The Ten Funnest Things About Derby

This article was first published in Derby Oz magazine. 


Photo by Smasharazzi

The Ten Funnest Things About Derby.

To describe Roller Derby as, “a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating in the same direction around a track…” et cetera, et cetera, which is what you’ll find on Wikipedia, really doesn’t give an outsider any insight into why Roller Derby is the fastest-growing sport in the world. It’s not just the gameplay that makes it amazing, it’s the “aura of Derbyness” around our great sport that makes it so phenomenal and so unique. This author decided to pinpoint what are, in her humble opinion and in no particular order, the ten funnest things about Roller Derby.

We have cool names. I love words. It’s why I like to write. Words can be clever, insightful, cutting, witty, suggestive, and sometimes all those things at once. So when I found out that the manager of my son’s rugby league team was not always called Mike, but sometimes called Dirty Menace, it was like a compass finding North. With our Derby names, we get to live out a little bit of fantasy that most of us don’t get to embrace in our day-to-day lives. For instance, I get to be a Hogwarts student (a really smart one at that). Derby names can make me nod my head in “hell yeah” admiration at their cleverness, or laugh out loud at their wittiness. Our alter egos are not something that “mainstream” sports embrace, and I realise it’s not something every league, or every skater, agrees with, but I love the fact that we have them. It makes us special, and it shows the world that we’re just a little bit clever really.

We play dress-ups. Let’s face it – Derby outfits are the best sporting attire going. Personally I’m not into tutus, but if that’s your scene, then I say TUTU IT UP WARRIOR PRINCESS! My team’s uniform consists of a sexy skate dress that I would NEVER wear in public otherwise. The rest of what we wear is up to us. Yes, some of us love fishnets, some of us don’t. Some of us have stage makeup, and some of us prefer to go mainstream – like our unique names, it’s not everyone’s scene. If you want to wear compression tights, like a hard-core elite athlete, do it. But some Derby girls want to have a bit of fun with what they wear on the track, and if they’re willing to risk a little fishnet burn, then good for them. And, by the way, you ALL look hot, no matter what you’ve got on your bod.

We are for everyone. I’m pretty sure my league is not unique in the fact that we accept, and embrace, people from all walks of life. Derby does not care what colour your skin is, what your background is, or your sexual orientation. We do not care if you are tattooed or a clean-skin, a bogan or a socialite. If you want Derby to be for you, it’s for you, and in this era when demographers try to pigeonhole us as much as they possibly can, I for one find Derby’s inclusiveness like a breath of fresh air.

We respect differences. I’ve seen fresh meat who seem to take to Derby like a duck to water. I struggled for almost a year before I mastered a Tomahawk stop, and seeing fresh meat who master it in a few weeks makes me just a teeny bit green with envy. But the fact is, Derby doesn’t care. Derby will embrace the girls who get it right the first time, and it will also be patient with the ones who take a little longer. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to pass your basic skills test. If you want to be here, we want you, and we respect you all the more for never giving up.

We are free-thinkers. Now, this is not based on any scientific evidence, but it seems to me, from my short time in the Derby world, that our little community is a teensy bit more intellectual, more inclusive, and more progressive than the rest of the community at large. I know that I can express an opinion, related to Derby, politics, or life, and even if it’s not agreed with, my opinion is respected, and an intelligent discussion can ensue. Maybe I’ve seen too many trolls on the Interwebs, but yeah, it seems to me that Derby peeps are pretty cool that way, and are way smarter than the average bear.

We knock the snot out of each other, and are best friends afterwards. We take our sport seriously. I laugh at the nay-sayers (most of whom have never seen a derby bout) who think that Derby is not a “real” sport, that our sport is akin to entertainment wrestling. I challenge anyone to tell a Derby girl to deliberately lose a bout. I promise you, it’ll be the last thing you say before your jaw is wired shut from the high block you’ll receive. We can have immense love, respect and friendship for one another off the track – even as we’re waiting for that whistle at the jammer line – but you better believe it girlfriend, on the track I’m putting my body on the line to make sure I beat you. And afterwards? Afterwards, it’s back to free-flowing, unadulterated, pure-as-the-driven-snow Derby Love.

We have amazeballs fans, volunteers, refs and NSOs. I love our support crew. After every scrimmage, and every bout, I try to thank every volunteer and ref I see. Because they’re not doing it for the fame, the glory or the money. They’re doing it because they love Derby, and because they want to give their time so we can skate. How awesome is that? And, in return, if we can give them the most amazing spectator sport ever conceived, well I for one think that is a fantastic trade.

We have the ultimate stress relief. I never would have said this before I started Derby, but I love getting hit. The idea of actual fisticuffs scares me to tears (as opposed to Feisty Cuffs, who’s an awesome ambassador for our sport), but on the track? BRING IT. When one of our league’s big hitters slams into me, and I maintain my balance, seriously, YOU HAVE MADE MY DAY. I love that feeling of power being expelled against me, almost as much as I love the feeling of expelling all my power against my opposition. And if I can help our team score a point or two in the process, then even better. Even when I don’t feel like going to training, I make sure I go, because whatever monkey has stolen my mojo, I can be sure that a few big hits given and received will send that primate back to the jungle where it belongs.

We get to look cool, even if, secretly, we know we’re not. OK, here’s a confession. I’ve never been a cool kid. I’m a bit like my namesake, Hermione, who only became cool because she got accepted into Hogwarts, and even then was outstandingly dorky to her fellow wizards. I only became cool when I got accepted into Derby. And I’m sure some of the chicks in my league are going, “WTF, she’s so not cool.” Yeah, I know I’m not. But everyone outside of Derby thinks I’m cool just because I play it. And, to me, that’s pretty bloody funny, because I’ve never been allowed to hang out with the cool kids, until now.

We get to wear wheels on our feet.  This one speaks for itself really! We get to go really really fast! It’s like a roller-coaster, only people are hitting you. Hell yeah! The first time I managed to skate without falling, I felt like I was flying, and it was awesome! And you know what? When I get a bit of speed up, I STILL feel like I’m flying! Why would anyone do a sport in sneakers? It really baffles me.

We have after-parties. Yes, I know this is the eleventh item in my list of top ten funnest things about Derby. But really, even if you can’t forgive my appalling disregard for numbers, who doesn’t love an after-party? My league gets to patronise our amazing sponsor, the Colonial Hotel at Werrington, (yes, this is a blatant plug for the best pub in Western Sydney), the Colonial staff get to wear league t-shirts, and we all enjoy a great meal, have a few drinks, reminisce about some great bouts, and strengthen those bonds of Derby love. Any sport with an after-party as part of the official program has got to be a fantastic way to spend a Saturday night.

OMG I still don’t have a derby name!!!

It’s been 12 wonderful months since I joined the derby community and now that I’m on the cusp of stepping up and into the bouting world, I’m freaking out a lil about not having a derby name.

As a freshie, the last thing on your mind is choosing a name. Mostly you’re just trying to stay upright and remembering to pick a cheek when you fail to do that.

As time goes on and your legs obey without thinking, you start to get serious and think about upgrading equipment, you’re now committed and in love with the sport. You start to develop a derby persona and focussing on the tests ahead, your motivation moves to the childish excitement of moving up a level and the prospect of hitting your fellow freshies!

Now is the time when the seeds of potential derby names that have been planted throughout the freshie phase, start to ripen and take shape.

When you finally move up a level, the reality that you can do this sport and that you can bout starts to sink in, and (if you haven’t already inherited a name), you begin to get serious about choosing a derby name.

It’s a derby rite of passage we all go through and one that we all enjoy immensely.

But what happens if you can’t find one that fits?

There is always the hope that one of your team mates will help you out and you’ll accidentally find yourself with a derby name.

You might even have a favourite band or song or celebrity name that you want to make derby worthy. Playing with words is a heap of fun – Eddie Van-Nailem, Bitchy and Scratchy – all it takes is a good imagination.

If you’re not so creative or need something to get you started, there are a tonne of derby name generators out there to give you a helping hand.

Here’s a couple to get you started:

And then of course there’s google. Do a search under “roller derby names” and voila! Inspiration galore!

If you happen to be lucky and manage to find a name that fits (you’ll know it when it rolls off your tongue and your heart beat rises in time with the crowd roaring in your head as you are picturing your first skate out) you’ll be crossing all your body parts as you tentatively search the derby name register to make sure it hasn’t been taken. And if it hasn’t I’ll bet you move like lightning to get it registered so it stays that way too. (The register is here btw… )

But when that fails, what happens then?

I’ve been telling myself for months now that I’ve got plenty of time to choose a name. And for many months I’ve been right. But time is running out. Ohhh in case you haven’t realised by now, I’m also the most indecisive person on the planet.

I’ve got a team (Break-hers rock!) and I have sooooooo many ideas for names…



Blocky Horror

Vicious Dell-isous

Delli Llama

She who hath no name….

But nothing seems to fit or rather, each fits, but it depends on the day and the mood I’m in… kinda like choosing clothes, just less nudity involved.

So what do you do when you can’t decide between your 76 split personalities?

I’m still trying to figure it out, but you can always put it to a vote. Jump onto the WSR social page and throw it out there, see what comes back (and there may be some unexpected suggestions thrown into the mix!). You could even put it to your non-derby friends and get their thoughts and opinions on what seems to suit the best.

At the end of the day, you can even go with your own name, more and more people are doing it and there’s no shame in not being able to settle on a name.

But if you’re like me and are looking for something cool and catchy, perhaps patience is all that’s needed… or a kick in the behind to get you on your way 🙂

Derby Love


(AKA She who hath no name…. yet)