I remember the exact moment I knew that roller derby was going to take over the world. It was when I received an email from my old university room mate telling me that she had purchased roller skates and was going to join a local roller derby team. Not such a big deal you might think – except that this friend of mine lived in Oslo, Norway.
A year later and I was on a plane flying over Greenland, heading towards the land of fjords and skinny dipping. I was combining a coaching engagement in Belgium for Derby Revolution, with a stop off to visit my friend in Oslo and help out with their fast growing league.
European roller derby has grown exponentially over the last 3 years. Derby Roster lists over 150 leagues in mainland Europe (so not including the UK). But the most remarkable thing about roller derby’s growth in Europe is not only the number of leagues, but the skill level of the skaters in those leagues. With so many online resources on everything from starting up a league to training drills plus hours of archived footage on DNN, the learning curve of today’s skater is much steeper than it was “back in the day.” And what self respecting skater travels anywhere without their skates? With an army of skaters and coaches travelling the globe and willing to share their knowledge, it’s no wonder that these ladies and gents are progressing so rapidly.
So what’s the difference between derby here and derby there? Here’s my list of derby observations:
– Everyone speaks different languages. Well duh! But seriously, when you are in a mixed scrimmage and someone speaks Norwegian and someone else speaks Portuguese it can make things slightly complicated when executing strategy.
– European skaters are generally quieter than us boisterous North Americans (or maybe that’s the language barrier again!?!)
– They call the strategy of forcing a no pack on a power jam “The Sausage.”
– Less fishnets, more athletic wear.
– More roller bladers, less rink rats.
– Most teams practice in community gyms (with sticky floors and close walls) rather than hockey rinks.
But here are the similarities:
– You can still spot a European roller derby skater in a crowd. It’s the combination of style, attitude and upper arm bruises.
– They are just as obsessed with this sport as we are. Perhaps more so because they have to get up at 3am to watch the live stream.
– They have the same venue challenges that we have and the same difficulties persuading local authorities that roller derby is a “real sport.”
– They embrace new league members from all backgrounds, ages and sporting ability.
– Anyone that plays roller derby, regardless of where they came from, is immediately part of the sisterhood.
Here’s the video from my visit to Oslo Roller Derby in Norway. Thanks to the ladies in orange for their fine hospitality!