Derby History

Roller derby originated in Chicago in the 1930s, when Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon added physical contact and teamwork to marathon roller skating races. Taking off in popularity, the sport continued evolving and the level of spectacle increased over the decades, as seen in television shows where skaters played up villainous personas and skated on a banked track. After exploding in mainstream culture, the sport eventually died out after going through several changes, including a period where teams were owned by businesses.

The modern roller derby revival began in Austin, Texas in the early 2000s, when the Texas Rollergirls were formed. Soon, other leagues began forming as word spread, not only in regions near Texas but also in cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. This time around, the leagues, predominately female-only and using a flat track, are owned by the skaters themselves in a DIY spirit.  In the last half of the decade, women's roller derby evolved from the fake-fighting version some remember from the 1970s, to a regulated, hard-hitting, and purely athletic sport. This latest incarnation is growing in favor in the mainstream, too: In fall 2009, cinemas across the United States were treated to the release of the feature film Whip It, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut (based on the book Derby Girl by Shauna Cross), which centered on the story of a girl seeking herself, and finding it, in roller derby.

The Womens Flat Track Derby Association was founded in 2004 as a governing body to oversee the fast-growing sport, creating a uniform ruleset and membership requirements with the philosophy "By the skaters, for the skaters" in mind. Today, there are over 130 member leagues, with new leagues springing up not only through the United States but in countries ranging from Canada to the Netherlands to Australia.

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