Although roller derby may be one of the sexiest sports around, there is more to it, such as athleticism, strength, sisterhood, and really wild after-parties.
Roller derby can trace its roots to Leo Seltzer, who in 1935 arranged a roller skating endurance race similar to bicycle races. The races started off with 25 co-ed teams that skated around an oval track attempting to skate 3000 miles as fast as possible.
Seltzer soon changed the rules of the game to incorporate more physical contact when sports writer Damon Runyon noted that the most exciting moments in the race were the collisions. The races were then switched to an offensive and defensive sport and thus roller derby was born!
Roller derby continued to grow in popularity until the early 1970s when interest generally dropped.
In 2001 there was a revival of roller derby. The general structure of the teams was maintained, but it was revamped with distinct all-female teams.
Each team’s “jammer” is responsible for scoring points and three “blockers” work to stop the opposing jammer from scoring points. The “pivot” keeps the team together, controlling the speed of the pack.
Each race, or jam, begins at the starting line. The rest of the pack skates to about 20 feet away and them the jammers are allowed to skate, scoring points for each opposing player she passes during the jam.
In 2011, roller derby finally made its way to Peterborough when co-founders Lucid Lou and Falldown Firlotte launched the very first Peterborough Roller Derby League.
Although a relatively recent phenomena in Peterborough, roller derby is quickly gaining popularity in town. Arthur caught up with Lucid Lou to ask her some questions about what it means to be a derby girl and how to pick a really great nickname.
As one of the founding members of the Peterborough roller derby team, what challenges did you face while paving the way for future roller derby athletes?
My best friend and I, Kim Firlotte AKA Falldown Firlotte, started Peterborough Roller Derby (PRD) in January 2011. I have experience in the non-profit sector and sat as a Board of Directors member for Toronto Roller Derby for over two years. It was very easy for me to use my experience and run with it.
There were a few challenges. Location is a huge issue for PRD. I lived in Toronto and would need to commute. There is also a great deal of money involved in starting a new club. We organized a meet-and-greet and spread the word on Facebook that roller derby was hitting Peterborough! February 11 was our first practice at the Peterborough Wellness Center and we had over 25 girls signed up.
My visa took a beating ’til things worked themselves out. I moved to Peterborough in November 2011, fell in love with PRD, and started a Roller Derby Company — Twelve Thirty Four Skate Co. I provide derby gear and advice to new leagues. I also started a junior roller derby team here in Peterborough.
What do you feel is the most fulfilling thing about roller derby?
I have trained over 500 women and I am amazed at how women transition. Roller Derby provides “Derby Love,” unconditional love and support. It’s a place where I have met some amazing women. I had been a tomboy most of my life and never hung out with women much. Roller Derby is a sisterhood.
I have had the pleasure of meeting all kinds of women from all backgrounds, and we are all learning and growing together on and off the track. “Roller Derby saved my life” is a phase I hear commonly, from 9 year olds and up!
What are the major things a person needs if they want to play the sport?
Aside from money and equipment, [you need] drive and passion. My mom is 63 and she skates up! You don’t need experience! If you have never had roller skates on your feet but want to try, we are here for you!
Although both men and women play, roller derby has been dubbed a women’s sport. What do you think attracts so many women to a sport that some may say is “to rough for a lady to play?” And why do you think women continue to dominate in roller derby?
Derby in Canada has been back for 7 years or so, but it’s only in the last two years that men have started their own teams. The men’s leagues are usually refs or already supporting the women of flat track. It’s the fastest full contact sport that women can do!
There are all kinds of women who get involved. Doctors, moms, police officers, entrepreneurs, grandmas … it takes all kinds! Like I said there’s just something different about “derby love.”
So how do you guys come up with the really kick ass nicknames?
I owned a body piercing company in my early 20’s and that was my shop name: Lucid Lou’s. It’s a smash of nicknames I had growing up. My derby wife and co-founder name is, well, Falldown Firlotte, self-explanatory. She bench manages us along side our Coach, Tref. Tref was once “tranasousref.” It was a mouth full for the junior kids so it got shortened to Tref.
Some girls just organically earn one by doing something funny or a lot of times people find that their friends and family have the perfect one.
How can someone go about getting involved in the PRD?
To become a player, contact our fresh meat address on our website to find out when we are practicing. Everyone is welcome to drop by anytime and see how things run. We are a very friendly bunch (when not in the middle of a bout) and there is no commitment to visiting. No skating experience is required.
If you decide that you like what you see, the next step is getting geared up. All Players need the following: Helmet – multi-impact, mouth guard, knee pads, knee gaskets (optional but a really good idea), wrist guards, elbow pads, quad skates, a spirit of adventure, a sense of humour, and roller sports insurance for $50.00 a year (you will be given forms and information for this at your first practice).
If you don’t know how to roller skate, those skills will be your first priority. We have experienced referees who can instruct you on the basics and advise on further official training. Players may occasionally give them a hard time during bouts, but the refs are essential to our sport. We acknowledge that and offer up our gratitude.
What about the people who want to be involved but do not want to skate?
Wow, do we need people like you! There is always so much to be done. At bouts we need Non-Skating Officials (NSOs) to assist the refs and teams in making the bout run smoothly. There is baking for bake sales, arting and designing for posters, helping with various committees, liaising with the community, and so much more. Or, just come out and cheer us on at the next bout. As a reward we pay dividends in sweet, sweet derby love!
Where can people go to find out more about Peterborough Roller Derby?
They can go to the website or follow us on Facebook at Peterborough Roller Derby.
Roller Derby gear is available through many retailers. We are lucky to have Lucid Lou as a local supplier who can give expert advice on fit and quality. Contact her store Twelve Thirty Four Skate Co. for more information or to schedule a fitting or just to chat about derby.
Whether you are a working mom or a young student looking for a new way to decompress, tapping into your inner Derby Queen may be the next exciting adventure for you this summer. It’s time to dust off those skates and pull out the derby girl rock.
In the meantime, the next roller derby game in Peterborough will be on Saturday, July 27 at 6pm at the Kinsmen Arena (located at Sherbrooke and Clonsilla). Tickets are $10 pre-game and $15 at the door. The game is family-friendly and kids under 10 are free. There will be beer and baked goods available for purchase. Bring your own chair!