Do You Derby?

When you hear the words “roller sports” you probably imagine adrenaline junkies competing extreme sports style a la the 1990’s. But roller-skating sports aren’t all grinds and spins. In fact, even 80 years after its invention, roller derby remains one of the most popular skating sports in existence.

The History of Roller Derby

Before Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore laced up their skates for the big screen, many people didn’t know much about roller derby. This sport may have started over 80 years ago, but it hasn’t lost its lustre. A primarily female sport, leagues for people of all ages and genders still run rampant across the country. But how did it gain such popularity?

Inspired by early marathons and bicycle races, Leo A. Seltzer decided to host a roller marathon in Chicago. 50 skaters were selected to compete in 25 male-female teams in a competition that kicked off on August 13, 1935. 20,000 spectators arrived to witness the skaters complete 3,000 miles around the track. The rules were simple: one member of each team must skate during the daily 11 ½ hours allotted for skating, and the team to complete the distance in the shortest time would win the marathon. The derby went on until September 22nd, when skaters Clarice Martin and Bernie McKay won the race. Only 9 of the original 25 teams completed the marathon.

Modern Roller Derby

roller derby teamLike every sport, roller derby has changed over the years. An increased level of physical contact changed derby from pure endurance to a competitive sport. In today’s competitions, two teams of five compete to score points by lapping members of the opposing team. Both defense and offense are required in a series of jams (short races). Today, roller derby includes roughly 1,200 amateur leagues. Almost half of these teams play in the United States. Derby may not have the spectators it once did, but it’s a popular, athletic sport. In fact, roller derby was under consideration for inclusion into the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Derby teaches athletes a strong sense of perseverance. In the words of Kristen Wiig, “Put some skates on. Be your own hero.”

Want to learn more about roller derby, skating sports, or basic skating lessons? Call Fun Spot in Belleville.

Photo By Chris Bojanower [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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