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Roller Derby

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FC: Roller Derby

1: History | Roller derby became all the craze more than 90 years ago. Leo Seltzer began holding roller skating races, which evolved into more of a physical competition. The races included many theatrical collisions and falls which drew the large crowds to the races. In 1960, Leo gave his son Jerry Seltzer the business. Jerry began to incorporate more theatrical elements, so that the people were more focused on the dramatics and not the sport. The popularity faded fast, and it wasn't until the 1980s and 1990s when people tried to bring it back. They held the Rollergames, which was very similar to the events held by Jerry Seltzer. The games included raised tracks with very theatrical pieces, like alligator pits and rings of fire. People didn't find the games entertaining, and wanted to watch the sport, not the alligator pits and fire rings. In the early 2000s in Austin, Texas, roller derby was brought back. The Texas Rollergirls formed three leagues, and the modern style of derby has spread like wildfire. There are now over 1257 leagues all over the world.

2: Ark Valley High Rollers | The Ark Valley High Rollers are a very intense, fun, and crazy group of women. They have practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:00 at the fairgrounds, which is where I did all of my observations. When I went for my first observation, I had no idea what I was walking into. The girls have a similar routine for the beginning of each practice, and tend to have a lot of fun throughout the rest of practice. Normally, most are at the fairgrounds a little bit before 6 and start to put their gear on. A roller derby girl must always wear knee and elbow pads, a helmet, and roller skates, of course. Wrist braces and mouth guards are optional, but recommended. It didn't seem like there was one direct leader of the group, but I later learned that there are different captains for different teams that lead certain drills or activities.

3: Watching the women interact with each other was like watching a group of close friends hang out. They may be racing around the track and trying to beat one another during certain drills, but they are always laughing and joking. There is never a dull moment during a practice, and the rollergirls look like they are always having fun. Friendly competitions is very prominent during drills, and it shows. They are all working together to make themselves better and prepared for anything that the roller derby world throws at them.

4: Words Commonly Used by a Roller Derby Girl | Jam- the "game" of roller derby..There are two 30-minute halves, during which each team fields five women at a time in shifts (called jams) that last up to two minutes. They skate counterclockwise around an oval track, slightly smaller in circumference than a basketball court. (Wachter) Blocker- there are 4 blockers from each team on the track during a jam. The goal of the blocker is to help their Jammer to get through the pack. They want to move the other blockers out of the way by cutting them off and trying to make a path. They also want to block the Jammer from the opposing team. Jammer- this is the skater with the star on her helmet. There’s one jammer per shift, who scores a point each time she laps an opposing skater. After her first, nonscoring pass through the opposing team, the leading jammer also has the strategic option of ending the jam prematurely by tapping her hands to her hips.Every time she passes a blocker without making illegal contact (hitting, punching, jabbing), she scores one point. (Wachter) Lead Jammer- she is the Jammer that is in front of the opposing Jammer. She was the first one to get through the pack the first time, and has the power to call off a Jam by touching her hands to her hips.

5: Pack- the total of 8 Blockers (4 from each team) that are on the track during a Jam. The pack doesn't include the 2 Jammers. The pack must always be together in a "pack" in order for the Jammer to score points. No Pack- the skaters aren't skating close enough together. During a No Pack situation, Blockers cannot block or assist their Jammer. Pivot- this is the skater with a stripe on her helmet. The pivot is a blocker that sets the pace of the pack. Her job is to watch for the opposing team's Jammer and to call out strategy plays. The pivot can also take over the Jammer position if the Jammer gives her the star helmet cover. Penalty Box- the area where skaters are sent when they have accumulated 4 minor penalties or have committed 1 major penalty. A minor penalty doesn't cause a "change in play", whereas a major penalty does. The normal time for a skater to be in the penalty box is 1 minute, but they can get extra time for sassing the refs.

6: That's so Last Season | In the world of Roller Derby there is one season, fun. The outfits of the roller derby are one of the main things that draw people's attention to the sport. (the other main thing being the crazy cool skating) Knee high socks and leggings with every print imaginable are the biggest trends in roller derby fashion. The skates are different from one girl to the next. While some may be similar, no two pairs of skates are the same. Many girls have different colored wheels on their skates, or have neon colored laces.

8: Roller Derby isn't how You Think it is | Before I began to observe the Roller Derby, I assumed things just like everybody else. Here are some of the assumptions I had, and how the roller derby girls proved them to be very, very wrong. *Every roller derby girl is rough and tough and the type that would rock out on the bass guitar and listen to ACDC. WRONG! Yes, all of the women who participate in roller derby are complete badasses, but it isn't because they play guitar and listen to rock music. All of the women on the team come from "very different walks of life." -Juli Waters A.K.A Jule' B Hurtin' (Interview 2) They are teachers, mentors, and many of them are business owners. *The outfits are the most important and fun part of derby. WRONG! While the roller derby girls do enjoy fun socks and hot pants, the skating is the most fun and important part of roller derby. "I enjoy the camaraderie of it," said Stephanie or Cinna Menace as she is known in the derby world. "We are all coming together for a purpose, and we wouldn't have otherwise gotten to know each other."

9: Many other people have very similar assumptions about roller derby and the audience they attract. Paul Wachter described the audience at the National Roller Derby Tournament in Portland, OR in his article "You Just Can't Keep the Women from Jamming" in the New York Times."Women with spiky hair and checkered Vans; hipsters in skinny jeans and flannel; brawny men with looped earrings and leather jackets that bore the logos of their preferred derby teams. Tattoos abounded. A typical T-shirt: “My Marxist Feminist Dialectic Brings All the Boys to the Yard.”

10: Research Questions Do the women who participate in roller derby get along with each other? Yes! These women work incredibly hard to become the best that they can be. They operate like a family, maybe a little dysfunctional at times, but come together in the end. During every practice, they are always joking with each other and laughing.

11: The Rules of the Game | The unspoken rules, that is. 1. Always keep your skates in good condition. Replacing wheels or fixing them is very important. 2. During a Jam, help the Jammer in any way you can, even if that means just getting out of the way. 3. Take advice from others. The girls are always telling each other how to improve and how little adjustments can make a huge difference. 4. Have fun. Roller derby is a sport for anyone. The girls that participate know that if you're having fun, the sport can be amazing.

12: Bibliography | http://wftda.com/history (WFTA.WFTA History.wftda.com.Spenlen Media.2010.Web.March 26 2013) This website helped me to find many important things about roller derby, such as how it started. It included names and specific dates that allowed me to create a mental timeline of sorts. It set out the events of the history in chronological order, which was a great way to be able to picture these events happening. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/magazine/01Derby-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (Paul Wachter.You Just Can’t Keep the Girls from Jamming.nytimes.com. Ny Times. Jan. 29, 2009. Web. March 25th 2013.) The article by Paul Wachter was a very good resource, because it told his experiences at the National Roller Derby Tournament in Portland, OR. He explained “the game” of roller derby very well and in a way that anybody would understand. He also described many of the people he encountered, which was important because it broke many stereotypes that the common public has.

14: Observation #1

16: Observation #2

18: Observation #3

20: Observation #4 | Observation Summaries

22: Interviews

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  • By: Robin P.
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