Industry, News

Roller Derby Changed My Life

Skate Victoria is the state recognised body for roller/inline sports in Victoria.  Skate Victoria offers Australia wide affiliation for roller sports clubs including inline hockey, roller hockey, inline speed skating and the full contact sport known as roller derby. Roller derby is a relatively new sport in terms of the more traditional roller sports and indeed mainstream sports more broadly.  The term “roller derby” dates to the 1920s, originally used to describe roller skate races.  These races started as a marathon style raced on a raised track and eventually evolved into the foundation of the team sport that still exists today: two teams of five skaters who score points by passing members of the opposing team. The then largely theatrical roller derby events drew increasingly large audiences once the sport began to be televised in the late 1940s and into a competitive franchise in the 1960s.  Popularity eventually dwindled in the 1970s. In the early 2000s, modern women’s roller derby got its start in Austin, Texas and the flat track version of the sport spread rapidly in subsequent years, as the ability to mark track boundaries on a skating rink floor or basketball court made it possible to play the game just about anywhere.  By 2010, there were more than 450 flat track roller derby clubs worldwide and in 2016 this number is closer to 1000. Both men and women competed in roller derby from its inception.  In its modern day revival it was started by women, for women – referred to by many in the sport as one of the largest feminist movements of our time.  The sport is continued to grow and evolve and is now played by men and juniors as well. Those who are involved in the sport either as competitors, officials, volunteers or spectators will frequently talk of how this sport is different than other sports.  It is competitive, strategic and physical – it requires practice and skill and athleticism.  It is demanding on the body and mind.  But beyond that it touches a part of people’s psyche and transforms them emotionally and spiritually – simply put it changes lives. One of the foundations of the sport is acceptance and the celebration of difference – whether it be difference in gender, sexuality, body size, social background – all of it is welcomed and embraced.  This level of acceptance is incredibly empowering and this emotional support is coupled with the sense of confidence and strength that is developed through the mastery of a full contact sport. VicSport_CCRNSR_n Photo by Dave Butler Photography Skate Victoria and its volunteers have worked closely with the Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) Fair Go Sport! program to promote and celebrate gender and sexual diversity in sport. Over the past 2 years Skate Victoria has commissioned Storm Jury of Photographic Storm to produce short videos capturing the essence of roller derby to promote the sport across the wider Australian community.   Most of the footage in the videos was captured at one of the biggest tournaments in Australia, Skate Victoria’s Bendigo Rebellion in Bendigo, Victoria. Storm took time away from shooting to formulate her ideas for the video; “The video you see is from my heart.  Roller derby changed my life.  I was a guy with little direction and a constant unhappiness inside.  My involvement in the sport has given me opportunities I could only dream of.  The people I now call friends number in the thousands and they have helped me to be the happy successful woman I am today.  So many people in this sport from all over the world have been forever changed including me and I wanted to capture the essence of that.  This is what roller derby is - a person’s confidence, the drive, the motivation, the power, the strength.  Everyone has all of these, but they are bound up in fears. This sport releases those fears and allows people to be their true selves. I was hit with the epiphany of this change and I started working on the idea. Collecting ever piece of audio and footage I had that might be related and it actually just fell into place. I blindly edited vision to the speaker’s words, going with my heart, many times reducing me to tears with how much it personally rung true. The result is a video that I edited this in just one sitting.  Since the video was posted by Skate Victoria I have had many skaters tell me their story of change.  Some were unknowingly the inspiration for my video.’ The video must be resonating with people around the world as it has been viewed thousands of times in less than two weeks.” If you want to find out more about roller derby and a club near you contact Skate Victoria by emailing
 See the video below:
At 17, Patrick Bell was in one word, exceptional. In 2015, Patrick was involved in a tragic accident. His passing inevitably broke the hearts of every person in his immediate life. But it is the response from the Roller Derby community he loved, that stunned and overwhelmed everyone he held dear. You see, Patrick didn’t always “fit in”. His mum explains, “he was sometimes seen as being different but the Roller Derby community embraced him. He felt needed and wanted”. A young man so skilled in skating, equipped with a fantastic attitude and zest for life, and an immovable respect for others… was not always shown the same respect. That is, not until his mum Rovinnia and he found Roller Derby – a community in which Patrick (and his mum) relished the family, the community, and the pursuit of the sport. Roller Derby gave Patrick his proudest platform, skating at the 2014 Bendigo Rebellion Roller Derby Tournament with some of the Australia’s top Male Skaters – all while grinning from “ear to ear”.  No mean feat for a then 16 year old boy in regional Victoria. roller derby 2 - credit Dave Butler Photography Photo by Dave Butler Photography Caitlin Grigsby: You need not know the details of the ‘how’, the simple truth is that this incredible sport of Roller Derby saved me.  It saved me from myself, gave me a point of focus like nothing I’ve ever felt before, and a place where my crazy ‘warts and all’ self could find a home.  That is something special and my experience is not unique. roller derby 1 - credit Dave Butler Photography Photo by Dave Butler Photography

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