In 1935, during the Great Depression, Leo Seltzer invented a spectacle called Roller Derby.
Sometime in early 1935, Leo read an article in Literary Digest magazine that said ninety-three percent of Americans roller skated at one time or another during their lives. Discussing the article with some of the regulars at Ricketts, a restaurant in Chicago’s Near North Side, Seltzer was challenged to come up with a sport utilizing roller skating participants.
Originally, the derby was a long distance track race. Periodically, collisions and crashes occurred as skaters tried to lap those ahead of them. Seltzer realized this was the most exciting part of the event, and Roller Derby became a full-contact sport with elbowing, body checks and fights. The fans loved it. The sport peaked in the late forties and fifties, drawing as many as 30-40 thousand fans per bout. The hype continued through the sixties and seventies, until the expense of travel and competition from other entertainment forms killed off the larger leagues in the late 1970s.
Since then, Roller Derby has remained largely dormant until recently. The National all-female derby revival began in 2001 in Austin, Texas, and has been gathering speed ever since. The new generation of derby skaters pays homage to the theatrical tradition of the past, but play by real rules with real penalties, real referees and real champions. Modern day roller derby is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, explosive sport that combines the spirit of Seltzer’s vision with genuine athleticism.
Who can join the Twin City Derby Girls?
TCDG welcomes people of any gender identity who are at least 18 years. All skaters must have health insurance.
What if I get hurt?
Roller derby is a full-contact sport and players do take the risk of getting hurt. That is why health insurance is required. In addition to your health insurance, supplemental insurance is required to be purchased through WFTDA.
Is roller derby fake like wrestling?
NO WAY! Since the revival of flat-track roller derby, it has been a competitive, regulated, full-contact sport. The people who skate in roller derby are athletes who train very hard to compete.
What if I have never been on skates?
No problem! We will teach you how to skate. Some of the best skaters in roller derby had never laced up before. With determination and hard work, you can be an excellent skater regardless of your size or skill level.
What are the rules of roller derby?
What if I want to ref, keep score, announce, volunteer, etc? GREAT! We need referees, volunteers, announcers, scorekeepers and medics. The only requirement is that you must 18 years old.
Is TCDG a WFTDA league?
Yes, we are a full Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) league, having worked our way toward full membership with the helpful assistance from our WFTDA mentor league, Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls.
Do you play on a big banked track, with rails that you flip over?
No. We will play on a flat-track surface in accordance with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
What if I just want to sponsor the league or donate?
What does it take to be a Twin City Derby Girl?
Derby Myths and Facts:
Myth: Roller Derby is staged, the whole game is fake and the winner is decided before the players take to the track.
Fact: Roller Derby is a true sport, and as such, all the hits, plays and penalties you see play out on the track are real and not staged.
Myth: You can tell the hits and fights are fake because they don’t get hurt.
Fact: All skaters are required to wear protective padding and train to fall in order to minimize injuries to themselves and others. But injuries can and do happen. EMT and other trained medical personnel are present at all bouts to ensure skaters receive immediate medical attention in the case of an injury.
Myth: Derby girls are rough and rowdy, and nothing but trouble.
Fact: Though we’re rough and tough on the track, this is a sports team dedicated to good sportsmanship. Our goal is to provide strong, positive role models, give back to the community and promote the sport of roller derby (and have a little fun while we’re at it). It’s also not just for females! There are many men’s leagues around the country and beyond, and TCDG welcomes people of all gender identities to be part of our organization as skaters, referees, NSOs and more.
Myth: They’re just in it for the money.
Fact: The Twin City Derby Girls is a skater owned and operated 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization. All of our skaters, referees and support staff are volunteers.
Roller Derby Scoring and Gameplay:
Roller derby is certainly not like football or baseball in that there is no ball put into play. Instead, it more closely resembles a race, in that one skater — called a jammer — must get through a pack of skaters and pass all of their opponents. If the jammer cannot get past their opponents, no points are scored by their team. There are three positions — jammer, blocker and pivot — who attempt to block their opponents in order for their teammate to get through. Roller derby skaters find themselves simultaneously playing offense and defense as they skate around the track.
Two teams of five players each are on the starting line. The jammers for each team are in the back, and take off at the same time as the pack of blockers, signaled by one sharp whistle. The goal is for the jammer to lap everyone on the oval track and begin scoring points. For every opponent a jammer passes, they score a point. All the while, the other four players, called blockers, are trying to block or knock down their opponents to make it harder for the opposing jammer and easier for their own jammer to score.
At the starting line, the blocker with the striped helmet is the pivot. This position guides the speed of the other blockers, paying attention to where both teams’ jammer are. The pivot might signal for their team to skate faster, so it is harder for the other team’s jammer to catch up to the pack and thus score before the clock runs out. The pivot might signal for their team to slow down if they sees that their own jammer is trying to catch up to the pack.
More Roller Derby Information:
Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) – This website will educate you on the rules of flat track roller derby and is also your best source for roller derby tips and advice, as well as the most up-to-date news and information about flat track roller derby tournaments and rankings.
Rankings and Other Statistics:
Stories and Blogs:
Derby Life – Want to know what it’s really like to be a derby skater? Derby Life features short blog posts about roller derby from the skater’s perspective. Supported by DNN and Five on Five magazine.
Derby Deeds – A weekly podcast featuring information about past and upcoming roller derby bouts around the world, interviews with skaters and coaches, and conversation between the hosts about issues in the roller derby community.