Friday, August 13, 2010

Professional Amateurs

During the summer there are many annual events occurring that draw people from all over the country, or even the world, for one similar purpose or interest. I often have to opt of such fun things since I am fresh out of college with little money to spend on traveling and festival prices, so I await eagerly for my friends to return with wonderful stories of the outside world. This summer I was most excited to hear back about a convention out West that I have been dying to go to. Sorry John Pemble, it wasn’t ComicCon but rather RollerCon, the annual convention for roller derby in Las Vegas.

Much like the rest of the sport, RollerCon is run by the efforts of the skaters, refs, coaches, fans, and volunteers; all for the love of the game. At the time it was created, Ivanna Spankin, KC Bomber and Chola just wanted an outlet to bring the few skaters and teams together that spotted the country in 2004. WFTDA, the governing body of roller derby was still a newborn (and called the United Leagues Coalition at the time), and bouting hadn’t even become and interleague affair yet. This small event has since then exploded into an international gathering, perhaps fueling the growth of the sport and creating a tight community of all people involved. The five day convention comes complete with seminars, workshops, open scrimmages, challenge bouts, derby weddings and the infamous Black and Blue Ball.

To supplement the growth of roller derby, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association has evolved since 2004 to set the standards and rules for skaters, and has become a platform for leagues to collaborate and network. Becoming WFTDA certified is a distinct process to keep the women who play safe, and the game they play fair. To begin the journey to certification, a team must first join the newly added apprentice program which we just applied for, with the lovely Minnesota Roller Girls vouching for us. Teams are also required to pass skills tests and have knowledge of the 43 page WFTDA rule book.

This map from last year gives you a sense of what regions look like.
Once you become WFTDA certified you are eligible to participate in the “Big 5 Tournaments.” The United States is separated into four regions; East, West, North Central and South Central. The top ten teams from each go to regionals, and then the first, second, and third place teams go on to the finals. Many of us have already decided to attend the finals this year since they are being held in Chicago, November 5-7, “Uproar on the Lakeshore.”

If you can’t make it to the actual tournaments, Derby News Network is the derby headquarters for scores and coverage, and is where I soaked in live boutcasts last year. Sitting in my bedroom, as I tried to work on homework, I watched in awe as these amazing women skated. It's exciting to see such a high level of athleticism and competition for just an amateur sport. That combined with Zom B. Blokr and Tynamite returning from Vegas this year to regale us with stories of “…this one time, at RollerCon…” I can see that most of the Midwest has not even reached the level of playing that is happening around the country. The knowledge they brought back is priceless and the people they met were pivotal figures in roller derby, and now we have seen where we need to push ourselves to next.
I am going to start saving for RollerCon 2011 now.
Our marker board to-do list...
As if it weren’t apparent to me already, it has become crystal clear now, this is no mere hobby. This is no book club, or weekend slow pitch softball team, this is roller derby. Even though it is created out of a DIY spirit, it is thriving on an international scale. There is a level of professionalism that I think we are beginning to really see, and are yearning to achieve. Reading about the history of RollerCon, Ivanna Spankin said it best when concluding with, “And that’s all the history I got for you, because we’re making the history right now.”

Here's a short promo video from 2009 that gives a brief taste of what RollerCon is all about.


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