• Monday, November 29, 2021

    write for AmsterDOCollaborate

  • TALK DERBY TO ME…

    If you had asked me a year ago what roller derby was, I would have looked at you with a very puzzled look – now it seems I can’t go five minutes without saying something on the subject. I’ve got derby fever. This sport has taken over my life and I am not the first fortunate victim. Here is the recipe: Take a bunch of everyday women; add quad roller skates, feisty attitudes, a good dose of aggression and top it off with some agility. The result will be one of the most physically and mentally engaging sports I’ve ever played. Roller derby is a full contact sport played on an oval flat track, whereby passing members of the opposing team in a legal manner scores points. Hitting and blocking are encouraged within set target zones on the body and injuries are not uncommon, yet we just can’t get enough it. We may wear skimpy outfits and assign ourselves quirky names, but do not be fooled – we are real athletes.

    ” I’VE GOT DERBY FEVER, THIS SPORT
    HAS TAKEN OVER MY LIFE “

    But first let’s rewind. I imagine you scratching your head in a mixture of confusion and amazement, as you already begin conjuring pictures of girl on girl action. The game first became popular in the 1930s as a form of entertainment based on roller-skate endurance races of the 1920s, played by men and women on a banked track. By the late 1940s the game was being televised and more of the focus was on entertainment, with big fights and storylines between players.

    Most of the action was scripted and by the 1970s popularity had almost completely faded. It seemed that roller derby was no more than a nostalgic memory for those who remember watching the event on TV. The resurgence began in the early 2000s starting with the Texas Roller Girls who amended the rules and created a governing body ‘WFTDA’ (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) – roller derby became a ‘real’ sport. Since it’s reincarnation, the popularity of roller derby has exceeded even the most ambitious expectations with over one thousand leagues across the globe to date and new ones starting up all the time. This is largely thanks to the introduction of the ‘flat track’ which can easily be marked out on any floor instead of having to purchase, store and build a banked track which is not time or cost efficient.

    The Netherlands is definitely no exception to the trend. Founder of the Amsterdam Derby Dames (Limpin’ Lily, as she is affectionately known) initiated the task of starting the first roller derby league in Holland, by holding a meeting in a skate shop in 2009. From there the ADD league was born in the typical DIY fashion that encompasses similar leagues across the world. Today there are at least 14 other leagues up and running in the Netherlands, proving just how popular the sport is becoming. Community is a large part of the derby world, with every member being part of a committee that helps keep them a well-oiled machine. Skater owned and skater run, the relationships built between team members are incomparable and each person strives to push the league forward using skills from their everyday life.

    Each member of the league is encouraged to choose a derby name. Plays on words are popular; some may choose to exaggerate personal qualities and interests or even to be shocking and ironic. It’s this name that allows you to create
    your character; your alter ego – ‘Vegan Vengeance’, ‘Abs of Steel’ and ‘Dirty Job’ are just a few examples from our team.
    Creating this on track personality is definitely a large part of the sport, empowering women to be strong and confident –
    perhaps something that they cannot always be in everyday life.

    It is not easy to stereotype the women who play roller derby, as our players come from all walks of life. From software consultants to students, mechanics to mums, we’ve got them all. Not to mention skaters from a variety of foreign countries including America, Canada, Germany and England, we are always on the lookout for new members (or ‘fresh meat’ as we know them). Your skill level doesn’t matter; it’s your attitude and willingness to learn that is most  important. Only women are allowed to skate, but we are always on the lookout for budding referees and NSOs (Non Skating Officials) who may be male or female. The only specific requirement is that you must be over 18 to participate.

    Adding to another piece of roller derby history, in February of this year, ADD hosted the first ever home game (a ‘bout’) in The Netherlands with visiting skaters Roller Girls of the Apocalypse from Kaiserslautern, Germany. The event completely sold out and was more successful than any of us could have anticipated, only complimented by the Amsterdam Derby Dames winning an amazing 105 – 69. ‘This bout was very important, not only for our own team,
    but for all teams in Holland’, says team captain San Solo. ‘We’ve proven that we can host a bout here and that a lot of people are interested in watching a game of roller derby.Everyone can expect more awesomeness to come from The
    Netherlands soon!’

    ” PLAYERS COME FROM ALL WALKS OF
    LIFE, WE’VE GOT THEM ALL “

    Continuing its successes off the track, long term league skater ‘Sweet N Sinister’ (Denise Schepers) made the decision to open her own online store in September 2011 – the first roller derby owned and operated store in the Netherlands. Denise explains ‘I opened the store to make life easier on Dutch derby players, helping them find the gear they need. It has been really successful, largely due to the fact that I play myself so can understand exactly what my customers are looking for.’
    You can visit the store at: www.triple3skateshop.com

    With upcoming bouts scheduled at home and abroad, it’s incredible to see just how fast our league is growing. Roller derby is not yet a recognised sport in the Netherlands, meaning we receive no funding or subsidies.

    To help cover our rising costs we are holding a fundraiser on June 23rd at OCCII, with live bands, auctions and the chance to meet your favourite roller girls! To find out more about our league including information on upcoming events and fresh meat days, visit us at :

    www.amsterdamderbydames.nl

    ROSIE DUNIAM aka HARDCORE BLONDAGE
    PHOTOS: IAN RWB & KEES RIJKEN (LEFT TO RIGHT)