Clarity or Conformity?

The Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) recently announced yet another rule change regarding player numbers.  At the end of next year, any Roller Derby player wanting to play in a WFTDA bout will have to select a number with up to 4 Arabic numerals.

A couple years ago, WFTDA made the decision to allow only alphanumeric characters on jerseys.  This decision made sense because referees had issues calling penalties on players whom chose symbols like Jesus fish or the Flying Spaghetti Monster as their player numbers.  When this rule went into effect, I changed my number from 2&1 to 2N1, which was fine because I understood the reasoning.  Now, if I decide to continue to play under the WFTDA ruleset, I will have to change my number, which isn't just my player number, but also the name of my Roller Derby store, "2N1 Skate Shoppe."  I've never heard a referee complain that 2N1 was difficult to call out and haven't heard anyone stumble trying to say it.

I've heard this new change was based on the difficulty to distinguish certain alpha characters from numeric ones, such as zero and "O." If the intent was to create clarity, why not just require skaters to place a slash through the zero instead of taking away 26 characters from the possible choices?  To me, this smacks of conformity.

Traditions are huge in Roller Derby...or at least they were when I first started 7 years ago.  Skater names have been around for decades, some say protecting the identity of women who may not have been respected in their communities had their real names been used. Now, it seems some want to ignore traditions in order to make the sport more mainstream.  There are already leagues using real names instead of skater names, some teams are allowing their skaters to choose the number "1" which was permanently retired after the 1937 tragedy, and now, skaters will have player numbers similar to mainstream sports.

I'm not a WFTDA hater.  I have agreed with some of their rule changes in the past and do my best to consider decisions from any angle; however, if they continue on this path, I can see the sport and community we all grew to love losing any semblance of its former self.  If I wanted to play sports, I would have stuck with soccer and curling.  I want to be part of the Roller Derby community as a skater, teammate, roll model, business owner, and friend...I don't want the sport to evolve to the point where it's no longer a way of life.

Some might say this is just a minor change, that I'm overreacting...perhaps.  Yet, when you look at the overall picture, it's difficult to deny the direction modern Roller Derby is heading.

Now, onto some happier news...last time, I asked here and in my gear blog "Shocker Khan's G Spot" for readers to submit a Roller Derby themed haiku to be entered to win a 2N1 Skate Shoppe goodie bag.  Here is the winner of that prize and her haiku...

Alysha Shipley
First lace up your skates,
hit the track and free your mind.
Roller Derby Chick!

Congratulations Alysha! 

Since it's getting close to the holidays (for those of you who celebrate), let's do this again!  Come up with a haiku (remember, that's 5/7/5 syllables) and post it in the comments.  The more who post, the more goodie bags will be given share this with your friends to increase your chances.

Until we skate again,
Shocker Khan

About The Author

DOB: 6/2/1978

I'm an Alaskan chick who discovered Roller Derby (and started skating) 5 years ago and never looked back! For 4 seasons, I skated for the Rage City Rollergirls who are based in Anchorage, and last season I skated with the Boom Town Derby Dames of the Mat-Su Valley. Currently I'm a free agent, skating with leagues around the state and will consider any invitations from leagues to bout with them.

I travel around the world to lead boot camps and gear workshops for beginner-intermediate level leagues and, in addition to writing blog posts for Roller Derby Nation, I write the popular gear blog "Shocker Khan's G Spot." 

Three years ago, my partner and I opened 2N1 Skate Shoppe, the first and only Roller Derby Pro shoppe in the state of Alaska, which has become famous in the Roller Derby community for excellent product selection as well as quick and helpful customer service.  2N1 is also where you will find the super popular "Wheel Library" where, for $20, skaters can check out a set of wheels for 2 weeks in order to try before they buy.

To set up a boot camp or gear workshop (the later can be done over Skype), request a custom DerbyPunk item, or get answers/advice about gear, send an e-mail to and I'll get back to you ASAP.

Until we skate again!


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