banked track leagues, they won’t all be striving for the quality of SDDD/LADD/Team Legit. They won’t all be WORD. They won’t all want a major interleague effort (even LADD sits on the fence on that, but cultural changes take time).

      In my opinion, the banked track game works best when it’s flat and banked together. Maybe all of roller derby would work best if that were the case, but it is completely one sided. Banked track leagues are institutionally unwelcome in the flat track world. All flat track games with a banked track league are effectively exhibition, unless the banked track league stops being a banked track league and is owned by the flat track skaters.

      The other problem with banked track, is those that believe it does and should belong to the old school. The old schoolers are constantly trying to reassert ownership of the bank, and forces the modern banked leagues to have to fight a two front battle for their identities.

      There’s a lot of work needed to bring banked track up to the level of the top level of flat track. But then that same phrase could be applied to bringing more of flat track up to that level. 95% of flat track is at the recreational level of achievement, and I think that can be said for at least 60% of the membership of the WFTDA.

      Banked track and flat track exist in separate worlds only because it’s been institutionalized that way. If the WFTDA was just the WDA, if the two Derby Dolls leagues were invited into the ULC, you’d have many more banked track leagues. The cost of a banked track is comparable to the cost of Sport/Skate Court, and several flat track leagues also have dedicated full time practice spaces. The majority of leagues would still be flat track, you’d just have more leagues than now that are banked, and you’d have a lot more flat on banked and banked on flat competition. But that’s in the past. Maybe we’ll see a future with less prejudice and rigid policies emanating from an event that included exactly two leagues out of the current 600+.

      • I do think that Banked and Flat can coexist just like the NFL and AFL coexist (sort of). It’s the same sport but played on a different surface. I don’t really understand what you’re saying about playing both banked and flat together. That makes no sense to me. Nobody would want NFL teams playing AFL teams. I’m not saying that they should be completely separated but I don’t understand why WFTDA should have any interest in organizing banked track. I don’t get that argument.

        On the other hand, though, I do agree that the WFTDA focuses too much on what happens in a league rather than what the team that would be WFTDA sanctioned does. Who cares if a league plays banked track or has a men’s team? I think it’s stupid for WFTDA to keep San Diego out. They’re one of the top teams in the country. If SD does ever reach a higher level of success where they’re one of the top 5 flat track teams in the country, then the WFTDA championship couldn’t really be considered a true championship. And, these WFTDA policies obviously aren’t keeping teams from playing banked track, so there’s really no point in them anymore.

        Let’s be realistic about banked track. The only places it’s gained any popularity nationally is the first league ever created and Southern California. No offense, but I think we all know SoCal hardly represents anywhere else in the country. The first league in Austin was focused on being banked from the start. If banked was ever going to become popular, it should’ve happened by now. There are many more reasons that flat track has become more popular than just the costs. The only way I can see banked track eclipsing flat is a billionaire going to a Derby Dolls game, falling in love, and then putting together a bunch of teams around the country. Without that, flat track will always remain king (or queen, I guess).

        That’s my point. Nothing against banked track. I just don’t see any way for it to ever become more popular than flat in its current form. I also don’t see how it would ever get covered by ESPN or FSN as mostly an exhibition of intraleague games (not that I see that happening anytime soon for flat). And, really, even if interleague games start happening more often, there’s really only two competitive banked track teams and they’re in the same part of the country. That just doesn’t work nationally or internationally.

  2. I didn’t state what rules the game would be skated under. I believe the WFTDA rules could be applied. The banked track game is faster, in the long run easier, and less hard on the ankles and feet as turning is not as difficult.

    This was my opinion…..don’t get off track on is it time for the game to go national and the skaters to own and participate, whatever surface is used.

  3. I have experienced both the flat track and the banked track games from the eyes of a fan and journalist. I do agree that the banked track game is definitely more of a draw from a fan perspective.

    Take a league like the Arizona Derby Dames. In their season 3 (2008), they used a roller hockey venue with a capacity of about 800 and they played flat track. They would sell out every game (some to the point of oversale and at least one fire marshal visit). In season 4 (2009), they moved to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a 20,000+ potential (although they had about 10K available in the configuration they used. They were selling but their attendance was not much higher than when they were at the roller hockey rink. There were rumors (and I stress rumors) that the league may have been having financial difficulties in that season. Again, these were rumors. But that was all water under the bridge because AZDD did their banked track build for season 5 (2010). I was at the debut bout and there was 4,000+ in attendance. It did not beat Rat City’s record but it was definitely a record for Arizona derby. AZDD and I were simultaneously saying “you build a banked track and they will come.” and that was definitely the truth. AZDD is now very successful and taking their game much more seriously than before (not as many fights than before, except during the expo bouts… Isn’t that right Red Rocker???)

    As a SPECTATOR sport (e.g. live and in person), I prefer the flat track game. This is because it’s the most fan friendly. You can be right up on the action, there’s no rail to block your view and it is still possible for a rollergirl to land in your lap (and no, you still can’t take them home).

    As a TELEVISION sport, I would definitely prefer the banked track game.. hands down. The game is definitely faster, the jams are shorter and with the correct camera angles, the action can be captured despite the rail.

    The main problem with WFTDA right now is the current structure of the association and how teams are placed in there. WFTDA only divides teams by geography but not on skill level. This results in many runaway victories (e.g. scores like 285-40). This type of a game is in no way shape or form attractive to television (viewers would tune out once the margin got too high). WFTDA not only has to subdivide by region but also has to divide by skill level.. The Apprentice Program does not achieve this goal but I feel that there should be a “B” division for the weaker teams who will have to earn their way to the higher “A” division.

    While this can’t be avoided due to league budgets, but it would be better if teams go to regular schedules and standings are based on actual win/loss/pointspread instead of the current ranking system. (This would require each team to play an equal number of games, which is a challenge in the real world for many leagues).

    For a banked track game, while I support the OSDA and their ruleset, there’s also the WORD ruleset which has been accepted by quite a few DIY leagues out west and is used for interleague play (Battle on the Banked).

    I feel that a professional structure similar to arena football in markets, especially those with a large derby presence would be successful. I do not see the pro leagues as a threat to the DIY leagues, specially if there’s cooperation between the pro franchise and local DIY leagues. The DIY leagues (flat and banked) are a perfect training ground for future pro players. Unlike football, roller derby is not played in high school.

    I think that once there is a professional structure that will not have the private club and the “by the skaters” attitudes that exclude some from true participation and there is TRUE ORGANIZATION, then ESPN and Fox Sports will be looking in our direction.

    • Michi-chan, I think you’re kidding yourself. Specifically, the assertion that the current “by the skaters” attitude excludes some skaters from participating, but that those barriers will go away if/when the sport goes professional, shows that you’ve never worked in the professional sports world. If anything, the bar will be higher when the sport is professional, if the attitudes prevalent in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and other professional sports leagues is any indication. The lack of that exclusionary attitude seems to be a feature of the grass-roots nature of derby, and is one of the things I like the most about the sport; I hope we manage to hang onto it even if the sport does go pro – but I’m sure once real money gets involved, we’ll have the same battle on our hands that other pro sports do.

      I don’t think that attitude or organization (pr lack thereof) is what’s keeping the big networks away from derby; I think it has more to do with derby’s long (nearly 75-year) history as an exhibition sport, culminating most recently with Roller Jam, and the relatively recent re-emergence of derby as a truly competitive sport. You said it yourself – roller derby isn’t played in high school. Until it is, don’t look for periodic, seasonal coverage by any major network. Maybe in a few years, ESPN-2 will pick up the Championships, if we’re lucky.

      Even then, I suspect that as has been said here, flat-track will remain the game of choice for the vast majority of skaters – it’s cheap, easy to set up, tear down, and run a game in a smooth parking lot or a multipurpose space, like the Las Vegas Sports Center where Rollercon ’10 was held. Only a lucky few will be able to play banked-track derby, even if it gets picked up professionally. (How many banked-tracked general-admission skating rinks do you know of?) One of the huge draws of a sport like basketball or football is that a high school kid can play the same game as the pros, and dream; the same can’t be said of derby if the pro league goes banked, and I think that would be a huge loss.

  4. I feel that we would be remiss in not wanting to assist
    with any for the teams wanting to go on with roller derby, be it what it used to be or what it is now.

    The skaters are trying to do something that they enjoy, and also give those caring about skating something that they enjoy watching.

    Tho’ I was never a skater Jerry, I certainly spent considerable time with skaters, etc during Bill was
    with Roller Derby. If I could help, I certainly
    would.

    Dee

  5. Flat and banked leagues need to grow together for derby to remain viable in the long term, for on both the amateur and professional levels.

    It’s fantastic that there’s flat track derby, because that’s opening up the game to more and more people, both to new players and new spectators. It’s easy to setup a track with a roll of tape, and it’s relatively cheap to run a league (compared to banked track, anyway) because you don’t really need anything more than an open skating space to play on.

    Because of that, they’re playing derby in countries that never really played derby before. If roller derby ever gets considered for the Olympics, it’s definitely be the flat track version of it because that’s the version everyone in the world will be playing on the amateur level.

    However, I believe that the banked track will be what takes modern roller derby to the next level. Having personally attended dozens of banked track games, and having seen several flat-track games in person and online (thanks, DNN!) I don’t think TV networks or big-name sponsors are going to buy into flat-track derby like they do with pro or college sports.

    Speaking from the perspective of a life-long sports fan, flat track derby is certainly not the best representation of roller derby. I would rather show my sports buddies a banked track game over a flat track game, if I had the option. It’s faster and harder hitting, and like Jerry said, easier on the skaters in the long run. I can’t understand why people would say otherwise unless they haven’t seen banked track derby in person or just have a bias toward flat track derby to begin with.

    Just realize this: Red Bull, who has a crap-ton of sponsorship dollars to throw around, chose to promote banked track roller derby with the Red Bull Banked Jam in Chicago. That’ll be Windy City vs. the LA Derby Dolls on the banked track. (Should the stars align I may fly from LA to Chicago to see this myself.) Red Bull could have just as easily gotten two very highly-ranked WFTDA teams together for a flat-track game, but they’re just doing an exhibition banked track game instead. Why do you think that is?

    @Derbytron Have you seen a banked track game in person? They way you describe the “natural flow” of derby is backwards to me. Roller derby has always “naturally” been played on the banked track, has always had 60 second jams, and has always been played in smaller timed periods. But now all of a sudden current banked track derby isn’t natural? Please clarify what you mean by that.

    • I think that maybe banked track Roller Derby is confused with legitimacy. Leagues now are playing the flat track rules on banked track…..every skater who I have talked to loves the idea of skating on the banked track. Obviously there are logistical and cost problems concerned with this game that could be overcome with sponsorships. I have seen more games on both surfaces than anyone else alive (the advantage of being old and having your family create the game!) and the only difference is that one compares an exhibition with a fully legitimate sport. And it hit its peak almost 40 years ago!

      Present the game as it was meant to be shown, with today’s skaters and see what happens.

      • There are other issues. The biggest one is a kind of religion that springs up around any of two major choices: Ford vs Chevy in my youth, Mac vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, and flat vs banked.

        As I mentioned above, it is NOT an open market. It is kept institutionally separated by the WFTDA at this time, but could easily be changed with a single sentence.

        Money is not the only issue, though it is significant. And sponsorships for the kind of money needed, have been hard to come by. Money wants to come with strings attached. The Red Bull Jam is interesting in that two leagues from different sides of the fence are being hired as contractors and expected to manage the game itself.

        Maybe that’s a model for a future professional series. Maybe it’ll be an example of things that require more refinement. A very severe weakness is that we won’t see video from this game apparently.

        But you have to keep in mind, that the modern banked game is not your family’s game. It is more like the grandchildren of your family’s game, and the grandchildren are very different from their grandparents, like all grandchildren are.

        Roller derby only became an evolving sport as all real sports have been, in this century. It is growing up from the sandlot or frozen pond. It takes the old game as an inspiration, a jumping off point, and has been evolving through the exigencies of fully open competition. On the flat, and on the bank. Banked track that ignores the competitive innovations of thousands of flat track games, cannot be all that it can be. And at this time, only the WORD version of the game can claim that it is fully paying attention, because that is where flat and banked meet.

    • @WindyMan:
      “Roller derby has always “naturally” been played on the banked track, has always had 60 second jams, and has always been played in smaller timed periods.”

      It’s a very popular misconception that whatever the rules when you started watching were what they always were. Originally Roller Derby had THREE teams facing off.

      From 1938 to 1951-ish, Roller Derby had two minute jams (WFTDA is following tradition!) and 15 minute periods (as WORD has). After that it switched to 12 minute periods (probably for TV) and 90 second jams.

      During the 1960s, the length of the jams was gradually reduced to sixty seconds.

      One reason the jam length may have been reduced was that the sizes of the tracks tended to get reduced over time. The original tracks were much longer and wider, with the banking being steeper than what you might have watched back in the 1970s and/or 80s.

      Latter-day “classic derby” leagues tended to shorten the periods even further. With Rollergames and RollerJam it probably was about more ad or Wally George/manager time. As for more recent theatrical leagues without TV shows, one might suppose shorter periods might make things easier on aging skaters without year-round practice space.

      Most modern day banked track derby leagues skates four 15 minute periods, with the clock running between jams and 30 seconds to set the lineups. TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls’ intraleague home games I believe have four eight minute periods with the clock stopping between jams and no 30 second time limit between jams. They fill in the dead time between jams with penalty announcements and enforcement, among other things.

      • Hi Poobah –
        You know I jump in every once in a while to give history on things I actually know! 🙂 The reason we at BGGW played with 2 minute jams is that when we were first figuring out the game, no one could make it around the track to score points in 1 minute! The rules committee (myself, Sparkle Plenty and Helen Fury) increased the jams to 2 minutes with the thought that we’d ‘switch back to 1 minute’ as soon as everyone got conditioned and faster. We had no idea that there was a time in the past that 2 minutes were used. As soon as we got the banked track, TXRD switched to 1 minute, as was always the plan. Don’t worry – no innuendo here as to flat track’s conditioning! I just assumed the girls (and later WFTDA) kept the 2 minutes as everyone had learned to skate bouts that way.
        I’m always amazed at the history – thanks Jerry for leading this and everyone else’s passionate input and knowledge!

  6. @WindyMan

    I live nowhere even close to a banked track team so I have not seen one in person but that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Banked track has such a huge hill to climb to catch up to the competition level of WFTDA that I don’t think it’s possible for them ever to. I can drive to 7 WFTDA teams within 4 hours and I’m not even in a hotbed of derby like the PNW or Colorado.

    By natural flow in flat track derby, I mean that most jams end on the jammer call and there is also a ton more gameplay in the same amount of time. I know it sounds backwards but the more jams there are, the less gameplay is happening because of the 30 seconds between every jam. Every time I’ve watched banked track online, it’s felt clunky. Just as soon as I get into a jam, it’s over. Then, the quarter break comes and I have to wait a few minutes rather than just another 30 seconds. I don’t have anything against banked track, I just disagree with the assertion that banked track is the future of derby.

    Also, I don’t believe your Red Bull argument is really much to look at. Red Bull is known for sponsoring “extreme” sports. I think that one could look at banked track roller derby as an extreme sport as a banked track is very similar to a skateboarding half pipe. I’m not sure anyone looks at flat track derby as an extreme sport. You’re also ignoring the major sponsors that are a part of flat track derby: Chipotle, PBR, Rock Star Engergy Drink, Yelp, etc.

  7. Jerry, WindyMan, Derbytron…
    This is a fantastic discussion (all of you really!) and so glad it’s occurring. As a newcomer to the sport I can’t tell you how exciting it is to hear that this discussion is even taking place. I remember hearing grumblings of “Can derby make it to the Olympics?” and seeing articles on-line and in the USARS mag. about them. But, so many of us often wonder when/how this can REALLY take off before it gets that far. Maybe it needs to hit the Olympics first before it flowers to the national (int’l) media? Maybe that’s the first goal? To that end, once again back to banked/flat. Why not both? I do realize that in the eyes of the public they’ll always be the big and little sister sport. Could it be something that turns into a build of a “minor league” system? Though so many of us in flat track wouldn’t by any stretch call what we do minor league…. It’s just that when you consider the pull of the cameras, I think unless you can get a VERY creative crew you’d be hard pressed to find people who wouldn’t want to watch what they believe to be “derby the way it was”. That’s a hard mindset to try and change.

  8. Jerry, could not agree more. The flat track game lacks sound. The sound of the wheels, the sound of the falls. Can you imagine football or hockey without being able to hear the hits? Those sports are so enhanced by sound. Additionally, painting or taping an oval outline on the floor is visually unappealing to the spectator, and has limited meaning. Banked track all the way.

  9. I just wanted to chime in and say that banked track roller derby does not appeal to me and I’m not interested in watching it on television. Flat track has got me hooked and it’s all I want to see.

    I just wanted to give you my opinion on televised roller derby.

  10. if the professional game were to happen, it could not occur tomorrow. There would have to be training of skaters who want to do it, establish levels of competition, and I believe using the MLS as a basis. Initially, it was operated as one company with coaches who selected players on a draft basis so the teams would be relatively even…..then the franchises were sold to local owners……

    • A professional game is possible using the model being used for the Red Bull Jam. There are certain cultural hesitancies involved in that.

      But the model is this: major sponsor/promoter takes control of the event responsibilities. Leagues are contracted to handle the game responsibilities, for pay. The promoter (assuming they’re knowledgeable) only selects the teams that it thinks will be a great game. No need to interfere with the selection of players to MAKE teams that are even. You pick teams that made themselves that way.

      It would start out as individual exhibition games. Just like early interleague competition was in the early days of the modern sport. Then it becomes a series. Then it becomes a professional championship. Whether a new game commission is needed or whether existing ones can accommodate this model with whatever needs to be changed in their organizations, remains to be seen.

      This might just be a one off. It might be one of the models of the future. But it’s more organic than any other model I’ve heard presented.

      No need to centralize the control of the game. No need to make it banked or flat exclusively. Flat track can be as telegenic as basketball is, and I hear that is very popular. Banked track is still derby turned to 11 when the competitors are at 10. I’d like to see the competitors skate both surfaces interchangeably. I’d like to see banked track competition brought up to parity with flat track.

      Top flat track skaters are stronger on the bank than top banked track skaters are on the flat right now. But then, there isn’t much motivation for the banked skaters to practice and bust their butts to succeed on flat when no matter what their accomplishments, they’ll be shut out of the championship cycle on September 1. There isn’t much motivation for established WFTDA flat track leagues to play them in the first place, since every game uses resources and runs the risk of injury. Getting injured in a non-sanctioned game is a big fear of many skaters and leagues.

      This sport needs time to get its act together. It’s come a long way in a short 5 years since the first standardized rule set was released by the newly formed WFTDA. We haven’t seen what the sport will look like when all of the skaters today are followed by skaters who grew up watching derby, or came up through the ranks of Junior Derby (which exists on both banked and flat). I expect them to leapfrog the current capabilities of the contemporary players.

  11. Banked track vs flat track arguments are SOOOO 2007. Who really cares at this point?

    TXRG and TXRD’s respective Catholic schoolgirl-themed teams held a “Plaid is Rad” party together one year (’07?) when they both one their respective league championships. Similar team themes used to be a bone of contention between them.

    They work to coordinate schedules so that there’s as few scheduling conflicts as possible. TXRG had some skaters visit the Thunderdome last year to scrimmage with TXRD’s All-Scar Army while they were prepping for Battle on the Bank. Here’s Rice Rocket wearing a Dust Devil 2007 shirt. In other words, the axe has been buried in Austin for some time.

    Two mixed teams of WFTDA skaters (Team Awesome and Team Legit) have finished second in 2008 and 2010’s Battle on the Bank. Team Legit finished third in 2009. San Diego Derby Dolls are a banked track league that also skates flat track and has finished first and then second in consecutive state championship tournaments. DNN has them power-ranked at 20th internationally for November.

  12. Speaking just for myself here:

    I see banked track derby like men’s derby. I support it, I’ll watch it. I’m unlikely to get involved very deeply in either, I’ll defend to the death (OK, to a severely sprained pinky) anyone’s right to do either.

    Let’s imagine there wound up being a banked track in my late grandfather’s basement with all those old pipes and plumbing fixtures and my favorite uncle said I could have it if I’d haul it away.

    I wouldn’t donate it to my league or advise them to buy it from me. I’d try very hard to sell it off to someone else. Why would I do that?

    Opponents: There’s four teams in banked track derby that would beat us as badly as Gotham Girls would on a flat track. Two of them have a B team. There’s two newer ones with tournament records that are still up and running, I’m not so sure about the third. None of them are within a twelve hour drive.

    There’s three more leagues with banked tracks that haven’t yet skated any games and seem likely to be playing by their own rules that probably vary pretty significantly from what we’d be more likely to choose. Only one banked track leagues exists on our side of the country, and they fall among this latter group. No banked leagues up in Canada, we tend to play teams from there at least twice a year.

    By remaining flat track, we bring in a regional opponents from our state and surrounding state (even some who pronounce the U in “bout”), several of which are very close matches to our level of ability. If/when we’re WFTDA members, we can use interleague games to move up (or down) in the regional rankings, in hopes of qualifying for East Region Playoffs and maybe even Championships. And participate in several multi-bout events and unofficial tournaments. Even our unofficial state tournament.

    Many of these games would have stakes that go far beyond pride. If you wonder why WFTDA has been so successful, THAT is it. It’s also key to why the level of play and strategic development has come so far so fast. Some leagues probably don’t stand a chance of reaching the top. Most of them are going to try like hell to get there.

    Banked track derby tends to focus on winning the league’s internal title, with interleague play seen as “frosting on the cake.” Most flat track leagues see intraleague play as a way to develop new skaters and pay the bills. When there’s too much internal focus the level of play tends to suffer. It also can contribute to derby drama, tearing the league apart instead of bringing it together.

    Presently all the banked track teams they can get to turn up skate in their one tournament. No rankings, official or otherwise (other than the finish in the annual tournament).

    Ease of set-up: We can lay out a basic flat track in ten minutes, a little longer with the rope and tape to get it looking nice for a game (10′ markers, caution tape, etc). If we upgrade to Skate Court that’d probably add an hour set-up and tear down to the event. And some palate jacks and a truck if the venue won’t let us store the tiles there.

    While I know that classic derby track crews (skaters making extra pay) used to assemble their tracks in a couple hours and tear them down in one, today’s banked tracks seem to take a fair bit longer to assemble. I don’t know if that’s design changes or if it’s just that they don’t do it day in and day out. Extra time at the venue tends to equate to extra money spent. If it’s a union venue, even worse for both time and money.

    Flexibility: It’s been mentioned that flat track leagues can and often do get dedicated practice spaces (warehouses, usually). It’s been said that they may spend almost as much on Skate Court (or whatever) as one does on a banked track. All true.

    The thing is, they can lose the warehouse and go back to renting out their local roller rink/hockey rink if they want or need to. They can sell their Skate Court tiles (there’s a web site dedicated to reselling the stuff!) not just to other flat track leagues but to hockey rinks, skating rinks and others. Only another banked track league wants/needs a banked track.

    They can “downgrade” all these things and still remain what their fans know them for being. A flat track derby league. A banked track league has to have dedicated practice space. Will there be so much unused warehouse space once the economy recovers? If not, won’t that drive up rent on what’s there? All but a few cities have roller rinks for flat rack leagues to fall back on.

    A lot of the evolutionary steps that flat track derby went through five years ago have only recently been reached by banked track derby. Some, like regular interleague play, official rankings, and seeing intraleague derby as more of a stepping stone to interleague still has yet to happen there.

    I’m hopeful for them, but as with men’s derby, when there’s far fewer people doing something, it tends to move forward more slowly.

  13. With both flat track & bank tracks now skating a new form of derby lets see the light that some skaters like flat track
    This is more for there liking and able to skate easier.
    Being on the bank track is yes safer & faster & many of this new generation need to train and learn how to use the track to there advantage for speed,able to monover around better,Getting to play with the same rules would be fine,But they also need to know that the action is in the pack to work your team to help your jamer threw for points.
    There is a lack of knowing how team work is played. Having the first one threw the pack becoming the lead jammer is wrong , as I had seen the second jamer go way past the leading jammer and go threw the pack and can’t cut the jam off.
    The idea of this sport is playing offensive& defensive games and to keep the other team from also scoring .
    What sold derby in the past was playing where fans can see the position of a blocker to help there team mate score points.
    Having lots of action in the pack, If a lone jamer was out there another jamer could hope to break away,
    Well Again the mouth is back here saying what I have since the new generation was formed.
    Read the rules of this sport.Thanks again you all the wonderful fans, skaters, and lots of good friends who gave there prayers for our family.
    Derby has a strong power that many are first learning,we all stick together in the name of the Holy Roller Derby.

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