Girls in Hot Pants and Blood: An Interview with a Roller Derby Girl

A few weeks ago I went to what is called a “bout” of the Victorian Roller Derby League (VRDL) in Melbourne, Australia. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. However, after watching the two games played, I became a total fanboy for the sport. It’s fast-paced, it can get wildly violent and it’s completely unique.

For those who aren’t too familiar with the concept (or if you haven’t seen Whip It), here’s a clip from when two of the top teams in the VRDL – Dead Ringer Rosies and Toxic Avengers – were featured on Weekend Today a few years ago:

The gallery at the end of the interview also has some snaps I took when I went to see the bout on 31st March 2012.

Just like many of the passions we geeks covet, Roller Derby is so incredibly cool but has somehow managed to ride under the radar – and with awesome geek names like Speedy Wasabi and Candy Rocks, not to mention the bit of cosplay that fans participate in, I don’t hesitate to call this awesome game a geeky sport.

Following is an interview with “Glam Turismo” – prospective Victorian Roller Derby Girl just one assessment away from jumping onto the track!

How did you get into the VRDL?

I found VRDL after watching Whip It, I can’t lie. I had heard VRDL was the most intense and challenging fitness-wise. I had also heard about their amazing coaching techniques.

Do you like being considered a VRDL geek?

Yes! Everyone becomes a Derby Geek when they start training with us! The community is amazing and with all the work we put into our bouts, it certainly consumes time pretty quick. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What kind of training does it require to become a VRDL player?

First, I had to go through a two-day assessment, held over two weekends, in order to be ‘accepted’ into VRDL.

Once you’re a member, each level trains 3 times a week. Home Teams and our All Stars travel team have additional sessions to hone in on strategies and new techniques.

How does someone go about finding a roller derby league to participate in?

The best thing to do would be to search “roller derby league” on the internet with your town name. Check out for those in Victoria.

What makes VRDL different from other leagues in Australia?

VRDL were one of the first leagues in Australia, and won the last Great Southern Slam, which is the biggest tournament through Australia and NZ.

We are also the first league to send a Travel Team internationally. We competed in the Dust Devil Tournament in Tucson Arizona in April 2012.

How do you think VRDL measures up to global leagues?

Considering VRDL was founded in 2006, we’re doing quite well. But we are always looking to other leagues around the world for new drills, strategies and inspiration! Globally we’re definitely a hot contender.

Your play name is Glam Turismo – what’s with the names? Do you choose them yourselves or does the team give it to you?

We make up our own names when we take on roller derby. It is kinda like a wrestling name – it’s almost a persona. In VRDL we have: Donna Kebab, Splatterpuss, Calamity Maim, Rocky Rogue, Berzerker, the list goes on!

What’s the most appealing part of the game to you?

Jamming. Jammers are the players who have to try and push their way through the pack. Jammers have to be SO agile and quick thinking. I really hope one day I can be agile and lean enough to get through the pack and score big points!

What is the worst part of the game?

Hmm, probably the injuries! It happens, it is a full contact sport, so it happens – but not as often as you’d think.

Are you worried about getting injured seriously?

When I went for my first ‘Assessment’ from Bronze (level 1 skater) to Silver (level 2 skater), I twisted my ankle and was out for at least 4 weeks. Injuries suck, but it’s about looking after yourself and getting back on track, literally!

It doesn’t seem like a very huge sport – do you think it’s only going to grow or is its popularity on the decline?

Roller Derby is WAY bigger than people think! VRDL have thousands of people coming to their games!

I think it will continue to grow so long as we treat it as a sport, not a novelty. Novelties wear off. Derby is for life!

Are the girls as mean off the court as they appear to be on the track?

I love all of them! Each and every one of the women, in roller derby in general, is amazing.

These are strong, intelligent, talented women that we skate with. Not to mention the NSO’s (Non-Skating Officials) and Refs.

When it’s time to play, we forget who we are and you play for your team. But once you’re off the track, the teams dissolve and there’s no hard feelings – we all celebrate together.

What do you think of the movie Whip It – unrealistic or a good representation of Roller Derby girls?

To be honest, I’m a big Drew Barrymore fan. I loved her adaptions of Charlie’s Angels and all her comedy films.

I loved Whip It. It was outrageous and very OTT.

But the essence was right. We really LOVE Derby with all our hearts, and if anyone tries to take it away…. BAM! *wink*

Whip It definitely gave the sport a boost. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

I noticed while watching that they don’t actually seem to “whip it” like in the movie to zoom by really fast. How come?

We do sometimes, but it may not be as ‘grand’ as in the film. We use small whips. The Jammer may grab onto a teammate’s hips to propel herself forward, or a teammate might offer her arm to whip her through the pack.

In the film, they made all the skaters spread out to get good camera angles, in real derby we stay close, so we don’t let that Jammer through!

Do you think it should be included as an Olympic sport? Why or why not?

Absolutely! It would be THE most popular sport. Hands down. Maybe I’m biased?

It is a sport. We don’t fake it, we play to win, we train hard, and the women who compete are athletes in every sense of the word.

The next VRDL bout is on Saturday 19th May 2012 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Get tickets here (and let me know!) if you’re interested in going!

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