Roller derby is a contact sport that originated out of America and now has roots worldwide. A typical ‘bout’ consists of two teams of up to 15, with 5 on the oval track at any given point – 1 ‘jammer’ (identified by a star on their helmet) and 4 ‘blockers’. A jammers job is to lap members of the opposition team and will score points in the process, whereas, as the name suggests, it is the duty of the blockers to prevent that.
With rollerblading an activity many people grew up with, it’s surprising that a competitive sport such as roller derby hasn’t had much exposure or attention. But here at PACE News, we caught up with the team at Scottish Roller Derby to find out more!
With around 24 teams across Scotland, there will more than likely be a roller derby team near you that you didn’t even know existed. While the sports’ popularity hasn’t sky-rocketed in recent times, there is future to be positive about:
“It’s difficult to sum up if Roller Derby is growing, the situation is complex. Certainly, the sport is spreading to more and more countries still – we went from 11 countries at the first World Cup in 2011, to 38 countries in 2018 [and there will possibly be as many as 50 by the next one].
On the other hand, in countries where Roller Derby was established early (the USA, England, Scotland, Germany, etc) there’s been a slowing of the rate of growth in the last few years. There’s various reasons for this, including potentially saturation of interest, but we expect another uptick of interest in the UK since the BBC became interested in regularly streaming major Roller Derby contests.”
While a sport that is open to all, it is one of just a few sports in the U.K predominantly played by female athletes. Roller Derby also differs from typical sports in the sense that it’s not just a competition, but a performance as well. This can translate into the players’ appearance and the club’s identity, as the team outlined:
“Still present, also, is the awareness that Roller Derby is one of the few sports which are female-dominated (netball and hockey being the other two classic examples), and that there’s a certain political and cultural responsibility which comes with that. There’s a tendency for Roller Derby clubs to be very aware of inclusivity issues, and to promote social issues when they can.
And mixed in with all of this is the “counter-cultural” element of the sport: the version of Roller Derby which developed from 2001, and became the currently dominant version of the sport, began with a heightened awareness of the postmodernist nature of sport. This manifests nowadays in the tendency for many skaters to compete under pseudonyms (usually based on a pun) rather than their “legal names”; and the tendency for a minority of skaters to compete with some kind of facepaint. This is true at the highest levels of the game, and of course, doesn’t impinge on the competitiveness or skill one jot.”
Another surprising fact about the sport is that Scotland competes at an international level, and unlike most sports, we aren’t that bad at it! While we may never have won an international competition yet, we have put up some very respectable performances considering the fact we’re just a small island nation that mainly has a love for football and rugby.
“Scotland has two National Teams: Team Scotland Roller Derby (Women’s Flat-track Derby Association) and Power of Scotland (Men’s Roller Derby Association). Both teams have competed in all of the World Cups in their class. The most recent World Cups, this year, were heavily attended. Attendance for RDWC2018 was in the thousands, with many additional viewers watching the live streams from all 4 tracks. The final three games (Third Place, a junior derby exhibition bout which presaged the Team GB Juniors, and the Final) were also streamed on the BBC Sport website.
In general, both Scottish National Teams are in the top-third of the international community. Competitive skill levels of the top 4 teams in both World Cups are exceptionally high, and it’s very hard to match those teams (USA, Canada, England and Australia), but Scotland are strong teams in the next tier down from that.”
Team Scotland Roller Derby competed in:
- The first Roller Derby World Cup (2011) in Toronto, Canada; they placed #11 of 13.
- Roller Derby World Cup (2014) in Dallas, Texas, USA; they placed #13 of 30.
- Roller Derby World Cup (2018) in Greater Manchester, England; they placed #12 of 38, narrowly missing out on #11 in the 11th place playoff against Wales.
Power of Scotland competed in:
- The first Men’s Roller Derby World Cup (2014) in Birmingham, England; they placed joint-#7 of 15 (tied with Argentina).
- Men’s Roller Derby World Cup (2016) in Calgary, Canada: they placed #10 of 20
- Men’s Roller Derby World Cup (2018) in Barcelona, Spain: they placed #9 of 24
So if you think you could be Scotland’s next international athlete, what do the team at Roller Derby Scotland have to offer in the way of words of wisdom?
“Don’t underestimate the time commitment you need if you want to be a high level skater. This also ties into choosing the kind of club you want to join: some clubs are more competition focused than others (and some clubs have better pathways for both kinds of people).
Non-competitive members are also very valid paths into the Roller Derby community: refereeing, NSOing, Announcing, Photographing, are all useful, valuable roles to any club.
Like any sport, you need to actually be fit, and cross-train. (And, because WFTDA-rules Roller Derby is played all in one direction of rotation, you probably want to do some training to even out the exercise you’re getting in the other direction.)
Watch derby, come to games, talk to people. Roller Derby is a community as much as it is a sport, and that’s a strength.”
Thinking of getting your skates on and taking part? Have a look at the list of clubs (commonly referred to as ‘leagues’) below and see if there is one near you!
As yet unnamed Junior League – Edinburgh-based (JRDA level 1) League
As yet unnamed Junior League – also Edinburgh-based (JRDA)
Rollerstop (Glasgow) based Junior League – Glasgow-based (JRDA level 1 to 3) League
Auld Reekie – Edinburgh-based WFTDA member League
Ayrshire Roller Derby – Ayrshire-based WFTDA-gender-policy League
Bairn City Rollers – Falkirk/Stirling-based All-Gender League
Doonhame Roller Derby – Dumfriesshire-based WFTDA-gender-policy League
Dundee Roller Derby – Dundee-based WFTDA member League
Fair City Rollers – Perth-based WFTDA-Gender-Policy League
Glasgow Roller Derby – Glasgow-based WFTDA member League
Glasgow Men’s Roller Derby – Glasgow/West Lothian based MRDA member League
Granite City Roller Derby – Aberdeen-based All-Gender League
Granite City Brawlers – Aberdeen-based MRDA member League
Helgin Roller Derby – Elgin-based League
Inverclyde Roller Derby – Inverclyde-based All-Gender League
Inverness City Roller Derby – Inverness-based All-Gender League
Lothian Derby Dolls – Midlothian-based WFTDA-gender-policy League [additional All-Gender league in “Fear and Lothian”]
Mean City Roller Derby – Glasgow/Renfrewshire-based All-Gender League
New Town Roller Girls – Livingston/West Lothian-based WFTDA-gender-policy League
Orkney ViQueens Roller Derby – Orkney-based All-Gender League (possibly also with a Junior league)
Resistance Roller Derby – Glasgow-based Junior League, supporting LGBTI+ in particular.
Voodoo Roller Derby – Falkirk/Stirling based Women’s League