Texas Rollergirls – Austin Roller Derby
Austin, Texas, sparked the female roller derby movement that has now spread across the United States, one tough woman at a time.
Never mind the fact that some roller girls are mothers or professionals, when it’s time for a roller derby bout these Texan women slip on their fishnet stockings, expose their tattoos, and become their dangerous diva alter egos on skates. It’s not the same tame roller derby of decades past. The birth of a modern female-only roller derby style began in Austin, Texas, in 2001. It’s extreme skating with a theatrical flair. Elbows swing, roller girls plunge to the ground, and spectators roar for more.
Austin’s first league Texas Lonestar Rollergirls also known as Bad Girl, Good Woman Productions, enjoyed a successful debut year. But roller girls within the team disagreed with management about issues ranging from insurance to the league’s future. Many roller girls walked out, and a new player-run league rose, the Texas Rollergirls.
Today, these feuding leagues have their own styles and the main difference is that Texas Rollergirls skate on a flat track while the original Texas Lonestar Rollergirls skate on a banked track.
What to Expect at a Texas Roller Derby Bout
A certain punk-rock edginess surrounds these roller derby matches (called bouts), though spectators from children to seniors are welcome. Each bout has four eight-minute periods with a five-minute break between quarters and a 45-minute break at halftime.
At a recent Texas Lonestar Rollergirl bout, a local rock band hyped up the beer-loving crowd before the bout began and during half time. Play-by-play commentators dressed in old-school red suit jackets and perched themselves high on a stage to catch the action.
Spectators can purchase roller derby t-shirts, socks, and other merchandise or buy beer and snacks.
To show off their tough attitude and sexiness, each player has a playful and raunchy nickname such as Purr Anna or Kinky Kowalski. Team names are just as creative.
The Texas Lonestar Rollergirls feature team names such as:
- Hellcats—”50’s-style vixens who love their hotrods and switchblades”
- Holy Rollers—parochial schoolgirl bullies
The Texas Rollergirls feature team names such as:
- Honky Tonk Heartbreakers—sexy cowgirls with attitude
- Hustlers—rock divas with skin-tight purple attire
Roller Derby Basic Rules
Spectators don’t have to know the rules of this off-the-beaten-path sport before showing up. The roller girls give a brief demonstration and programs also explain the roller derby rules. But first-time visitors should keep their eye on the two roller girls with a star on their helmet, which indicates which skaters are the jammers.
Jammers representing the two competing teams must fight their way through a pack of aggressive skaters called blockers who create plays that block, smash, and push the opposing jammer out of the way. The jammer’s goal is to score one point per opponents she laps. Players called pivots set the pace of the pack at the front, blockers are behind them, and jammers trail behind and speed their way to the front.
Roller derby definitely has its strategic, rough contact sport side, but don’t be surprised to see an occasional pillow fight to lighten the mood. Each time there’s a major penalty, a wheel is spun deciding the fate of their punishment, which can range from an arm-wrestling match to a tug-of-war battle.
Getting Texas Roller Derby Tickets
Tickets, ranging from USD $12-$15, can be purchased online for both leagues and at the door of each bout. Schedules and game locations can also be found on each league’s website. Tickets for the Texas Lonestar Rollergirls can also be purchased at local Austin establishments, which is a great way to avoid will call or purchase lines on bout day.
Roller Derby Movie Whip It Inspires Hero Within
Whip It starring Ellen Page is a rolling good time and fans will not be disappointed as the hip and kitsch coming-of-age flick offers a glimpse into the sport and life of roller derby. Its authenticity to derby life can be attributed to Shauna Cross, screenwriter for Whip It, and roller derby girl Maggie Mayhem for the Los Angeles Derby Dolls. She penned Derby Girl, the novel the movie is based on.
Whip It: Synopsis
The lighthearted comedy finds 17-year-old indie-rock loving Bliss Cavendar, played by Ellen Page, living small-town life in Bodeen, Texas. Her mother, played by Marcia Gay Harden, is living beauty pageant youth through Bliss and younger daughter Shania played by adorable Eulala Scheel (who is the daughter of Marcia Gay Harden and Thaddaeus Scheel). Bliss discovers roller derby team the Hurl Scouts in Austin and is encouraged to “Put some skates on, be your own hero,” by Maggie Mayhem, played by Kristen Wiig. Bliss straps on her childhood Barbie roller skates without her family’s knowledge and becomes Babe Ruthless.
While Babe Ruthless is a roller derby rock star on the track, small-town Bliss struggles for acceptance from her family when she realizes she wants to trade in beauty queen royalty for the roller derby punk life. She falls in love, loses love but gains strength when she finds her independence, gains her family’s acceptance, and falls in love again. Whip It is a love story but not a typical boy and girl romance. What begins with a little girl lost ends with a strong and independent young woman.
How it Compares to True Roller Derby
Grueling training and requirements for roller derby are nearly brushed aside but the passion, rivalry, and family-like structure associated with the sport bleed throughout Whip It. Roller derby scenes add campy humor which is typical of the sport. Roller derby girls don fishnet stockings, short skirts, some with elaborate makeup, and all have alter-ego names.
Whip It will encourage new recruits to play roller derby and will probably increase attendance at roller derby bouts but when it comes to rules of the sport, the movie has some of it wrong. For instance, punching, clothes-lining, and tripping opponents, and skating the wrong direction on the track are illegal. The type of roller derby played in the movie is banked-track and while this is popular in some parts of the country so is flat-track roller derby.