Rose City Rollers welcome all, provides engaging opportunities for derby viewing, participation

Illustration of Roller derby
By Rose Bialk

Ever heard of roller derby? Well, as a resident of Portland you are in a good place to learn about it. Our local league, the Rose City Rollers, is one of the largest leagues in the country, boasting over 400 members. They have multiple adult and junior teams, including both home and travel teams. This is far more than most leagues have, which means that the teams are able to play within their own league, instead of having to travel. This also means more home games for you to come and watch! 

Not only that, but because they have multiple teams, there are multiple entry points depending on your skating level. Just want to play for fun? The Wreckers might be for you. Want to step it up a notch? Consider trying out for one of their four home teams, the Break Neck Betties, Guns N Rollers, Heartless Heathers and the High Rollers. And you cannot forget about their traveling team, Wheels of Justice, who were the winners of the 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 national championships. Of course, you can also just watch the action from a relatively safe distance in the bleachers.

Now, what is roller derby? Roller derby is a contact sport played on rollerskates. Each game, or bout, is broken up into multiple two minute sections called jams. During each jam, the two teams competing send five players onto the track, four blockers and one jammer. 

The jammer is identifiable as the player with a star on their helmet. This is usually in the form of a helmet cover which can be removed and passed to a special type of blocker called the pivot, who then puts on the jammer’s helmet cover and assumes the position of jammer for the rest of the jam. You can spot the pivot by the helmet cover they wear, which contains a stripe running from front-to-back instead of a jammer star.

The blockers of both teams make up what is called the pack and it is the jammer’s job to break through the pack, at which point they can begin to score points by passing the opposing teams blockers as many times as possible within the two minute timeframe. The blocker’s job is to stop the jammer from passing them or to assist their jammer in passing the other team’s players. The blockers block the jammer by using their hips, back, upper arms and thighs. 

Use of feet, hands and head is not allowed and if these rules are violated, it  will result in a penalty. Players can acquire penalties for breaking any of the rules of the track. A player with a penalty must immediately exit the track and skate to the penalty box where they must stay for 30 seconds, during which time their team is down a player on the track. If a player receives seven penalties during a bout, they foul out of the game and are no longer allowed to play for the remainder of the bout. 

These rules in place are for player safety, which is taken very seriously. As roller derby is a contact sport, all players are required to wear a helmet and mouthguard as well as wrist, elbow and knee pads.. Leagues usually have rental gear but you are required to bring your own mouthguard and water bottle. 

You might have noticed the fun names all the teams have, but did you know that as a skater you get to pick your own “derby name”? While roller derby can be quite intense, there is an element of theatrics involved, including over the top makeup, customizable helmets and derby names. Your derby name  can be anything you want, but a good pun is always appreciated. Names can range from anything from a real name like Carl or Ripley, to the more extreme (of which there are far more), such as Lexsanguination, Eve Anne Hellical or Freddie HerFury. These names will be used by both your team and the announcers during games, so it is a good idea to pick something that you are comfortable being called in front of a crowd.  

If any of this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to check out Rose City as your local roller derby league. Their upcoming events include a juniors game on May 4 and 5 and two adult bouts on May 17 and 18.

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