I haven’t actually seen the movie the Hurt Locker, but I figured it was a good title for a derby post. Because most people, when I mention Roller Derby, comment on one of two things. 1) Isn’t it like wrestling, with scripted storylines? and/or 2) Wow, that’s a pretty rough sport.
Now I didn’t know, being relatively new to the sport, that it was, indeed originally based on plots and rehearsed fights and all that jazz. Had I known that, I would probably have joined a lot sooner…:) But gone are the days where derby bouts are all flash and soap opera with more action, like the WWE. Which makes me a little sad (tear…), but actually improves the game. We still have quirky derby names, we still wear fun uniforms and make up, if we want to, and we add a touch of whimsy wherever we can, but derby has evolved into a more or less legitimate sport. With ex-speed skaters, hockey players, and all-round atheletes joining our ranks, the skill level is rising, and the focus has become less about heavy hits and playing for the audience and more about strategy and defense. And scoring, of course.
Which brings us to 2) – yes it is still a pretty rough sport. There are penalties for illegal hits, such as throwing elbows, clotheslining, tripping, back blocking…any deliberate or negligent action that has the potential to cause major injury can have you thrown out of the game. This keeps us all safer. That being said, there’s nothing like a can opener – which is a perfectly legal hit – to land a girl flat on her ass, wind knocked out of her, and perhaps not able to recover in time to join the pack. I have had a few significant bangs in my short time playing, including a pulled quad, jarred knee, and a thumb that got caught under another skater’s wheels. Not to mention all the various bumps and bruises that come during practice – we recently had an experienced visiting skater actually break her ankle during practice. (She is healing well and the Kill Jills wish her all our best so that she can get back on skates and kick our butts on the track once again!). So yes, derby is a rough sport. But you know the best part of it? When I lay into a girl (or guy, we scrimmage with the Reservoir Dogs pretty regularly), and I get a really excellent legal hit on, that player, without fail, will turn around and congratulate me on a good hit. And I do the same. It feels good, in a twisted way; they hit you because you’re between them and a couple of points, and so, really, a good hit is a reward for a job well done.
So no, it’s not scripted, and yes, people get hurt. But we do our best not to injure someone to the point that they won’t be able to play, because what fun is that? The more people that play derby, the better bouts we have, so we do our best to keep all our players safe. Besides, if too many people get hurt during the bout, there will be no one at the after-party, and that would be a real tragedy…:)
Come and see what the evolution of derby has to offer next weekend, at the Olympic Oval, during Flat Track Fever. I promise to lay in a few good hits for you – and hopefully, I’ll take a few too!
Photos by Steve Recsky