Profile: Gotham Girls Roller Derby

I just spent a week in glorious New York where I passed my time hitting up all the essential tourist spots- the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim gallery, Central Park, oh and lets not forget the Gotham Girls Roller Derby warehouse!

On a quiet, industrial looking street in the trendy Brooklyn district of Williamsburg, lies the home of the Gotham Girls. From the outside, it looks like any other unsuspecting industrial building but when you duck underneath the metal shutter a world of beautiful derby is revealed.

Karin Bruce, aka Chassis Crass and David ‘Lefty’ Liebowitz started up the Gotham Girls Roller Derby in 2003 and they held their first bout in 2004. Since then the league has become one of the top-ranked leagues in the world.

Chassis Crass

The league is made up of four home teams: the Bronx Gridlock, Brooklyn Bombshells, Manhattan Mayhem, and Queens of Pain. These teams play within the league and also compete with member teams from other WFTDA leagues. There is also a rookie’s league called the Meatpacking District.

The Gotham Girls also have two inter-league competition teams: the Wall Street Traitors and the Gotham Girls All-Stars, The Gotham Girls All-Stars represent the league in sanctioned WFTDA inter-league competitions that count towards WFTDA national rankings.

Gotham Girls All-Stars

While I was training with them, what struck me most was their athleticism. These women work hard for their sport. The first 30-40 minutes of training consisted of what I would consider an intensive plyo workout, but for them it was just a warm up. Their All-Star team practice between 8 and 12 hours a week, not including any fitness training they do in their own time and it shows.

The next thing I really noticed was how organised the whole operation was. The league is a registered non-profit organisation and there was a huge team of supporting members at practice, including referees, bench coaches, score keepers, even an on-hand physio therapist and many others, each with their own dedicated roles. It also helps that they have their own warehouse, complete with digital projected scoreboard. They really are set up to play some serious sport.

If you ever get a chance to watch them, I would definitely recommend it. They really are ‘promoting the physical and mental strength and independent spirit of amateur female athletes’, as their mission statement says. It really was an inspiration for a rookie like me so I’d better get my skates on an do some jump squats!

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Now That’s What I Call Hotpants: The Roller Derby Playlist

There are a lot of awesome songs about roller skating and even about roller derby. Here are a few classics…

Roller Derby Saved My Soul -Uncle Leon & the Alibis
Skating Away – Jethro Tull 1974
Rollergirl – The Addictions
Roller Derby Queen -Jim Croce
Hell on Wheels – The Devil Spades
Hell on Wheels – Betty Blowtorch
Skateaway – Dire Straits 1980
Roller Derby – Automatic Music Explosion
Trooper- Roller Rink
Charles Wellinger – Come with Me for a Roller Skate: The Roller Skating Song Craze.
Queen of the Roller Derby – Leon Russell
BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive) My Wheel Won’t Turn
De La Soul – A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays’
Roller Derby Queen – Red Aunts

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Roller Derby History Lesson #2

In the original roller derbies of the 1930s and 1940s, the skaters were professional athletes and, according to Jerry Seltzer, roller derby was the first sport to ever establish profit-sharing for skaters. In the original Roller Derby all receipts were totaled after the “run” in any city (usually 2 to 4 weeks) and divided among the participants and staff. Usually the less-popular skaters would get about $25 each, the more popular $100 which, in addition to food and accommodation was a very reasonable salary.
By the sixties, top skaters were paid between $40-60,000 a year, and  until the roller derby shut down in 1973, the players received anywhere from $5000 to $70,000, depending on their salaries and length of skating time. However, the roller derby was not owned by the skaters themselves.

When the first women’s flat track roller derby established itself in Texas in 2001, it looked as though Bad Girl Good Woman Productions were managing their league in a less democratic fashion, and, as the SheEOs leading the league  started progressing towards making their league a registered business, the skaters were not happy.

This led the Texas skaters to revolt because they wanted to run a DIY skater-owned league themselves and they decided to take it upon themselves to start it up. The original members of Bad Girl Good Woman Productions then divided into two leagues: The Texas Rollergirls and the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. Bad Girl Good Woman Productions under the leadership of the SheEOs was left with fifteen of their original members. The new TXRD Lonestar league differentiated themselves from their original formation by purchasing an original Bay Bombers banked track to skate on.

Since 2003 flat track roller derby leagues have appeared at a pace as fast and furious as the sport itself. Shortly after the Texas split, Denise Grimes aka Ivanna S. Pankin, a painter from the punk scene in Phoenix Arizona started work on forming the Arizona Roller Derby. Later to be known as the Sin City Rollergirls, they were up and running by August 2003 and played their first bout that November. Nearby, in the town of Tuscon, a former truck stop waitress who was to become Kim Sin heard about the Arizona Roller Derby and decided to start her own league as well and held her first rollergirl-recruitment meeting in December 2003 and in April 2004 Tuscon Roller Derby played their first bout against Arizona Roller Derby.

More leagues started appearing from 2003 onwards, the first of which included the LA Derby Dolls, inaugurated by a sculptor by the name of Rebecca Ninburg, later to become Demoliscious and Wendy Templeton, aka Thora Zeen, also a painter. In Brooklyn, New York Karin Bruce, aka Chassis Crass started up the Gotham Roller Derby League. Celia Fate started up the Carolina Rollegirls who were soon followed by the Rat City Rollergirls of Seattle, the Kansas City Roller Warriors, the Mad Rollin’ Dolls in Wisconsin, the Rose City Rollers in Portland, the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls in Denver , the Bay Area Rollergirls in San Francisco, the mInnesota Rollergirls in Minneapolis and the Providence Rollergirls in Rhode island.

The L.A. Derby Dolls

The United Leagues Coalition, or ULC, was then formed to establish a cohesive governing body for the sport. However, it was for flat track leagues only. In 2005 this governing body re-invented itself as the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and a standardised set of rules for the game were established.

Roller derby has flung itself far and wide and today has spread internationally like wildfire with leagues now established throughout Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Asia and Europe and there are now over 700 leagues worldwide. And its still growing. These are exciting times in the world of derby…

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Breakfasts for Champions

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially if you’re skating, training or doing anything that requires lots of energy. It’s also my favourite meal and you can be really creative and healthy at the same time. Here are some of my top recommendations which will leave you all set for the day:

Porridge made with coconut milk, vanilla and maple syrup to sweeten with slices of fresh mango (delicious)

Wholewheat toast with sliced banana and honey

Omelette made with 2 eggs, spinach and crumbled feta cheese with wholewheat toast

Wholewheat toast/ bagel with mashed banana and peanut butter or almond butter

Smoothie made with yoghurt, honey, banana and fresh strawberries whizzed up in the blender

Breakfast burrito made with scrambled eggs and grated cheese topped with salsa and wrapped in a wholewheat tortilla


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They came, they skated, they conquered: Anarchy in the UK

Last weekend, London Rollergirls hosted Europe’s first ever WFTDA-sanctioned tournament: Anarchy in the UK. People came from far and wide to watch the New Skids on the Block from Montreal, Canada; Steel Hurtin’ from Pittsburgh, US and Charm City from Baltimore, US battle it out against London’s all-star players.

Roller Derby leagues from all over the UK had traveled to London’s docklands for the event- and it was worth the trip! The Tiger Bay Brawlers from Cardiff, Hot Wheels Roller Derby form Leeds, Auld Reekie Rollergirls from Edinburgh and many others were represented, as well as fans from Europe, the US and Canada.

Rollergirl from New Jersey, US

The quality of the derby played was astounding- truly inspiring like I’d never seen before. The US and Canadian players were fast, strong and so agile! their blockers were everywhere and could really control the game. Their jammers sprinted round the track with lightning speed, fought through tiny gaps, blocked effectively and leapt and jumped across the track time and again.

Derby fan styling it up at Anarchy in the UK

The stars of the show were Joy Collision and CC Bang Bang for Charm City; ‘Snot Rocket Science and Hurricane Heather for Steel City; Iron Wrench, Ewan Wotarmy and Georgia W. Tush from Montreal; and of course, London’s very own Vagablonde.

Joy Collision, Charm City

Although they didn’t get a win, London Rollergirls really put up a fight racking up some points with some incredible power jams by Vagablonde and really upped their game as the weekend progressed.

Champions Charm City won the tournament 3-0, Steel City took 2nd place with a 2-1 victory, Montreal came 3rd with 1-2 and London didn’t get a win but fought Steel City into the last few minutes before succumbing 119-79.


Charm City All Stars 186
Steel City 122
Charm City All Stars 218
London Rollergirls 126
Charm City All Stars 207
Montreal Roller Derby 85
Steel City 144
Montreal 121
Steel City 119
London Rollergirls 79
Montreal 137
London Rollergirls 57

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Anarchy in the UK- THIS WEEKEND!!!!

This is going to be awesome…

On April 9-10, LONDON, UK London Rollergirls are hosting the best and most intense weekend of transatlantic roller derby you’ve ever seen! It’s eight years since the birth of women’s flat track roller derby in Austin, Texas, and Anarchy in the UK is the first WFTDA tournament to be held outside of North America. There will be six hard-hitting bouts at London’s Excel centre: Canada’s Montreal Roller Derby, Baltimore’s Charm City Roller Girls and Pittsburgh’s Steel City Derby Demons will take on London Rollergirls’ all-star team London Brawing.

Day 1 – Saturday 9th April (12 – 9pm)

Doors at 12pm

Montreal vs London (1pm – 3pm)
Steel City vs Charm City (3pm – 5pm)
Break (5pm – 7pm)
Montreal vs Steel City (7pm – 9pm)

Day 2 – Sunday 10th April (11am – 8pm)

Doors at 11am

London vs Charm City (12pm – 2pm)
Break (2pm – 4pm)
Montreal vs Charm City (4pm – 6pm)
London vs Steel City (6pm – 8pm)


Fighting Fit

When I fist started training to play roller derby, the thing that most shocked me was how fit you need to be to play the sport. It’s so physically demanding that your body needs to be fighting fit and in tip top condition to survive the speed and hits from your opponents. It’s impossible to keep up if you’re not. And, if you’re small like me, you just end up flying across the room and spend half the time on your arse.

When I started training, I was not in great shape, but not terrible either. I still found myself a red sweaty mess, puffy and panting to keep up, especially when (attempting) jamming. I’m still not the fastest now but I think I’ve definitely improved a lot since I started.

In order to get fit quick, I used a combination of pilates, yoga, cycling and working out in the gym- including some plyo exercises. To play roller derby well you need endurance and stamina as well as strength and agility.

I can’t emphasise how much cycling has helped with the endurance and general fitness. I started cycling to work not long after I started skating and it’s made such a difference. The other benefits are that it isn’t as hard on your knees as other cardio exercises like running, and roller derby does tire your knees out. Big time. It also helps to strengthen you thighs which need  to be super strong.

Pilates is great because it helps build strength all over the body but especially the core muscles which is what you really need to stay sturdy on the track and take hits without getting knocked down all the time.

A physio therapist once told me that yoga is the best thing you can do for your body and I wholeheartedly agree. Especially if you sit in a chair all day in an office like I do. The same physio told me that most health problems come from inactivity and yoga helps to keep all your joints and muscles mobile. It is also great for building strength all over your body and makes you feel AMAZING!

Now, I think going to the gym is pretty boring and repetitive and the prospect never fills me with joy. I always feel good afterwards but I think of it as more of a necessity than a pleasure. I usually do half hour work outs in my lunch break from work. There is a great blog that I use to find work outs. It’s called Look Like a Rockstar Skate Like a Rollergirl. This girl knows her stuff and the work outs are designed especially for roller derby. You tube is  great for plyo exercises too.

All I need to do now is skate a little bit less like Calamity Jane!

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