Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating counter-clockwise around a track. Roller derby is played by approximately 1,250 amateur leagues worldwide, most inside the United States.
Game play consists of a series of short match-ups (jams) in which both teams designate a jammer (who wears a star on the helmet). The jammer scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to hinder the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer—in effect, playing both offense and defense simultaneously.
While the sport has its origins in the banked-track roller-skating marathons of the 1930s, Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon are credited with evolving the sport to its competitive form. Professional roller derby quickly became popular; in 1940, more than 5 million spectators watched in about 50 American cities. In the ensuing decades, however, it predominantly became a form of sports entertainment, where theatrical elements overshadowed athleticism. Gratuitous showmanship largely ended with the sport's grassroots revival in the first decade of the 21st century. Although roller derby retains some sports entertainment qualities such as player pseudonyms and colorful uniforms, it has abandoned scripted bouts with predetermined winners.
Modern roller derby is an international sport. It mostly comprises all-female amateur teams, but has a growing number of male, unisex, and junior roller derby teams, and was under consideration as a roller sport for the 2020 Summer Olympics. FIRS, recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the official international governing body of roller sports, released its first set of Roller Derby Rules for the World Roller Games that took place September 2017 in Nanjing, China. Most modern leagues (and their back-office volunteers) share a strong "do-it-yourself" ethic that combines athleticism with the styles of punk and camp. As of 2018, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) had 423 full member leagues and 46 apprentice leagues.
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