Roller Derby Perception

Posted on 27th February, by Martin in Roller Derby. 12 Comments

So I was telling a friend of mine about Roller Derby (not everyone in the UK knows about the sport yet). We got chatting about the women that do the sport and how peoples perception of the players is well off the reality of it all.

Plenty of the people involved in Roller Derby have successful careers, are smart AND pretty, yet people still jump to conclusions that these women must be different to those you see in the street. Some breed of aggressive, thrill seeking, blood thirsty superwomen.

Ok, some of that might be true!

Since setting up this site and having been in contact with these ladies and having been to bouts and Derby organised events I can’t say enough how great these ladies are! Nothing is too much trouble, they are accommodating and they can kick ass if they need to.

As the old saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Which was what inspired these pieces of work.

Let me know what you think as any feedback is welcome.

Feel free to download the images, just click on them and then right click ‘save as’.

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Roller Derby Wonder Woman

Roller Derby Bruises


12 responses to “Roller Derby Perception”

  1. Red Tash says:

    There is definitely an issue with perception. I am so over the whole “I watched roller derby back in the 70s!” and the requisite goofy grin that follows. It’s tough not to hit those people in the face. 😉 Oops, did I say that outloud?

  2. Wolf says:

    Well, where I live in Amsterdam (Brit expat), there isn’t a perception as people don’t really know what Roller Derby is yet. So I tell them, I tell them the athletic, sporty version and I find the young, sporty types become very interested, even asking how they could get involved. I do find tho that the Dutch in general don’t label people as much as us Brits do, who cares if you have a tattoo but you’re polite, who cares if you wear jeans to the office as long as you get you’re work done!!! So for me here, I proudly tell people what my sport is and I get good responses. For my friends and family back home, they are kind of used to me doing a non-feminine sport as I used to race BMX and Downhill MTB, or maybe I just don’t see perceptions as I’m used to championing whatever ‘unusual’ sport I’m am doing.

  3. Charlotte G says:

    Most people I speak to haven’t ever heard of roller derby, so their initial response is ‘what is the sport?’ rather than judging the types of people who play it. My follow up to this is to show them video of teams such as London Roller Girls, Gotham etc. (i.e. all star teams), then invite them to see a bout in person. They’re aware that the players have to be fit and to have a lot of power to skate, they see me practice outside of skating (running, weights) and the sport is perceived as a valid sport to the people I am in contact with.
    The times it comes across as a ‘stereotypical brutish’ sport are when the sport is, perhaps, sensationalised by someone to cause a bit of intrigue via shock (‘it’s women hitting each other on skates!’), the parts of the sport carried across into the mainstream (via media) are the ‘short shorts and heavy hits’ aspect, or everything EXCEPT how a bout was played when it’s reported in the media (i.e. ‘these are women playing a SPORT, isn’t this novel?’).
    Many still see it a novelty due to this, it is down to any skater to quash this attitude by inviting people to a bout, showing them video of all-star teams and going through some strategies, really showing them the sport for its true natire – not just the frills.

  4. bambi legs says:

    I’m in the category of an outsider – I have a family member who is involved and was turned on to it by her. The clincher for me, was actually watching a live bout. I adored the atmosphere when I first walked into the warehouse. It was a very family friendly event and there was a distinct sense of community about the whole thing.

    My perceptions of Roller Derby were of intrigue initially, but have gently mutated to that of a possible future athlete on skates 😉 -rather than the age old question of ‘why’ it has been replaced with the ‘why not?’

    Even with very limited experience of the sport myself, What is extremely apparant is that Derby is a team sport with distinct foundations of strength, determination and achievement.

    It’s one of those things that need to be experienced to be understood -There’s so much more to it than hotpants!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Im very new to the whole Derby thing and as a former outsider, I too thought it was about women knocking 7 bells out of one another….. The reality, as has been pointed out here is that the team culture of watching eachothers backs, looking after eachother and teaching with extreme patience can’t be praised enough. I love finding new friends who have the same passion and determination and are so welcoming to a newcomer. Im glad I pushed my preconceptions to the side and approached a local team…….a definite bonus to my life :-)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have known about Roller Derby for a while but until it was part of a CSI (TV Show) investigation recently and Hawaii 5-0 – I became even more interested. It is right up my street…

    I recently asked hubby if we can go and watch, have a night out etc… sure, he laughed but then he said “yeah, sounds good”.

    I know that most of my friends would turn their nose up at me, especially if I said that I am so keen to join in!

  7. Roller Derby is an American import AND it’s played by women, so it’s automatically a challenge to the established British sports culture. There was a similar problem when American football took off here in the ’80s – the press labelled players as being both violent thugs and effeminate for wearing pads! There’s an innate suspicion of anything new, especially if it’s crossed the Atlantic – but the more people who attend bouts and learn about the game, the more these attitudes will be worn down…

  8. Rasharda says:

    I think u lot are awesome….

  9. Jane says:

    I’m a Fresh Meater & am trying to secure a regular booking at one of the local sports halls so that I can practice in between sessions. One lady informed me that she was not sure I would be able to hire the hall as “she knows all about what Roller Derby girls do”! Well, nice one love. No regular cash for your business then. Not sure what ‘trouble’ you think I’m gonna cause alone in a hall!

    However, being a heavily tattooed woman, unfortunately I’m more than used to people making the wrong judgement about my lifestyle. Surprisingly I have a good job, my own house, don’t do drugs & a damn sight more manners than most people!!

  10. Richie Zorlac says:

    Ok I’m new to the whole Roller Derby thang! I am a husband and father of both a wife and daughter who want to get involved in the sport. From the outside looking in it reminds me of back in the day when I was A Skateborder in the late 80’s early 90’s involved in a past time that was very anti social! These days Skateboarding is beyond exceptable it’s a career path! People make vast sums of money from it but when I got into it it was bacause it was fun and the people in to it were people I could relate too.
    I know that at the time I wanted skateboarding to get the resect it deserved but I ask now respect from who!? Do not wish the sport to get to much main stream it will, in my humble opinion, take away from what attracted you to it in the first instance.
    Love Some Old Skool Skater with bad Knees!! X

  11. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who I tell I’ve just started roller derby seems to think it’s a bunch of butch, tattooed lesbians fighting on roller skates! I don’t mind people thinking that being as the reality of it is that I am a mother of two toddlers and qualified nurse who’s really not tough at all!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think it is more misconceptions of not understanding what Roller derby is then perceptions.I am 52 years Old and in my 3rd year of playing derby and perfecting my skills to try out for Boot camp and if I make it to Boot camp I will then be able to possibly get drafted for a big team.. I always wanted to play I used to sit on my grandpas lap after the Ed Sullivan show and watch the banked track old fashioned roller derby I loved it.I didn’t realize they even had recreational teams nor State nor Town Teams the last 47 years but it just wasn’t on television,Now we can look for it and it is everywhere, An old friend on face book status say’s I am now an official derby girl! I emailed her and said What?Where?Who?How? Want ! I was so excited when I heard there were recreational teams to practice and play with she said come try out there looking for people to play you can learn..Now I lastly skated when I was 17 and could roll well thinking I got this but when I got out on the floor at 49 years of age I couldn’t even skate without holding on to the sides of the warehouse walls and every one of the girls there accepted me for who I was and gave me continuous support saying you can do this every week I got better, they kept saying don’t give up!..I think the(perceptions)from a lot of people are I can’t do that No way !But yes you can ! These coaches and girls that practice every week become family and they got your back being the age I am I love the team work the hard endurance drills it keeps me physical I am doing the same exact workout as 18 year old’s and it gives me great pride I say I am always going to be 30,Seriously if we stop using it we will start loosing it.. We learn the positions and how to hit properly.We don’t just go up to someone and knock em down that would be what we call being a douch bag..Yes some of the names in derby are tough and dirty but usually the little one’s don’t get it and we try to keep it all family friendly ..Some of the toughest looking derby girls are as sweet as honey,Yes we look ruff but we are everyday people just like you..We work hard on the sport we love just as everyone else plays there favorite sports we even have Roller Derby State Teams going to the Olympics which is something very new and exciting..We have to learn our skills and pass WFTDA skills tests which is women’s flat track derby association, Some pass easily while some of us might take a little longer we learn to do it right so no one get’s hurt we bond as a team while we learn..We want to get more laps equaling points you see we get points by passing the teams other players and if we play wrong and not by the derby Wftd rules we end up in the penalty box or get hurt and this is why we also where all the proper gear..It is fun and really the loosing teams never have real hard feelings we tease each others teams a lot but all in all it is such a fun sport and much hard work..It has totally saved me and I tease my friends I say when I am 90 and out on the track you will be putting a straight jacket on me because I will be doing this until the day I die..I like to think I am so physically and mentally fit from Derby that I will for sure be around for a long long time..

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