Houston’s roller derby revived

The girls of Houston Roller Derby aren’t just "hell on wheels" – they have brains to match their brawn.

For UH students Ciara Major, Luan Roberts and Chrissy Grove, participating in roller derby takes a dedication and commitment that goes hand-in-hand with being full-time students.

"Since none of us get paid, we all do stuff outside of derby," said Major, a corporate communications senior. "The balancing act is something I’ve always done with extracurricular activities, but I’ve never done a sport of this magnitude."

Major serves as the league’s public relations/marketing director. She said she gains hands-on experience by taking part in the league behind the scenes as well.

"I’m getting practical, real-world experience. We do all the interviews, press releases (and) manage money," Major said. "You’re not going to get that in a classroom."

Roller derby has seen a revival as of late, after fading into obscurity in the 1970s. In 2001, the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls league was started in Austin and renewed interest in the sport. Fast-forward to 2004 when the league split, forming two distinct leagues and styles of play.

The newer Texas Rollergirls use the flat track, with a flat surface, stricter rules and leaning more toward the aspect of sport. The Lone Star Rollergirls play on a banked track, a surface with railings and embankments. The banked track style of play focuses more on the spectacle aspect of the game.

There are more than 300 leagues world wide, with over 250 flat track leagues in the United States.

Some who have never seen the game are wary to consider it an actual sport, focusing on the theatrics that it instead.

"At first, many are attracted to the idea of watching girls on skates in flamboyant outfits being aggressive toward one another," said Roberts, an anthropology junior. "After watching a few games, most realize that a great deal of athleticism, skill and dedication is involved in this sport."

Each team has its own identity, and uniforms to match its name. The Psych Ward Sirens wear blood-red nurses outfits. The individual skaters have their own alter egos, which are reflective of their own personality. Major, who plays for the military-themed Machete Betties, is nicknamed Scarlet O’Hurtya, after the primary color of UH. Costumes and alter egos aside, there is still a game to be played.

"There is team strategy, which may take a few games to pick up on, interesting skater personas and of course girls falling down," said graduate student and founding Houston Roller Derby member, Grove.

General admission tickets range from $10 in advance to $15 at the door. Advertising senior Chris McClean bought season tickets based primarily on curiosity.

"The enthusiasm of the participants and the fans – it’s a lot of fun," McClean said.

The regular season Championship game will be played on Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Theater, between two-time defending champions, Psych Ward Sirens and the Bayou City Bosse$. On the under card, the Machete Betties will take on the Burlesque Brawlers.

Houston Roller Derby is recruiting for next season. Those interested can learn more at

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