WFTDA History

The Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) began as the United Leagues Coalition (ULC) in 2004, consisting of a handful of flat track roller derby leagues, each owned and operated by skaters sharing the singular, driving compulsion to re-imagine roller derby as a modern sport.

In 2005, 20 flat track roller derby leagues were represented at the historic first meeting of the ULC, with the goal of developing the guiding principles and aspirations of the organization. Following that meeting, the ULC voted to change its name to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) to reflect the organization’s goals.

The WFTDA opened its doors to new members in September 2006 and has since welcomed dozens of new member leagues into the association.

Major WFTDA Milestones:

  • 2006: WFTDA creates East and West competitive regions and develops a quarterly ranking system, used for tournament qualification and seeding.
  • September 2008: WFTDA begins offering liability and excess medical insurance to its member leagues.
  • 2009: To accommodate growth in membership, the WFTDA expands into four competitive regions and expands its playoff system to include 40 leagues competing in four regional tournaments and one championship tournament.
  • January 2009: WFTDA accepts its first international member, Montreal Roller Derby
  • June 2009: WFTDA hires its first paid staff, the Executive Director and Insurance Administrator
  • July 2009: WFTDA launches the WFTDA Apprentice Program to build prospective WFTDA member leagues into successful full members.

History of Roller Derby

The term “roller derby” dates to the 1920s, originally used to describe roller skate races. In the late 1930s, Leo Seltzer’s touring competition, Transcontinental Roller Derby, began to evolve from a marathon skating race on a raised track to a more physical competition emphasizing skater collisions and falls. This 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. Both men and women competed in roller derby from its inception.

Seltzer’s roller derby events drew increasingly large audiences once the sport began to be televised in the late 1940s. In the early 1960s, after Leo Seltzer transferred his business to his son, Jerry, competing roller derby franchises emerged, some of which emphasized theatrics more than sport. As popularity dwindled, Jerry Seltzer shut down his Roller Derby organization in 1973.

There were several short-lived attempts to revive versions of the old sport in the 1980s and 1990s, including RollerGames, which featured a figure-8 shaped banked track and stunts like alligator pits. Some versions of roller derby, including RollerGames, included staged action and storylines, similar to professional wrestling leagues.

In the early 2000s, modern women’s roller derby got its start in Austin, Texas. Starting with the Texas Rollergirls, these new leagues formed as businesses run by the athletes themselves. The flat track version of the sport spread like wildfire in subsequent years, as the ability to mark track boundaries on a skating rink floor or other venues, rather than building an storing a large banked track, made it possible to play the game just about anywhere. By 2010, there were more than 450 flat track roller derby leagues worldwide.

Please visit Wikipedia for a more detailed version of the early history of roller derby.

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