Roller Derby: A History

The rising sport of roller derby has a fascinating history, as documented by USA Roller Sports below. It combines elements from various roller sports and has evolved into a fully developed sport with official rules and thousands of teams and enthusiasts across the world.

old-school derby

Old-fashioned derby shaped
this growing sport

"The term roller derby dates at least as far back as 1922. Leo Seltzer, a film publicist, combined aspects of dance marathons (“walkathons” as they were commonly referred to) and roller skating into the first Transcontinental Roller Derby event in 1935.

It was originally a stimulation of cross-country roller skating where 25 two-person teams circled a track thousands of times to cover 3,000 miles. Skaters skated up to 11 ½ hours a day, and were disqualified if both members were off the track during skating times.

After the first Transcontinental Roller Derby event, Seltzer decided to take a portable track and hold similar races throughout the U.S. As the skaters tried to lap those in front of them, there were occasional collisions and crashes and this quickly become the most exciting part.

Realizing this, sportswriter, Damon Runyon, encouraged Seltzer to change the game to incorporate more physical contact between skaters. Although Seltzer was somewhat leery of this, he agreed to try it and the fans loved it!

Over time, roller derby has evolved into a sport involving two teams of five skaters where teams score points by lapping members of the opposing team."