About the League
Who owns and runs the league?
Gotham Girls Roller Derby is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is run by a volunteer force of skaters and league members who chip in their diverse skills to make the league roll.
The Gotham Girls are growing quickly, with no salaried employees. The league makes revenue from ticket sales, merch sales, sponsorship contributions, and donations from supporters, and it all goes right back into the league. This is New York, and cost of running a business is high. Rent, utilities and maintenance costs at our warehouse practice space add up quickly. Then add game venue rentals, security, insurance, legal fees and other operational costs ... as any New Yorker will tell you, it costs a lot to live here!
The Gotham Girls are a proud founding member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association - a governing body to promote flat track derby (www.wftda.com). WFTDA provides member leagues with support including insurance, a unified rule set, collective national bargaining leverage, and rankings, along with organizing regional and national tournaments each year. The WFTDA is itself a not-for-profit association.
What is the difference between the All-Stars, Traitors, Terminators, the borough-based teams (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens), and the Diamond District?
Gotham's four home teams represent Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. These teams compete against each other locally for the home Gotham Girls Championship trophy each season.
The Gotham Girls All-Stars is a top ranked traveling team made up of skaters from each of Gotham's four home teams. The All-Stars are Gotham's officially chartered team within the Women's Flat Track Derby Association and play at the highest competitive levels of the sport.
The Wall Street Traitors and Grand Central Terminators are other traveling teams made up of skaters from each of the four home teams. They're not eligible for WFTDA rankings, but they do play against All-Star teams and B-teams from other cities.
The Diamond District is the league's development team and competes against other regional teams.
Are skaters placed on teams based on the borough in which they live?
No. Just as in any professional sport, skaters are drafted onto the teams that need their specific skills. Players don't necessarily have to live in the borough that their team represents.
Hey, there's five boroughs, but you only have four home teams -- why not a fifth team for Staten Island?
Our league has grown tremendously since we first started in 2004, so it may happen sooner than you think.
It will take time and a lot of planning however as it's hard enough to schedule sufficient rink time at our practice facility for everyone already rostered. Plus, a fifth team would require us to schedule at least four more additional home bouts per season (so that every team plays every other team). Given the huge volunteer effort it already takes for us to put on our home schedule and meet our traveling obligation, it is not easy to do but is something we're actively discussing as a league. Sign up for our newsletter to
Would the league's skaters consider putting sponsor logos on their uniforms / helmets / bodies?
The Gotham Girls were created by a handful of girls who just wanted to skate and hit each other, and since then it's just exploded. As we've gotten bigger, so have the opportunities for partner promotion, from program ads to game banners to pre-game entertainment, and the league very interested in exploring additional ways to promote those who support us. Our partners support the values underlying the modern incarnation of our sport — "Real, Strong, Athletic, Revolutionary."
Why isn't the league on television?
Gotham Girls and the Women's Flat Track Derby Association have been trying hard to find the right fit for our alternative sport. Our home seasons were aired on NYC Life for three years and select WFTDA tournament games have been aired on MavTV and ESPN 3. GGRD and WFTDA are working on deals for the future.
Why doesn't the league play at a bigger venue, like Madison Square Garden?
Another long story short - finding the right venue is just like finding an apartment in New York. It's always harder than it looks. Gotham Girls would love to find an affordable venue that could hold more fans, allow more promotional and co-branding opportunities and, of course, serve beer! We haven't found one yet that suits our needs, but it's not stopping us from looking!
Why isn't the league covered in the sports pages?
The Gotham Girls and the national sport have been moving slowly from the human interest sections of the media into the sports sections. This new incarnation of the sport is only a little over seven years old, and people are just starting to notice and understand its competitive nature. So keep looking in the sports sections — roller derby has been leaking into them more and more.
How did the Gotham Girls get to be one of the nation's top-ranked leagues?
Practice, practice, practice! Our All-Star skaters are usually at practice eight to ten hours a week. We also watch a lot of leagues around the country to gain insight on what works well for them, and we have a dedicated All-Star team management staff who puts together challenging and interesting drills to explore strategic angles. The All-Stars also continually challenge themselves by traveling to compete against the top competition in the nation. On top of that, New Yorkers are driven to succeed in everything they do!
Do you play on a big banked track, with rails that you flip over?
No - Gotham Girls skate on what’s called a “flat track.”
For fifty years roller derby was played primarily on concave ("banked") tracks. These tracks were big and expensive and required reassembly as the derby skaters of the time barnstormed from town to town.
In 2001 and 2002, skaters in Austin, Texas, lacking (at the time) the budget for a banked track, created the first drafts of a modified rule set to allow the same basic game to be played on a flat surface. The popularity of this style of play has been exploding around the world, as the 'play-anywhere' nature of the flat game has allowed skaters to learn the game without investing in a banked track infrastructure.
The flat track version brings the skaters closer to the fans, and makes them more accessible than normal pro-sports figures. It literally puts the skaters in the laps of the fans and they love it. Plus, the low overhead it takes to practice/play on flat track has helped the all-girl derby fever to sweep the country, including all the member leagues of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
About the Games
What is the crowd like at the games?
One word — awesome! Gotham Girls pack capacity crowds into their venues, and those fans are enthusiastic, creative and raucous! Homemade signs, face paint, coordinated chants — our fans are the best around. They include hipsters and geeks, parents and kids, and both old school derby fans and new sports fans excited by the sincerity of the authentic competition that Gotham Girls Roller Derby provides.
Where can I get tickets? Can I get season tickets?
Tickets can be purchased though our tickets page, you will receive an email confirmation with a QR code for admission upon purchase. Please have this ready for scanning at the game for efficient entry. At this time we do not offer season tickets.
Is there beer at the games?
Sometimes. Gotham Girls frequently bout at academic venues where alcohol is not permitted. However, when we are allowed to have alcohol sales it will be mentioned in the event description.
About Being a Gotham Girl
What's the typical age/occupation of skaters in the league?
Gotham Girls' ages range from 18 to late 40s, and their occupations are just as diverse. There are several teachers, designers, a few lawyers, an astronomer, a pastry cook, a private investigator and more. The one thing that all the skaters share is the love of derby, and their wide spectrum of backgrounds help with the administrative, promotional, and production needs our organization.
How much do you train?
Between league practices, home team practices, and extra hours for our two traveling teams, our skaters have opportunities to practice up to 12 hours a week. Skaters must attend a minimum of 12 hours of practice per month to remain active on a home team. It's lot of work, but it’s much easier to get your butt to practice when you have a whole team counting on you!
Do you get hurt?
Yes, just as in any sport, injuries happen. We train very hard and learn how to fall and whip correctly, and we do a lot of off-skates cross-training to prevent injuries. Injuries that are most common include ligament damage to knees, separated shoulders, and lots and lots of bruises!
Do you wear protective gear?
Yes. Helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads, kneepads and mouth guards are required for skating.
Aren't you too small / too big to do that?
Roller derby positions and strategies require very diverse skill sets. No matter what size you are, there’s probably a position that works for your body type. A wide range of sizes can help build a team with varied skills that keeps opponents on their toes. If you’ve 'figured out' that one bigger skater on the other team, you may next need to worry about that next 'tiny girl' who does the same blocking job in a totally different way.
Who trains the skaters?
Largely, ourselves. We have a diverse coaching staff of skaters and refs who have a great ability to diagnose and plan for all types of play and to create drills to prepare for the toughest national opponents.
Do skaters get paid?
No. The Gotham Girls, the refs and all the support staff work tirelessly for their love of the sport, the love of each other, and our shared desire to see it grow. No signing bonuses, no salaries — just our lust for derby action.
How do I try out?
The Gotham Girls hold tryouts once a year. For more information, check out our Tryout page.
Can I visit a practice?
Active derby skaters and refs from active bouting roller derby leagues may visit some practices, depending on their prior experience. Contact the coaching committee at email@example.com to find out if you can step in for a practice while you visit the New York area.
How long is the season?
Gotham Girls Roller Derby’s competitive season usually lasts from April to November. After a break for the winter holidays, training season starts right back up in January and February.
About the Game of Roller Derby
Isn't roller derby fixed, like wrestling?
Nope! The new wave of derby is totally non-scripted and lacks any puppet masters pulling any strings behind any curtains. The new version of roller derby is real. Anyone who’s attended one of our bouts will attest that this is a real sport with real rules, real fouls real athletes and real champions. It's been a challenge to convert the 'scripted' sport of roller derby into a fair and safe activity, but with the collective wisdom and experience of the WFTDA's member leagues, roller derby has made this transition to honest competition.
Do you throw a lot of elbows and clotheslines? Do you get to punch people in the face?
Just like any other contact sport, there are strict rules and penalties for such infractions. Punching, tripping and blocking from behind are illegal, as are elbowing, clotheslining, and cutting the track.
For additional questions about the rules of the game, see the Rules page of this website.
Why don't you play at one of the skating rinks in New York City?
That’s easy - there are no indoor rinks that can house a regulation WFTDA sized track in any of the five boroughs. There are some temporary skating facilities here and there, but none fit the specifications required by the sport. The Gotham Girls would absolutely support development of an amateur sport facility designed to fit the demands of flat track roller derby.
How can I meet some of the Gotham Girls?
Come to the bouts! Meet the skaters at the autograph table or buy them a drink at the after party and introduce yourself. The fastest way to a rollergirls’ heart is through her liver! The league also holds a number of off-track events each season where fans can meet the skaters — the latest should be listed here as well as at the league's Facebook page.
Are there men's roller derby teams?
Yes, men’s leagues are starting to pop up in various spots around the country. There are a handful of leagues in the east which use the same WFTDA rule set as the ladies, including the New York Shock Exchange right here in NYC. Learn more about men's roller derby from MRDA.
HOW do I Become a referee?
If you are interested in being an on-skates referee or NSO (non-skating official) for the league, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The league is actively looking to expand its roster of skating and non-skating officials.
Header photo by David Dyte