Inter Derby

World Wide Derby Domination

Slow Evolution of International Derby

Posted by hooligal on May 21, 2009

Bar a few months last year, I realised that I’ve been skating in England for over a year.  My league had been bouting away games here and there in that time, but we have only just launched our first home inter-league season here in London.

The evolution of derby abroad seems a bit slower then that of American counterparts, for many different factors. Venues are hard to secure, the sport is new so no one has herd of it, and training is done with no previous experience, just a lot of internet research.

England, compared to my homeland of Canada, is a small country. A small country with a hell of a lot of people. A Lot of people who don’t play hockey.  So normal venues I’m used to (hockey arenas in the summer) just aren’t available here. Big, open, skateable areas are either non existent or extravagantly expensive. Due to the cramming of millions of people in a small place, buildings are built with the idea of conserving space. In a country where their major sport is played on grass, there is just no need for many places that would be ideal for derby…cause you just can’t skate on a football pitch! I hear about many leagues internationally having problems finding appropriate areas to house their practices and bouts, which will definitely hinder your growth as a league and expend a lot of energy, stress and phone credit.

Once you find a home, you need skaters! Leagues, American or not, go through the growing pains of begging their friends, family and co-workers to join this amazing sport, and some staying or leaving. Recruitment outside a social circle rarely takes off until after a first public bout. However in America you have many leagues making both local and nationwide media coverage, everything from music videos, commercial adverts, talk shows, game shows to your traditional news media forms. The media is intrigued by an old sport making a new comeback. People hear about it and they want to join, and they will actively seek out their local league.  However in places like England or Germany, the sport never existed here. It’s completely new, and that can be a disadvantage to creating initial interest. The sport has to build its own following from scratch, which can be a longer process.

Then we have training. In Canada and America it’s usually not a very far drive to a well experienced league. Training and coaching tips are shared, bootcamps are well attended and it snowballs to improve athleticism at a rapid pace. Overseas you will have the chance that maybe an experienced player will be vacationing and want to come visit your league. My league has been going for two years, and when they started they had to not only learn to skate and play the game, but also teach others to do the same. To women who are neither coaches or technically trained athletes, it was a daunting task. Now two years down the line we have honed and defined many skills in teaching fresh meat, and the pace that they learn things now is much faster then fresh meat who learned a year ago. Leagues receiving training help from experienced skaters grow and evolve far more quickly, and it seems only one in Europe has had much help and has far surpassed other leagues.

There are many things that hinder and slow the development of the sport abroad, besides venues, publicity, and training, small cultural factors may also play a part…for example in Canada skating (though mostly on ice) is a national past time. Not so much here. Language barriers may be stopping non-english speaking countries from learning the rules, or about the sport at all. Germany and French Canada seem to be the only ones, but I know that many members of leagues in both those countries speak English.

Nevertheless, derby always seems to persevere. It may take a couple more years for the sport to grow here, for leagues to be large enough to have full intra league seasons. We may have to practice in small venues. And we may have to find new and exciting ways to catch the media’s eye, but we will do it. This year saw my league’s first season, Europes first tournament, and new leagues popping up all over the world every day.  Next step: World Wide Derby Domination!!!!

Oh, an American leagues…feel free to spread your knowledge to your international sisters by paying us a visit! 😉

8 Responses to “Slow Evolution of International Derby”

  1. Kitty DeCapitate said

    Hey, Hooli! I think you put too much emphasis on the ‘USA’ influence–I am gonna assume you’re talking about LRG as the ‘one in europe’ 😉
    We have had Bette Noir join us from the, then start up league of ACDG, and we had Bikini Killer from Detroit visit us for 3 months about 2 years ago. But the rest has been all LRG! We HAVE had lots of skaters visit us from the states, but honestly, they don’t lead sessions of ours, they just join in as we have progressed to a point where we’re on a par with most ‘average’ US leagues. Sure, we pick things up, but the development of the game has all been the hard work of our league.

    As someone who has been part of the Training Committee (and been Head of it for about 2 years), I can tell you that all the hard work has been OURS 🙂 All the time, dedication, development of the sport, our training structure, seeking knowledge of the game,4 training sessions a week, developing tactics and strategy has all been us… guest skater from the States can teach you that in one session 🙂
    Sorry, i just get defensive when i hear that LRG’s successes are all down to ‘outside influence’!! While of, course it does help, but both you and the other biggest league in the UK (BBDD) have American/Canadian exports, too 😉

    I totally agree with everything else you have said though, how hard/different it is to set up a league here in the UK, especially a few years ago when both our leagues started, as now it’s all growing exponentially which is brilliant! 🙂
    The UK faces different challenges, like the fact that no-one has even heard of roller derby, either the current incarnation or the 70’s version, and certainly don’t think it’s a very ‘ladylike’ game 🙂

    Anyway, love your blogs, and hopefully read more of them when i’m back in Oz!

  2. Kitty DeCapitate said

    p.s: i do agree though that us having lots of ex-pats (from all over the world) is helpful coz it means we have no family or friends other than derby so we can dedicate our lives to it completely!!!! 🙂

  3. Kitty DeCapitate said

    And you know what’s also double ace??!!—new leagues starting up in the uk have such a steeper learning curve than our leagues, as they have so many leagues to bounce knowledge from now. We no longer have to rely on asking some far away US skater who we’ve never met, or posting on a yahoo group forum, we can ask EACHOTHER!– Have mixed training sessions, guest coach, open scrimmages and of course bout!!! Now the community is growing so big, the resource pool of knowledge is so much bigger, which can only be a good thing!! Everything LRG learns, whether it be from a US skater or more often than not stuff we have made up/discovered/learnt ourselves or have learnt whilst on a derby trip to the US (lots of our skaters take their holidays specifically to train with US leagues or attend derby camps), we pass onto UK leagues who we are asked to guest coach for, and then they’ll teach another league a drill or skill, and so on and so on…….

    Anyway, boy I could just write a whole book on my love for UK derby and how proud I am to have been a part of it 🙂
    i swear i won’t add any more responses 😉


  4. Poobah said

    Actually, roller derby WAS played in Europe during the 1950s (once ratings dropped here in the U.S.).

    It also was played in Australia, I forget whether that was in the 1960s or 1970s. I do know that many of the skaters were locals (unlike the European incarnation, which had some American skaters pretending to be locals). Frank Macedo told me he flew there to train the skaters. Aussie derby leagues might want to feel those folks out on coaching.

    Like with anything dealing with old-school derby types, the trick is getting them to realize that the rules and surface changes aren’t really negotiable. You know, “If we want to have anyone out there to play against, this is how we pretty much have to do it.” That can sometimes be a tough pill for them to swallow. If nothing else, they’d be able to give you tips on skating technique and how to properly give a whip.

  5. Poobah said

    Another problem that the U.K. has is that the FIRS-affiliate organization in the country doesn’t seem to recognize the sport. Canada has RSC, Australia has Skate Australia, the U.S.A. has USARS. Great Britain has British Roller Sports Federation their web site is at

  6. hooligal said

    I think there was even some old school Australian roller derby players who joined or visited a new derby league there, but I don’t remember who, sure I read about that somewhere. Wasn’t aware that it ever came to europe, as it was the 50’s I imagine it wasn’t highly televised, sure didn’t make the popular impact and nostalgia it made in America.

    And UK derby is currently making the steps to join the BRSF, which may lead to FIRS but thats an even bigger step. BRSF requires us to have a UK association in place which has been in the works for almost two years now, but is making slow progress what with inexperience in such matters and also members having alot of work to do in building up their own leagues. So we’re trying! 🙂

    • Poobah said

      Perhaps the tourney will get that going? Best of luck with it.

      BRSF is FIRS affiliated. Once you’re part of BRSF, you’d be with a national affiliate of FIRS.

      Oddly enough, the FIRS site has NOTHING about roller derby on it. We should check out some of the other European roller sports federations…

      Belgium: Federation for Belgian Roller Sports
      Deutschland: Deutschen Rollsport und Inline Verbandes
      Sweden: Swedish Skating Association
      Switzerland: Schewizerischer Rollsportverband (Speed, Artistic)
      Federation Suisse de Rink Hockey

      Skate NZ has nothing about roller derby on its site:

      United Arab Emirates doesn’t appear to have a FIRS-affiliated group.

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