A select few people know about roller derby and many do not expect a sport so physical to have women’s leagues. Watching women crash into each other, hitting the ground hard, blocking with their hips, rear and shoulders for the first time can be a bit intimidating. The Ledger attended the Bremerton season nine opener for the Bremerton Northwest Derby Company vs the Centralia team, Rainy City Roller Dolls. These teams are part of The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association — the international governing body who represent roller derby for more than 450 member leagues on six continents, giving women the opportunity to be part of this sport.
Roller derby consists of two teams comprised of 15 skaters that play two 30 minute periods. Within each period, there are a number of “jams” when the teams can score points during a two-minute window, or when the “Lead Jammer” calls it off. If a player does not block legally — by a block to the back, tripping or elbows — the player is penalized for 30 seconds.
In the game there are three positions: jammer, blocker and pivot. The jammer scores and is easily recognized by the stars worn on their helmets. They attempt to pass the opponents as many times as possible by going around the track and lapping the pack.
The blocker’s job is to stop the opponents’ jammer from passing while also helping their own team’s jammer through the opponent’s blockers. The pack is formed by the largest group of blockers from both teams.
The pivot — the player with a stripe on their helmets — is the only blocker who can accept a star pass from the jammer, which makes them the new jammer. When a jam starts, each team has four blockers and one jammer.
When one of the jammers passes all skaters, they become the lead jammer. After the jammers complete a full lap, they earn one point each time they pass an opposing player legally — they can earn a total of four points per pass.
Roller derby is played on an oval-shaped track with out of bound lines players have to skate within — if they go out they come back in behind the pack. All of this is played without walls to catch the players — some slide far off the track but they jump right up and hurriedly return to the game.
If you’re interested in seeing a game but Bremerton is a bit out of the way, fear not because there are teams closer to home. Tacoma has its own league called the Dockyard Derby Dames. The league is divided into three home teams: Femme Fianna, Marauding Mollys and the Trampires, as well as two competitive teams, The Wave of Mutilation and Undertow. If you’re interested in more than just the Tacoma league information, the WFTDA website has a plethora of information available to prospective attendees.
The Ledger had the opportunity to interview one of the Rainy City Roller Dolls, Ivanna Pop-a-Tart. This conversation opened up a dialogue about the game itself and cleared up questions and misconceptions about roller derby.
How did you find out about roller derby? How did you get on the team? Did you have to know how to skate before being on the team?
“I found Tacoma’s Dockyard Derby Dames roller derby on Facebook and went to watch about. A year later I decided to search to see if there was a team closer to my home and found JBLM had a team. I played with them and then transferred to Rainy City Roller Dolls in Centralia. They teach you to skate and the rules. Once you can pass minimum skills testing you are able to be rostered to play.”
Does everyone get to pick their own derby name? Is their significance behind yours?
“The leagues I have been with you chose your own with lots of help. Many years ago when derby was first making its comeback you couldn’t have a name that was similar to another skater no matter where you lived. As time went on the skaters increased this rule went away. My derby name is the result of a road trip to California. We all had road trip names, the state you were born in and what you ate for breakfast. As you guessed it, I ate a Pop-Tart and wanted another one. That’s how Ivanna Pop-a-Tart came about.”
What is the roller derby community like?
“The derby community is very diverse. All different kinds of people are attracted to it. The public has an idea of what a roller derby girl looks like and I do not fit that description. I have no tattoos and only have my ears pierced once. I know skaters with Ph.D.’s, stay at home mothers and some just figuring it all out. That’s what makes it go great, you get introduced to people outside of your circle and you grow.”
From your knowledge is roller derby mainly a female sport because all I have ever heard about is female leagues?
“Granted most of the leagues are female identified but there are men’s leagues all over the world as well as some co-ed leagues. It will be interesting to see how the sport grows because there is an audience for all.”