In a week that saw Britain questioning the representation of women in sport, a little known but fast emerging female dominated sport is set to announce itself on the world stage tomorrow.
The inaugural Roller Derby World Cup begins in Toronto, Canada on December 1st which will see thirteen different nations from around the world compete for the first time in the sports history.
What makes this sport and this tournament in particular so exciting is the completely unknown aspect of the competition level – some of the sides have not long played together as a team let alone faced each other. The freshness of the sport and the lack of established history means nobody knows for sure how any nation will fare against another; there are no previous winners, no superstar players, no form guides or statistics to support even a basic idea of how any team will fare.
Although the sport has grown rapidly in the last few years it is still very much an underground sport, leagues are non-professional and mainly spring up around cities rather than national leagues. As a result team coaches have had to select their 20 woman squads from a variety of different leagues and formed a first ever national squad.
The draw has recently been made for the groups and opening fixtures, England are with the close by Ireland and not so close Argentina, Australia face Europeans Germany and Finland, a four team group pits France, Sweeden, Brazil and hosts Canada, while Scotland and New Zealand are up against the USA.
While there are no certainties for performances in this tournament, many will be looking at the USA as potential favourites due to their history and the sports popularity. Rather than selecting a 20 member squad they have opted for a 28 women team that face off in an allstar expo bout on the opening day, demonstrating the depth of talent available. Their players have had experience in national Roller Derby championships and the sport itself is an American invention.
The term roller derby dates right back to 1922 when Leo Seltzer, a film publicist, combined aspects of dance marathons and roller skating into the first Transcontinental Roller Derby event in 1935. This was not in any way similar to the sport we now have but more of a racing style event, originally a stimulation of cross-country roller skating where 25 two-person teams circled a track thousands of times to cover 3,000 miles. Skaters skated up to 11 ½ hours a day, and were disqualified if both members were off the track during skating times.
The sports development was one of evolution and happy accidents, after the first transcontinental doller derby event, Seltzer decided to take a portable track and hold similar races throughout the U.S. As the skaters tried to lap those in front of them, there were occasional collisions and crashes and this quickly become the most exciting part.
Realizing this, sportswriter Damon Runyon, encouraged Seltzer to change the game to incorporate more physical contact between skaters. Although Seltzer was somewhat leery of this, he agreed to try it and the fans loved it! Over time, roller derby has evolved into a sport involving two teams of five skaters where teams score points by lapping members of the opposing team.
Roller Derby left America to tour Europe in the early fifties, but found little success. Seltzer moved the headquarters to the West Coast, a few years before major league baseball would make the same move. Leo never lost his vision that the game would be embraced by the country, but by 1958, it was time for son Jerry to take over day-to-day operation of the family business.
Jerry Seltzer once again took the sport to great heights by filming Roller Derby broadcasts, featuring the San Francisco Bay Bombers, which were shown on a network of 120 TV stations across the country. Derby’s national tour became so successful that by 1969, the Bay Bombers were broken up into a San Francisco and Oakland team. These two units filled arenas across the country from 1969 through 1971, when a third unit was added.
The original Roller Derby game faded from popularity and skated its last game on December 8, 1973, when Jerry sold the family business. Its modern revival came around the turn of the century in Texas, USA and soon sprang up leagues all over the world. There are now over 1,000 leagues operating globally which are run as as a club sport by amateur volunteers.
Though the sport has come a long way and attracted an exciting new brand and feel, it is still a far way off being recognised worldwide as a sport. Teams have had to fund their trips to Canada through various fundraising activities and will need to raise their profile to attract big sponsors and commercial coverage.
In many ways the lack of competitive history and tradition has liberated the sport to make it more dynamic and exciting, leagues and tournaments are often arranged and run by players of the game meaning rule changes or team and leagues stipulations can easily be managed. The first Roller Derby World Cup will no doubt provide many surprises for players as they learn more about how the game is played worldwide and help to create an easier development of standards in the future.
Roller Derby has been a recent interest at Team Colours, having been approached by teams to make custom kits for their sport and eventually being led to create a roller derby section of our site.
After supplying variations on our custom netball tops and netball skirts, we then chose a range to suit the roller derby style and introduced roller derby dresses. We have had the great fortune of creating a custom design for the Cardiff Roller Collective and now the Scotland national side in build up to the World Cup. We hope the Scots can turn a few heads and set a trend as they strut their stuff in their new sublimated roller derby dresses.
With the teams all in place and the start in under 24 hours we would like to wish every side the very best of luck, and hopefully bring an colourful new chapter to this unique and remarkable sport. To keep afloat of the goings on at the tournament visit the Roller Derby World Cup website.
Team Colours are and established bespoke sports and leisurewear manufacturer based in Hertfordshire UK. Our aim is to meet the specific demands for sports teams, schools, clubs and organisations with a range of tailored clothing options including custom kits and dresses, custom tracksuits, sports accessories and personalised printing and embroidery. Visit our site for more information on roller derby and other sports we cater for, or send us a sales enquiry via our site.