How to behave (or not) at a roller derby bout

Hellions of Troy Composite

By Liz Clancy Lerner

The Capital Region is ripe with roller derby, and that's a good thing. It is a sport that empowers women, builds community and puts on one heck of a show.

We've got three leagues in the immediate Capital Region: The Albany All Stars, The Hellions of Troy and the developing Capital District Men's Roller Derby. The All Stars just had their season opener and the Hellions have a bout this Saturday. (The men have their first bout in April.)

With full schedules ahead of them, that's a lot of derby to watch in 2011.

So, as a lover of roller derby (and skater, board member and spectator), I thought it might be helpful to put together a guide detailing what to wear, what to bring and when it's okay to touch a derby girl...

Roller Derby Fan Sign Photo

+ Signs and homemade t-shirts encouraged. The relationship between spectator and skater is symbiotic. You cheer, we skate harder. We score a point, you cheer louder. This can all be enhanced with clever signs and funny t-shirts.

+ Do not laugh when someone falls (too loudly). Falling properly is the first thing a derby girl learns and it's a big part of the game. Instead, give a cheer for how quickly they get up.

+ Watch the Pack. Yes, the jammer (the skater with the star on her helmet) is
awesome, and it's fun to watch her speed around the curves. But if you're only watching the jammer, you're missing most of the action. The blockers are getting into position, hitting and communicating, and it's a complicated dance that you'll come to appreciate the more bouts you attend.

+ Ask Questions. If you're not quite sure what's going on, ask your neighbor or ask a volunteer. There are derby fanatics out there and they're usually happy to share their knowledge. (There is a great, short video explaining roller derby on YouTube)

+ Buy stuff! Buy a beer, support the league. It's that simple. Proceeds from your purchases will go back into the league, so buy that t-shirt (or coffee mugs or mousepads at Hellions bouts), drink that beer, get a raffle ticket. At AASRD bouts, half of the winnings from the 50/50 raffle go directly to their featured charity.

+ Touch a derby girl (by giving her a high five). It's often tradition at the end of bouts for spectators to stand around the track and give high-fives to competing skaters. It happens quickly, so jump out of the seat right when the buzzer goes off.

Albany All Stars Composite

+ Sit suicide (if you're 18+). The Hellions call it the "crash zone," but sitting on the floor in the designated "suicide seating" area is a great way to see all the action up close, but beware (or get excited), a derby girl may fall on top of you.

+ Don't step on the track. Mingling and walking around is encouraged during half time (or in between periods), but keep off the track, especially during the winter. The crud, snow and salt on the bottom of you shoe can be a hazard when skaters get back to skating.

+ Remember: these are volunteer-based skater run organizations. No one gets paid and hundreds of hours go into preparation for these events. It's likely nothing will go wrong at a bout, but if it does, take it with a grain of salt and have fun.

A big thank you to Marcie "Short Temper" Pry of the Hellions and Karen "Sin & Tonic" Riley of the All Stars for their input and photos for this story.

Hellions photos: Zack Zoll
All Stars photos: Rob Gierthy
signs photo courtesy of Alex Wild

Comments

Great blog!

As an announcer I have been lucky enough to announce for both AASRD & HoT RD and am a lover of both leagues and all things derby! This blog did a great job of pointing out things some fans might have never thought of!

Here is to an amazing 2011 filled with Capital Region Roller Derby!

PS: I can't wait til that AASRD/CDMRD double header!

I've been to these derby bouts before. They're a blast! It's like a WWF event with cool people instead of goofballs.

Show up early. The best sits get taken fast. Also it means you avoid waiting in the long (and for AASRD's bout last week very cold) line.

I've gone to 5 or 6 RD matches, and there's nothing better than bringing a virgin along.... ahem... a roller derby virgin. It's like watching someone learn to read, they start out saying "I've got no clue what's going on here...." and by the end of the second period they're screaming, pointing, laughing, cheering, just like everyone else. The announcers do a great job of helping new folks understand the action without sounding like their reading furniture assembly instructions - it really helps when I can say "Just listen to Moe and Ida..." That said everyone involved does such a spectacular job putting these events together. I think the enthusiasm and growing fan base reflects that.

Best of luck for a happy, safe, and wildly popular 2011!!!

Ida - thank you for the kind words. You do a great job announcing! Humor, information and rules: you cover it all (and the crowd seems to love you).

They are a blast, Mr. G. I'd compare it to a hockey game over the WWF, but that's just me :)

Good point, Jezibelle. It was a long and cold line.

There's definitely a learning curve, Daley - agreed.

As a skater, spectator and photographer of roller derby...I love seeing the fans reactions to the blockers (love the jammers and they are all stars!) but the blockers/pivot are my hero's!!!

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