Long Island has a lot to offer sports enthusiasts, from the Islanders in Elmont, the Long Island Ducks in Central Islip and the Mets and Knicks just a train ride away. But there’s another, unique sport that also can be found on the Island: roller derby.
The fast-paced, full contact sport is played on quad skates, which have four wheels. It combines athleticism, teamwork and a bit of showmanship.
But don’t let that deter you: “Anybody and any level can join, even if you’ve never been on skates before,” said Kristen Girardi, president of Strong Island Derby Revolution. Skaters must be at least 18 to join the league, and Girardi said members range in age from 19 to 51.
Popularized as a sport for women, there are now also men’s and juniors’ teams, and the sport is known for its gender inclusivity. Many skaters — but not all — have “derby names.” Girardi, for example, is known as “Shorty.”
In games, known as bouts, five skaters from each team compete in “jams” that can last up to two minutes. One player from each team is designated as the “jammer,” and their job is to pass members of the opposing team to score points. The other skaters, known as “blockers,” try to prevent the opposing jammer from passing while also helping their own jammer advance.
Many roller derby leagues hold recruitment events or tryouts throughout the year. Strong Island has two recruitment events coming up: The first will be from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. Thursday at All Sportz, 100 Ruland Rd. in Melville, and the second will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 7 at Rapid Fire Arena, 225 Montauk Hwy. in Moriches. Gear will be available to borrow, Girardi said.
“Roller derby is an inclusive sport,” Girardi said. “No matter your experience level, we welcome you to our ‘rollin’ recruitment’ events.”
Long Island Roller Rebels, based in North Massapequa, is planning to hold a recruitment event in March but the details have not been finalized.
So whether you’re looking for a new hobby, a way to stay active or a competitive outlet, roller derby has something to offer any potential skater.
Before you hit the track, you'll need the right gear. Roller derby requires specific equipment, and investing in quality gear is essential for safety, Girardi said.
In addition to quad roller skates, all skaters must wear:
- knee pads
- elbow pads
- wrist guards
The skills to play roller derby include agility, balance and strategic gameplay. Kristen Girardi, president of the Strong Island Derby Revolution league, said that new skaters are taught the basics of the sport, such as crossing over, skating backward and stopping. Once they have mastered those skills, they are moved to light contact at practices, Girardi said. Then, if they are able to handle that, they can play with the "vets" in games, known as bouts.
WHERE TO SKATE
There are two roller derby leagues on Long Island:
- Strong Island Derby Revolution, thederbyrevolution.com: Strong Island, which hosts weekly practices in Melville and Moriches, offers both competitive and recreational teams.
- Long Island Roller Rebels, longislandrollerrebels.org: Based in North Massapequa, the league often hosts open skate nights and recruitment events.
Most roller derby league will let skaters try out a few practices for free. Monthly membership dues for Strong Island Derby Revolution are $50. Long Island Roller Rebel dues are $50 to $60.