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How Roller Derby Skates to Bring Empowerment and Diversity to All

Roller derby has evolved since its inception in the 1930s to become a sport focusing on female and LGBTQ+ empowerment in a culturally diverse and supportive environment.

The sport is full contact and fast-paced, with each game consisting of two 30-minute periods of two-minute plays, known as jams. Roller Derby skates on a flat track with teams of 15.

The skaters push and skate their way through the arms and bodies of their opponents, making this an adrenaline-filled, physical fight to the top of the pack. Points are scored as jammers, signified by the star on their helmet, pass the opponents and lap the pack. At the same time, blockers work to stop the jammer from advancing.

The action-packed sport requires speed, strength, strategy, and a sense of fun and performance.

Players often take on made-up characters enhanced with makeup, embellishments, and names such as Biohazard, Unholy Roller, and Bloodstained Skater. According to a New York Times story on the history of roller derby, the tradition began by the “founders who were inspired by Austin’s drag scene.”

Over time, roller derby has shifted from a professional sport to a volunteer-based organization. This move has created a community-oriented venture. Players are not paid to play. Skaters fund their travel, gear, and insurance while event proceeds return to the league.

The derby is the quintessential team sport and the team involves volunteers from the referees, coaches, players, families, and everyone else involved in the sport.

What is impressive about roller derby as a sport is the number of skaters who come into it as adrenaline junkies for the love of the physicality of the sport. However, it is the community behind the skaters that keeps them involved.

Ohio is home to The Akron Roller Derby, Athens Roller Derby, Cincinnati Rollergirls, Burning River Roller Derby (Cleveland), Ohio Roller Derby (Columbus), Gem City Roller Derby (Dayton), and Glass City Rollers (Toledo).

Roller Derby continues to grow in popularity and strength, showcasing diversity, strength, and empowerment for all involved. The season is underway, and a seat with your name awaits you.

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