How to Follow the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup

Andy FryeContributor IIINovember 29, 2011

How to Follow the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup

0 of 26

    The first ever flat-track Roller Derby World Cup is set to start on Thursday, Dec 1 in Toronto, Canada. Team USA will field a roster of 28 women in the mix of a total of 13 countries overall.

    Nations including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, England, Ireland and Sweden will face off in a group stage before heading to the knockout stages toward the title.

    For die-hard derby fans, it's no surprise that after a decade of progress, North America's fastest-growing sport has taken an international stage. Newer sports fans are being converted daily, as many think now is the perfect time for a World Cup, especially given the success of other action sports events like the X Games.

    ESPN's Jane McManus recently wrote that, like much of America, she's crazy in love with roller derby. After grasping the basics of the sport, you will too.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Gearing Up for the Cup: The Stage

1 of 26

    Roller derby is a team contact sport played by two squads of five members, both skating counter-clockwise around a flat track.

    The "Continental Divide and Conquer" national championship tournament took place during November 2011 in Denver, Colo. There, New York City's Gotham Girls won their second title.

    Tryouts for Team USA took place in Tampa during the late summer, and 28 women were selected.

    US National team member Varla Vendetta, right, rallying her fellow home club, the Windy City All-Stars.

    (photo credit: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Gearing Up for the Cup: Strength and Fitness

2 of 26

    After earning a spot on a team, a roller derby career requires speed, strength and agility as a must. Outside practice, many skaters lift weights, speed skate or do plyometrics to improve on their natural abilities.

    Jackie Daniels of the Windy City Rollers shows how easy it is for her strong arms to do pushups.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Gearing Up for the Cup: Practice Makes Perfect

3 of 26

    For most derby women, there is more to it than just strapping on a helmet and skating around. Most athletes involved in roller derby practice up to five times a week, including a league-wide scrimmage in bigger roller derby outfits. 

    Tamikaze, in the pink helmet, gives teammates a run for it, during an everyday practice session.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

The Track: Flat and Oval

4 of 26

    Unlike the slanted or "banked" track seen in movies like Whip It and Kansas City Bomber, the norm in today's roller derby is the flat track.

    In 2006, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) began to formalize rules and guidelines and recognize standards in the game.

    Some say the flat track not only improves the level of roller derby, but also allows spectators to view the game better while abiding by fire codes and minimizing track maintenance costs.

The Skates: Quads Not Blades

5 of 26

    While inline skates are great for quickness and speed skating, four-wheel skates, or "quads," are the gear of choice. Quads provide the support needed, along with traction and just enough speed.

    Thanks to the rebirth of roller derby, dozens of skate companies have evolved, creating a new market with top-quality products.

Suiting Up

6 of 26

    Derby women are required to wear helmets, wrist guards and pads for the knees and elbows, plus mouth guards. Typically, skaters wear leggings or tights (sometimes fishnets or stockings) to provide some protection for their legs.

    Indycent, pictured, has her own take.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Positions: The Jammer

7 of 26

    The star on the helmet of a derby girl indicates that she is the "jammer," the sole point scorer on the team while on the track. Jammers are often known for and picked by coaches for their speed, flexibility and ability to move throughout the crowded pack of skaters.

    When the jammer establishes a lead or gains position as the "lead jammer" against the opposition, you can liken it to a basketball player maintaining possession of the ball.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Positions: The Jammer

8 of 26

    Like innings in baseball, derby bouts consist of a series of short match ups called “jams,”  which can last up to two minutes.

    A jammer gains a point for her team for passing members of the opposing team after being awarded the lead jammer status by officials. Jammers, however, can't score points by bumping players out or roughing illegally.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Positions: The Blocker

9 of 26

    The other four skaters block for their jammer, much like an offensive lineman makes way for a quarterback, while trying to prevent the opponents from scoring. Blockers wear unmarked helmets, and there are three per team on the track during normal play.

    Blockers, like Team Argentina star Sargentina (left), also work to disrupt the opposing team's scoring drives and unsettle their jammer when they can.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Positions: The Blocker

10 of 26

    One key strategy blockers employ is the wall, or "walling up."

    Blockers can create a wall formation at any time in order to inhibit, slow down or trap the opposing jammer. Blockers can set up a wall to obstruct the opposing team, which may last an entire jam if they can effectively hold their formation.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Positions: The Pivot

11 of 26

    One of the four blocking players, called the "pivot," wears a stripe on her helmet. Pivots often are versatile, more experienced players who call strategy and act as a last line of defense.

    In certain situations, the pivot can take over the jammer's role in attempt to score.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Strategy: Gaining the Lead

12 of 26

    The key to winning each jam is to enable your team's jammer to gain a lead and keep it. One play is called "the whip", whereby a teammate helps propel the jammer, as seen above. 

    Here, a blocker or pivot grasps her jammer's hand and swings her forward, transferring speed and momentum to the jammer.

    (photo credit: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Strategy: The Pack

13 of 26

    In order to engage a member of the opposing team, a player must be within 20 feet (either in front or back) of the pack, forming what is called the "engagement zone."

    Because of this, a skater can't simply speed up and "take out" an opponent away from the pack. Meanwhile, blockers largely make up the pack, trying to slow the other team's progress.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Strategy: Scoring

14 of 26

    Jammers compete for space and tussle to establish a lead, but must first complete a pass of all the opposing team's blockers.

    After this initial pass through the pack, the jammer scores a point each time she passes an opposing team member, including the other team's jammer.

    (photo credit: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Calling off the Jam

15 of 26

    "Calling off" a jam is commonplace throughout a roller derby bout and is pivotal to building and keeping a lead.

    Tapping the hips, a lead jammer can end the jam, usually doing so before the two minutes are up. This allows to a team in the lead to bank their points. Between jams, teammates usually sub in and out to maximize their roster.

    Sunshine 'n' Painbows, pictured, calls off a jam.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Penalties and the Box

16 of 26

    Referees determine rule violations and can issue minor or major penalties for rough play, blocking the head or various track violations.

    A player receiving a major penalty, or four minor penalties, is sent to sit in the designated penalty box for one minute.

    A penalized player can remain in the penalty box during the subsequent jam until the minute penalty is served in full. Any skater with seven major penalties is usually ejected from the game.

The Rough and Tumble

17 of 26

    While the checks, punches and cheap shots of 1970s entertainment-style roller derby are not allowed in today's serious version of the sport, roller derby remains a full contact sport.

    As this London derby girl demonstrates, knocks, tumbles and falls are all part of the game.

The Rough and Tumble

18 of 26

    Injuries, like with any sport, come with the territory.

    Tori Adore, a captain of The Fury in Chicago, ices her knee after a tough matchup, fishnets and all.

What's in a Derby Name?

19 of 26

    More than anything else, roller derby may be known for the fact that its athletes have interesting, creative names. Their jersey numbers are fair game, too.

    Some names use wordplay or double enténdre, and many are a take of the name of a historical figure, famous person or an everyday phrase. Usually, skaters build a little fear into their names as well.

Derby Names: The Sporting Life

20 of 26

    Roller derby names can come from any inspiration, and the the sport's governing body, the WFTDA, registers derby names.

    Some, like Slammy Sosa, get their name from notable pro athletes, in this case, baseball slugger and former all-star Sammy Sosa.

    (photo credit: Andy Frye)

Derby Names: Keepin' It Real

21 of 26

    Some roller derby stars come up with their derby names from their professions and real life experiences.

    Jailya Roberts (left, No. 5-Oh) is a police officer by day, while Viral Temptryss (right, No. H1N1) makes her work as a scientist in epidemiology.

    (photo credit: Andy Frye)

Derby Names: Stars and Stripes

22 of 26

    Meanwhile, other derby women pluck their names right out of American history and the political landscape.

    Nancy Pagan's name has sort of a presidential ring to it.

    (photo credit: Andy Frye)

Style and Swagger: The Image

23 of 26

    In popular culture, roller derby has adopted a reputation for attracting women with a cutting edge flair for fashion, and to some degree, a "punk chick" mystique.

    Despite the image, roller derby women come from all walks of life and include professionals, attorneys, business owners, designers and suburban moms, too.

Style and Swagger: Creativity

24 of 26

    And while helmets, skates and other equipment are as much a requirement as personal commitment, derby athletes are free to author some verve to their repertoire.

    Ska Face, above, adds a some checkers of paint to punctuate her skill and race car speed.

    (photo credit: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Style and Swagger: Flexing Muscles

25 of 26

    That said, roller derby attracts a lot of enterprising, confident women in a sports endeavor that may sometimes encourage just a little flamboyance, attitude and playful showboating.

    Ying O'Fire, above, hams it up before a home bout in Chicago.

    (photo credit: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

Where to Watch the 2011 World Cup

26 of 26

    If you can't make it to Toronto, visit to follow the World Cup online.

    (photo: Gil Leora / Windy City Rollers)

    Andy Frye writes for and blogs at ChicagoNow, and you can follow his radical sports mania on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.