Roller Derby is a true classic American past time. Roller Derby has a rich history of evolution and adaptation to reflect social currents. An American-invented contact sportâ€”and historically, a form of sports entertainmentâ€”roller derby is based on formation roller skating around an oval wooden banked track. In past decades, roller derby had been primarily a professional or paid sport for both women and men. The term roller derby dates at least as far back as 1922, when the Chicago Tribune used it to describe multi-day, flat-track roller skating races, similar to banked track marathons reported on by the New York Times in 1885 (a six-day race) and 1914 (a 24-hour championship), among others.
Promoter Leo Seltzer and sportswriter Damon Runyon are credited with modifying the endurance competitions of the 1930s by emphasizing the physical contactâ€”and thus the more spectacular aspects of the sport. Seltzer trademarked the name Roller Derby, reserving it for use by his traveling troupe of professional skaters. Roller Derby took root as an icon of popular culture as matches were held in numerous cities throughout the U.S. and sometimes broadcast on radio and, eventually, on television. When mentioned, most people think of the over the top, Wrestlemania style antics of the televised banked track derby that aired back in the 80?s that turned Roller Derby from a competitive sport into over the top entertainment.
The game started rolling again about nine years ago, fueled by fierce all-girl leagues launching around the country. Todayâ€™s young women athletes are independent amateurs who pay to play. Holding jobs off the track, they buy their own gear (and health insurance) and compete with total determination and passion. Dressed in self-designed outfits, flaunting tough attitudes, these girl leagues are attracting increasingly bigger and hipper crowds.
Todayâ€™s roller derby is real, un-scripted intense competition. While a few banked track leagues exist today (in Los Angeles, Austin, Oklahoma City, San Diego, Houston, Seattle and Phoenix), the vast majority of the roller derby leagues in the world at the moment are flat track leagues. The Arizona Derby Dames, a flat track league for four seasons, upped their flat track game to the banked track for their 2010 season, continuing their evolution towards being one of the largest, most exciting all women roller derby leagues in the world. As the sport gains momentum, it once again appears that roller derby is headed towards mass appeal with the general public.