Roller derby was revived and reimagined in the early 2000s as a fresh, exciting full-contact sport. Skater-run “leagues” (teams, Vereine) spread first across the U.S., then beyond. In 2011 a small group of tenacious and enterprising women founded “Vienna Rollergirls,” the name later changing to the more inclusive Vienna Roller Derby (VRD).
There were the usual growing pains of building an organization, but there were additional hurdles as well. As a relatively unknown sport, “unofficial” in Austria, finding training spaces, securing ethical sponsorship and recruiting players who love both the DIY approach and athletic challenges of roller derby were among them. One thing came easily to VRD, however: an enthusiastic fan base!
Since 2011 VRD transformed from a small group of dedicated but inexperienced skaters into a lively organization that boasts over 80 members (skaters, referees and volunteers), two internationally competing teams (A-Team/ “Oysters,” B-Team/ “Beasts”) and very well attended home games. The last few years have been especially exciting. The A-team took home its first tournament win in Belgium, VRD gained some new dedicated bench coaches, league skaters were coached by top-level players from Team Canada and Team USA, an ambitious B-team was founded, bootcamps and scrimmages with skaters from other newly-founded Austrian leagues took place and VRD became a proud member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).
The fierce motivation behind those that give their time to VRD goes beyond the thrill of travelling to play in Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Scotland, Italy, Germany, England, Finland, the Czech Republic and France (which we have); beyond the pride of becoming ranked among the top 50 teams in Europe (which we are); and beyond the sheer joy of putting on exciting home game events for a cheering crowd (which we do love!). We are motivated by the significance of a sport dominated by women’s teams, rather than bearing the burden of being the “women’s version” of a sport whose men’s teams receive a majority of cultural recognition.* We are motivated by a forward-thinking gender policy, welcoming any skater who identifies as a woman or does not identify within current binary genders.** We are motivated by the importance of an international sports organization that truly operates democratically and our VRD values of equality, diversity, solidarity, athleticism, internationalism, openness and respect!
As of 2015/2016 new roller derby leagues have been founded in Graz, Linz and Innsbruck, Salzburg and Eisenstadt.
*There are of course men’s teams in the inclusive Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) and we would love to see a men’s team form in Vienna!
**All gender identities are welcome as referees, officials and volunteers.