We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

“Roller Derby is not just a game.  It is not just cute clothes and bright socks.  It is not just calling yourself a derby girl.  Derby is blood and sweat and bruises…  [It] is determination, perseverance, and a drive to succeed as a team.”

-from the Sumter Fly Girls Facebook page

In days of yore, when dinosaurs roamed the earth  (okay, so it wasn’t that long ago—the early 1970’s), I used to sit on the wall-to-wall in front of my family’s 25” console and watch roller derby on network television.  Frankly, it was pretty scary.  Those were some tough-looking women, knocking each other silly as they rolled around a banked rink.  The whole point seemed to be to see who could inflict the most damage.

What a difference a few decades can make!  The revitalized 21st-century version of derby is a fast-paced contact team sport requiring athletic skill, stamina, and strength, and today’s roller derby has surged in popularity since its introduction in 2001.  There are now more than 1,200 amateur leagues competing worldwide, and the sport is under consideration to become part of the Olympic games.

Sumter is proud to host the South Carolina Roller Derby Championships on Sunday, November 11, 2012 at the Sumter County Civic Center.  Come out and catch the action as the Columbia Quadsquad Rollergirls, Greenville Derby Dames, Richland County Regulators and the Sumter Fly Girls battle it out for the state title!

It is a fairly new sport in our area (the Fly Girls were established in 2011), but women’s roller derby has a history dating back to around 1935.  With beginnings as an authentic athletic contest, it gradually declined into a form of “sports entertainment”—on par with, say, professional wrestling.  Roller derby became all about the spectacle, scripted and rehearsed, and over the decades its popularity decreased dramatically. 

But modern derby girls take their sport seriously.  With an official governing body, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, today’s bouts are played according to strict standards, with rules governing how and when players can make contact, an official scoring system, and penalties (no more of the old-style catfights).  Protective gear must be worn, and because things can sometimes get rough, medical professionals are required on-site.  Most teams are amateur, self-organized and all-female, giving a new twist to the concept of women’s empowerment.  Also, the sport is played on flat tracks, unlike the banked tracks of years past.  Not only is this considerably safer, it encourages the DIY-style spirit of the new millennium.

Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members, roller skating in the same direction around a track.  Game play consists of a series of  matchups (“jams”), in which five-member teams with designated scoring players (“jammers”) score by lapping members of the  opposing team. The teams attempt to assist their own jammers while hindering (“blocking”) the opposing jammer.  Derby is an exciting sport—and probably as physically demanding as lacrosse, rugby or hockey.

Another new feature is a steadily growing involvement with charitable organizations.  Many teams and leagues are affiliated with a charity, and the Sumter event will benefit Harvest Hope Food Bank.

Now, all of this does not mean that roller derby has become a sport for wimps and “girly girls.”  With logos often featuring skulls and crossbones, team names like Assassination City, Black-n-Bluegrass, and Bruisers, and players proudly sporting such noms de guerre as “IV Toxic,” “Frightnin’ Bolt,” “Sistine Shrapnel,” and “Erna Beatin,” there is still a lot of attitude on wheels going around the track!

Join in the excitement at the Sumter County Civic Center on November 11!  Doors open at 12:30 p.m., with introductions at 1:30 and the first whistle at 2 p.m.  Admission is $12 in advance (tickets may be purchased online here) and $15 at the door.  Persons who bring a non-perishable food item for donation to Harvest Hope Food Bank will be admitted for $12.  Children 10 and under get in free.

For more info, please contact the Sumter County Civic Center at (803) 436-2270.  Interested in getting involved yourself?  Women ages 18 and over can check out the Sumter Fly Girls at their website or e-mail sumterscderby@yahoo.com.

Real.  Strong.  Athletic.  Revolutionary.  Today’s women’s roller derby has become all of these things.  Welcome to modern times!


For women ages 17 and younger who may have read the above post and thought, “Well, that’s not fair,” there’s good news for you!  The Sumter Swarm Roller Derby League has a junior division for girls ages 10-17.  The Sumter Swarm Jr. will be participating in an exhibition bout with the CQS Minis at the State Championship.

Of course, adults are welcome in this league, too.  For more info, please e-mail flsk8pro@yahoo.com or call Tammy at (803) 481-7655.  You’re invited to come and check it out!

Wow…with two leagues up in the mix, have Sumter’s ladies got a great chance to own this thing, or what?  Good luck to all!

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