Harrisburg Area Roller Derby: A Reinvigorated Tradition
A women’s sport made famous decades ago is seeing a resurgence throughout the country and across the globe.
Roller derby was once extremely popular in the 1940s when the sport played out more like a pro wrestling match than a competitive game.
At the time, theatrics reigned supreme over the integrity of the sport. Initially, this was a draw, but it ultimately served as the downfall of this women-focused, roller skating competition.
Today, with new leagues and teams springing up around the world, it’s clear that the sport has new legs to skate on for a whole new generation of eager sports fans.
Roller Derby in Harrisburg
In 2016, 397 full-member leagues existed worldwide. Locally, we have several — Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster all boast active roller derby teams.
Harrisburg’s own Harrisburg Area Roller Derby, or H.A.R.D. as they are affectionately known, has been reinvigorating the roller derby tradition for more than a decade.
Each season, their “bouts” are held Sundays at Olympic Skating Center in Enola.
And no, it’s not a game or a match, it’s a bout — and with one sequence of play, it’s not hard to see why. Roller derby is a physical game with high scoring and a lot of high-speed collisions.
While this version of roller derby looks a lot different than its predecessor, there are still some carryovers from the original game.
One tradition that didn’t leave the game is the use of creative and sometimes intimidating pseudonyms for the players. H.A.R.D. features players named Ariela Wildfire, Tenacious T, and Nelson Slamdela among others.
I had my first roller derby experience recently, and I was incredibly entertained. The show(wo)manship is undoubtedly there, and the play of the game is just as exciting.
A bout is 60 minutes long and is comprised of two 30-minute halves, which feature a series of jams during each half.
What’s a jam?
Good question, I wondered the same thing, but luckily H.A.R.D. is geared to newcomers and an announcer explains all gameplay during the bout.
A jam is a passage of play that starts with four blockers plus a jammer for each team at the starting line.
The whistle blows, and the two teams are off.
The blockers try to stop the opposing team’s jammer from passing them to score points. Jammers are the two players with “stars” on their helmets, and they are the only ones who can score.
The jammer starts her scoring run by breaking free of the opposing blockers and racks up points for every opponent she passes on her next lap around the track.
There’s a lead jammer who is the first one to break from the pack and start scoring for the jam. The lead jammer also can stop the jam and the scoring at any time.
These are the basics, and they should get you through the first half before you start to realize — like I did — that there is a lot to learn.
If you go
Like most sporting events, it’s always best to start with a tailgate. Spectators are able to bring your own tailgate to the parking lot of Olympic before each bout. Be sure to check HARD’s Facebook page to see when the tailgate is set to start.
Bring cash! A ticket is $12, cash-only. And if you want any H.A.R.D. merch, it is cash only as well.
Limited seating is available, but if you want to get the best seat around the rink, be sure to bring your own chair. For trackside seating, where you can see the most action, any beach or lawn chair will work.
Finally, the team retreats for pizza and beers at Al’s Pizza and Subs Enola following every match. You can join them to meet the players and find out more about what could be your new favorite sport.
Their next home match is set for 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 6. Come out and cheer on the Girls in Green and discover a new sport in your own backyard.