What’s next for Derby?


Among other things in life, Roller Derby keeps me involved and excited.

The funny thing is, I last promoted Roller Derby in 1973, but as I have said to friends during the years since, people just won’t let it go away.  First there was the Rollerjam revival in 1999, and then in 2002 some women in Austin thought it would be fun to do a “Roller Derby” without even knowing what it was.  And out of that came modern Derby (mostly flat track and women) which has spread like crabgrass to about 1100 leagues today in 38 countries.

Photo by jimrhoda from stock.xchng.com

In a few weeks I will be heading towards Denver for the nationals, where 12 teams who competed in regional tourneys will be on hand to see who is the National Champions this year.  Rocky Mountain Roller Girls and the Oly Rollers (Olympia Washington) are expected to be the finalists again (RMRG defending champs, Oly 2009 winners) with Gotham Roller Girls and others right in there.  You will be able to watch on your computer all the action, November 11 through the 13th at WFTDA.com, or be there in person at the beautiful 1st Bank Center in Bloomfield, near Denver.

As Commissioner (unofficial title, but official Derby name), I will be accepting the usual adulation and also be in a booth with Doug Martin of Roll models, www.completeteamoutfitters.com,  whom I believe has the next generation of Derby uniforms, including some throwbacks to my era.  I have written before how professional uniforms add so much to the game without detracting from the fun that so many skaters display.  Also, I have a paperless ticketing system for the leagues and some wonderful new products from Judiflowersfootwear.com.  And yes, I will be juggling 6 plates at a time…if you are there, drop by and see me.

But mainly I want to watch and enjoy the action from the best that modern Derby has to offer.  I firmly believe the game is not about who can score the most points, but who really understands and has worked with the intricacies of the pack.  That is why RMRG, Oly, and Gotham Girls are above the rest.  Those who have followed my feelings know that the things I would love to see changed in the modern game are as follows:  shorten the jams to 60 or 90 seconds (ours were 60); penalize a team if they do not keep moving during the jam, no stopping or skating backwards; require a jammer from each team to be on hand at the start of each jam (if there was a penalty on a jammer on the previous jam, penalize the skater and not the helmet) and I think you will find a better game.

Now I have no power, the skaters rightly own the game and set the rules, but there it is again.

The old rules still have a lot to offer and MADE and OSDA and others are skating those rules, and there are also a number of leagues that now feature men and also others that are banked track. Although WFTDA is the largest and most influential, you have a choice on which game you want to see or participate in.

And if you have just been sitting around being lazy, you should look up a local league in derbyroster.com and go for the training and exercise.  Age does not seem to matter, there are literally hundreds in their 40’s who are participating as well as some in their 50’s and older.  Don’t believe me?  Visit Derby over 40 on facebook.  And there is Junior Roller Derby for the skaters in that classification.

There is a great book out on the history of Roller Derby from 1935 to 1999, “Roller Derby to Rollerjam”.  We recently found in a warehouse some first editions from 1999 (long out of print, on sale at amazon for up to several hundred dollars each).  Wonderful photos from the archives and fun writing by official Derby historian Keith Coppage.  Original price of $20 for one book and special till early November of $160 for a case of 20, all autographed by the Commissioner.  Available at www.rollerderbycommish.com.

I still believe there will be a professional league (all present participants are amateur and pay to skate).  This game which is drawing millions yearly around the world to watch is fully legitimate and competitive and has doubled in the number of leagues in the past year. I know the interest is out there.  It is just a matter of time.  If I were a few years younger I might try to do it, but I certainly don’t have the resources now.

If you haven’t seen a game (or “bout” as they are called for a reason I described in an earlier post), please find your local league and support them.  The rules preclude any violence and this is an ideal family sport to watch.  And if you see a gentleman in a Commish jacket come up and say hello, please smile.  I really am quite nice in person.

5 comments on “What’s next for Derby?

  1. WFTDA Championships is a world championship, it hasn’t been a “national championship” since 2009. This year London and Montreal took part in the Big 5, next year, who knows?

    • right, Poobah, but only US teams in the finals this year; also I did not want to confuse it with the World Cup in Toronto in December when 17 different nations will compete with their best players. Keep reading and commenting, Poobah.

      • Which is why they just call it “WFTDA Championships.” No confusion at all. Nor “damning it with faint praise.

  2. MRDA held their own championship tournament last weekend on Long Island. New York Shock Exchange took the title, Tacoma’s Puget Sound Outcast Derby took second. They’ve already got 18 member leagues around the U.S., with their membership fairly widespread across the country so far. I could see MRDA going international before long.

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