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Common Questions Answered by the
Women's Flat Track Derby Association
What is flat track roller derby?
Flat track roller derby is a fast-paced contact team sport that requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. The flat track version of the sport evolved in 2001, and has quickly grown to encompass more than 400 leagues worldwide. This is in large part due to the ease of setting up a flat track--it can be done on any flat surface that is suitable for skating, such as skating rinks, basketball courts, parking lots, and even airplane hangars.
The DIY spirit that drives the sport allows roller derby leagues to create their own unique identities and adapt their structures to reflect their local communities.
I use to watch roller derby on TV. Is that what it's like?
Yes and no. The fast-paced action, body checks, and whip assists are all still very much part of the game. However, flat track roller derby rules and the different physics of skating on a flat surface, versus a banked track, make the strategies and game play very different.
Also, in its later years, televised roller derby was staged, like WWE-style wrestling. Flat track roller derby is a legitimate sport, and the hits, spills, and competition are all 100% real.
What's up with those roller derby names?
Skaters are “normal” during the day. We work, we’re moms, students, etc. Roller derby is our escape from day-to-day life and our opportunity to embrace a tougher, edgier side of ourselves. When you step into the rink, your derby alter ego takes over.
Derby names are creative and fun and can either be tough or just plain funny.
There are a few leagues whose skaters are starting to skate under their legal names. Since roller derby is a growing sport, using real names may encourage the public to take the sport more seriously.
I bet you throw a lot of elbows.
Not unless a skater wants to spend some quality time in the penalty box!
There are plenty of legal ways to send an opponent flying into the third row but, to keep the game play safe and competitive, there are rules governing how and when players can make contact with each other.
Throwing elbows, pushing or tripping opposing skaters, and “clothes-lining” opponents by linking arms with your teammate are among the prohibited actions that can earn skaters a minute in the penalty box. Like other sports, more serious offenses like fighting or intentional tripping can get a skater kicked out of the game.
Is roller derby real?
The roller derby you may have watched in the 70s and early 80s was often scripted and rehearsed. The roller derby of today is real and is thought of as more of a sport than a spectacle. The skaters involved are athletes and take the sport very seriously. They train hard every week and wear their bruises and scars with pride.
One reason there are so many referees rolling around is to enforce the rules, which are in place to protect athletes' safety and preserve fairness. Among other things, skaters are not allowed to elbow, punch, grab, head butt, trip, or shove the opposing team. There are still plenty of hard hits, hard falls, and fast action.
What equipment do you need?
You will need a helmet, mouth guard, wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, and a pair of quad “speed style” roller skates. You’re looking at spending from $150 to over $500 for your gear and, like everything else, you generally get what you pay for.