The Resurrection of Roller Derby

By: Morgan Urtso

Masonite BurnThe retro revival movement has made its way into the sports sphere, and along with it come the hard-hitting, clotheslining, dominating damsels of roller derby. Not to be confused with damsels in distress, these athletes hold their own on and off the rink.

Their pure athleticism is undeniable.

It’s a physical game, but the lure of the derby doesn’t lie solely in the aggressive nature of the beast. Contrary to the stereotypical notion, it’s not just an outlet for anger. A roller derby bout is a truly competitive 48-minute battle boasting some of the most intense, in-shape and committed athletes in sports.

Roller Derby’s banked oval track makes for high speeds, hard action and heavy hits – but it’s not a course that’s easily conquered. The sport’s on-and-off-skate cross-training involves strength and conditioning, endurance building, speed drills, flexibility and balance work, and explosive lifts.

Essential for skating is a strong core and sense of balance. Practicing yoga, coupled with bodyweight strength training like planks, pushups, squats and lunges, serve as staples in the training regimen of a derby athlete. Skating hard on an elevated, banked track requires strength to support the asymmetrical pressure on the skater’s muscles and joints.

Elevating competitor’s game lies in ramping up their speed and endurance, so interval training on a surface that is conducive to healthy joint movement is a derby training standard. Off-skate training is just as important as on-skate practice.

Serge MelkiBecause of the athletic demands, many women join roller derby as a way of getting in great shape and having a blast doing it. Others join for the camaraderie – to be part of a tight-knit community of athletes. And others love the confidence boost the sport provides as a side-effect.

“It’s through roller derby that I developed a love for fitness and training,” Los Angeles roller derby veteran ‘Suzy Snakeyes’ explained via LA Derby Dolls. “And it’s because of roller derby that I had the confidence to go back to school, earn my training certifications, and start a derby training business.”

Suzy, a member of the LA Derby Dolls, a full-contact competitive league of more than 150 skaters and volunteers, four teams, one all-star team, and a junior league, is helping pave the way for the sport’s nation-wide resurrection. Training four times a week at their home arena, The Doll Factory, the league’s athletes are among the most competitive players in the game.

“The community is filled with so many inspiring, motivating and supportive people,” the skater added. “… and the game is still the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done and continue to do…”

Challenging is an accurate description. The modern game of roller derby would put any athlete through the ringer. The training alone parallels that of an elite athlete, and the game is as physical as football. The LA Derby Dolls league is proving that, bout by bout.

For more information on the LA Derby Dolls, visit

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