Roller derby was once a popular sport for men and women in the United States until it fizzled out a few decades ago. Then, about ten years ago, it was revived in Austin, Texas, as an amateur sport for women. Since then, it has spread all over the U.S. The "Texecutioners," the roller girls from Texas, where the sport was reborn, competed this year in the national roller derby championship in Denver.
It may not be a professional sport, but these players are no amateurs. The “Texecutioners” from Austin, Texas took home the bronze at the national championship in Denver.
During a warm-up before the winning game, player "Molotov M. Pale" from the "Texecutioners" explained why she was drawn to the sport.
"It was a lot of really smart, creative women with all this buzzy energy to be almost revolutionary. I mean it was people wanting to change things and restructure things and very DIY and do it yourself and I wanted to capture that energy, that incendiary energy that lights things up," she said.
In roller derby, two teams have five players each who race in the same direction around a track.
Each team’s fastest player, called a “jammer,” aims to skate past opposing team members called “blockers.” When the “jammer” passes a “blocker” she earns a point.
It often ends in bruises. The players, many wearing hot pants, are up to it.
Molotov M. Pale says when roller derby re-emerged around ten years ago it had a lot of personality.
"There was a lot of individuality and style, and people created these amazing personas. And that’s still very present, and you see that everywhere, but it has also taken a shift toward a more mainstream sport and less of a sub-cultural sport," she said.
The sport is becoming more mainstream. Today, more than 1,000 leagues from around the world play roller derby, and a team can be found in just about every corner of the United States.
Suzy Hotrod is one of the star players of the New York team, the “Gotham Girls”, winners of the national competition.
She says today athleticism is key to roller derby.
"Roller Derby is an amazing thing for women," she said. "It’s super about strength and female empowerment and being confident, being an athlete. This is where everyone can come and still play sports and feel the community and be athletic and it’s really changed my life."