This time it is staying around


Paris Rollergirls’ Practice.  Photo by Carole Dodeman.

I think the photo says it all about the state of Roller Derby today.  You can tell people there are 1472  leagues, 1-100,000 women skating in 41 countries , men now skating, junior Roller Derby etc, but it really hits you when you see the Paris Rollergirls’ practicing at the Eiffel Tower.  This is the fastest growing sport in the World!

We could also see them in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Bogota,London, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Montreal, Antwerp, Berlin and every major US city.  The women just form their leagues, pay to play, buy their own skates and uniforms, and commit an enormous time to volunteer not just for their leagues, but to help out in their communities and donate to charities.

There was no master plan that made this happen;  there is no super league or highly paid commissioner (I volunteer for that job!); there is the WFTDA, USARS, TXRD, etc, the Australian rules committee, UK and others who set up standards for training, skating and scheduling.  For the first time this year when the WFTDA  eastern regional championships are held there will be an international team.

Seattle’s Rat City with record attendance of approx 6700 people. Photo by Axle Adams

The Rollercon in Las Vegas had over 2000 participants from all over the world who came to skate, learn from others, attend seminars and have a great party time with each other.  There are publications like Five on Five that sell out every issue, a new beautiful magazine from Australia (Hit and Miss), Derby News Network to live stream the games, Derby Radio, I can go on and on. And there is even Roller Derby the Musical, which will soon be playing a city near you.

How can this remain “underground” and is that even important.  My dream is to see these wonderful participants in the Olympics and as a professional sport also, fully legitimate as it is now.  How can you say it can’t happen when it has already.  Many thousands attend the games, with fans following them on the social networks and on the other media I mentioned.  Anything in Sports Illustrated or ESPN the magazine? Of course not.  But you don’t need that anymore with almost a millions “friends” on facebook and other networks.  The WFTDA has almost 23,000 “liking” their Facebook page.  And if you go to www.derbyroster.com you can check out each league in each city and go to their pages.

There has never been anything like it.  And what do you see on the sports channels?  Poker, lingerie football, paintball, and all kinds of junk.  And the Derby like crabgrass just keeps growing.  By next year, probably 10 more countries (Japan, Mexico and more).

And that is why I am saying it won’t go away.  The players are not demanding huge salaries – in fact not any, although it creates hardship on many.  And if attendance keeps growing (crowds of 4000 to 7000 are not unusual, at prices from $15 to $40), many of the leagues can become extremely solvent.

Where are the big moneyed people who bring in another unneeded pro football league, or basketball, or soccer?  This is the game of the present and future.  The structure is already there.

And why are the participants willing to work so hard to make it happen?  Here are some excerpts from my informal “research”:

Hayley – I was unfit, boring, now confident and have approval and friends.

Angela – It is an addiction….I have to skate.

Tami – An abused wife, Derby built the confidence and balls.  No one will every beat me up again.

Leann- It’s unexplainable – like being in a family of endorphin junkies.

Mark – An addiction from the start…once you skate Derby, you will always be with Derby.

Kristin – All I needed to hear was they were gonna let me skate and hit people – so I showed up.

Cori – Strangers recognizing me, people asking for autographs, I was even on a billboard and am kind of famous.

Lauren – It made it OK for me to enjoy feeling sexy and being a woman – with the empowerment of the Derby women it made me enjoy womanhood.

Jessy – As an 8-year old I wanted to be a Roller Derby Queen.  I found a league, I am not a queen or a star, but my 10-year old daughter wants to be a professional skater when she grows up.

Carrie- – Derby for me has offered me an extended family.

Corinna – There is a new found confidence in every aspect of my life – nothing like it!

Just like the spoiled athletes you read or hear about every day (Where is Lebron going and who gives a crap).

And there is this extraordinary relationship amongst all the skaters and leagues….one team can demolish another, and they go party afterwards….they really are an extended family, all around the world.

No network can cancel them, no league owner can shut them down;  what they have created is truly unprecedented, and I am so glad that I have lived long enough to see it happen.  Stay tuned, because no fat lady is going to sing.