By: Candy Heartless #42
I was in a parking lot recently when I was approached by a few people curious about the giant Lakeland Derby Dames sticker covering half of the rear window of my car. When I was asked a few of the questions I often get regarding roller derby, it occurred to me that people still have many misconceptions about what roller derby is today, and what it means to play the sport.
As always, the first question I was asked was whether we hit people, as in with our fists. Most people’s idea of derby stems from the earlier days of roller derby, when it was closer to what WWE wrestling is today. It was glam, pre-arranged, choreographed and wild. People went to watch the spectacle, not the athletes. Today roller derby is an actual sport, and it’s one of the few where the athletes have to think on the go as they are playing offense and defense at the same time. The action is very fast-paced so the thinking has to be even faster. The skater do hit each other, but not with their fists. There are plenty of rules in place to ensure the safety of the skaters while keeping the game moving, so while you may see one girl hip-check another, you won’t see a fist-fight break out. In fact on the rare chance that a fight does break out, the offenders are removed from the fame and often subsequent bouts as well.
Another question I inevitably hear is about injuries. Is the game safe? Have you been hurt? “I would love to play, but I’m afraid I would get hurt!” Well, I’m not one to sugar-coat things, there’s always a chance of injury, but (not to name names), we have a girl on the team who hurt herself walking, nowhere near the track! So, while there’s a small chance you could hurt yourself playing roller derby, there’s a chance you could injure yourself doing anything, anywhere, at any time. Like I said before, there are tons of rules to ensure the safety of not only the skaters, but the refs and non-skating officials too (we LOVE our volunteers). We also wear a lot of padding and safety gear so we’re as safe as the players in any sport, and safer than most. Some of our skaters have been injured, sure, but that doesn’t stop our love of the fame and as soon as we heal, we’re right back out there with our skates laced up ready to go.
I suppose the message I’m trying to get across is that while it is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, roller derby still seems to be relatively unknown. We work hard to get our names out there as serious athletes and as a team, but roller derby isn’t professional, and therefore most teams don’t have professional PR rep to rely on. Therefore we have to depend on word of mouth and local business to grow our teams, and the players put in just as much time handing out flyers and going to community events as they do practicing and getting ready to play. If you’ve never seen a roller derby bout come watch one, or if you know someone who is interested and has yet to venture out, bring them along. We always appreciate new fans and every option to grow the roller derby community.
Photos courtesy of Phantom Photographics