March 2010 Featured League: Denver Roller Dolls

March 1, 2010

The Denver Roller Dolls (DRD) made waves in 2009 by adopting and perfecting a controversial strategy of controlling pack speed that helped take them all the way to the 2009 WFTDA National Tournament. Their unique approach of alternating between extreme slow play and near sprinting landed them third place and shocked the roller derby community. DRD also recently cemented a relationship with AEG Live/Rocky Mountains and Kroenke Sports Enterprises, leaders in the sports and entertainment marketing field, which some see as a big step toward legitimizing the sport of flat track roller derby. Take a moment to learn more about this groundbreaking league.

Photo by Bill Ross

Location: Denver, CO

How does your season run?
Mid-January through October. Home team and travel team seasons run concurrently, and we have seven home bouts per season. Four of those bouts are home team dates and three are travel team dates. The season culminates in October with the home team championship.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
We share Denver with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and there are nine other leagues across the state. Some are WFTDA leagues (Colorado Springs [Pikes Peak Derby Dames], Ft Collins [FOCO Girls Gone Derby], Greeley [Slaughterhouse Derby Girls]), some are WFTDA apprentice leagues, and others are unaffiliated. Colorado is definitely a roller derby state!

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have a total of five teams in the league. Our three home teams are the Bad Apples, the Green Barrettes, and the Shotgun Betties. Our WFTDA Charter team is the Mile High Club, and in 2009 we introduced a 'B travel team' called Bruising Altitude. Our league numbers vary over the course of the season, but we generally have between 75 and 90 skaters as members of the Denver Roller Dolls.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
Each bouting-level skater is on one of our three home teams, and travel teams are formed from the top skaters of those teams. Each team has a Coach, Captain, and Co-Captain. Our Coaches are volunteers and the Captains and Co-Captains are skaters, elected annually by her team.

On the business side of things, our league is divided into multiple committees. Every skater must serve on a committee in addition to skating. Each committee has a Committee Head who serves on our Board of Directors, along with a few elected BOD Officers.

How many days a week do you practice?
We have practices scheduled four nights a week. Sunday is a league practice, Monday has two practice slots (one league practice and one team practice), Wednesday night is our scrimmage night, and Thursdays are either our Babydoll (newbie) training course or a league practice, with a second slot for team practices when necessary.

Do you have any sister leagues you'd like to give a shout out to?
Kansas City is always a league we've felt close to. We've played them 5 times now and some of those bouts date back to our pre-WFTDA days. We are so appreciative that they were willing to play us when we were new. They really helped us grow as a league; each time we've played them we've learned something new. Thanks KC!

What are the individual challenges of your city?
Thin air? Our travel team name, the Mile High Club, comes from the fact that the altitude in Denver is 5,280 ft. There's been some question if that affects athletes here or not.

Sharing the city with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (RMRG) is both a challenge and an opportunity. Having two strong teams raises the profile of the sport, but results in a bit of a branding challenge for each league. The fact both leagues made it to WFTDA 2009 Western Regionals, and then WFTDA 2009 Nationals, is pretty amazing. I think the fact that we have another league literally in our backyard pushes both leagues to really excel. It helps raise the profile of the sport in the city, and also means there are a few high-level derby bouts every month.

Photo by Jules Doyle

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We love and appreciate all our sponsors. Lately we've had some really exciting opportunities thanks to some sponsors. A local brewery is creating a Denver Roller Dolls beer, and will sell it with a commemorative DRD co-branded pint glass, and Front Range Orthopedics featured one of our skaters in a television commercial that ran during the 2010 Winter Olympics. We're happy that our sponsors see the value in promoting their affiliation with our league, and help us in raising awareness of the sport as well as financially supporting us.

We've also recently forged a great new partnership with AEG Live/Rocky Mountains and Kroenke Sports Enterprises, leaders in the sports and entertainment marketing field. We'll be bouting at a 6500-seat venue they're in the process of remodeling, and they have been positioning us as one of the key features at the venue. KSE owns the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, and they have been promoting our league and bouts to their ticket holders. We recently sold season tickets to a sports fan who'd never before been to a bout! Having their support and marketing know-how has really helped introduce roller derby to a new generation of fans.

What are your biggest training challenges?
Lately, our biggest training challenge has been having too many skaters at practice. We just took on a new class of Babydolls, and there are 35 of them! They have such great attitudes and are so eager to learn that our league practices generally have about 40 skaters in attendance. With a practice that large, it's tough to ensure that everyone is getting the attention they need to improve.

Who are some of your star on-track skaters and why?
In the 2009 season, Denver really became known more for its cohesive playing as a team than for a few star players. As a result, it's difficult to call out specific skaters. Our focus on teamwork also allows us to weather the challenge of losing seasoned skaters and introducing new ones throughout the season.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We practice at the lovely Wagon Wheel Skate Center in Brighton, CO. It's a skater-owned roller rink with a wood floor and some amazing retro touches! Last year, we bouted at both the Denver Coliseum and the Fillmore Auditorium (which led to its being nominated for one of the best venues from Derby News Network. In 2010, we're moving to the newly renovated 6500-seat 1STBANK Center. This will give us the opportunity to offer reserved seating options in addition to General Admission, something we've not done in the past.

Denver co-hosted 2009 Western Regionals, "Derby On the Rocks" together with Rocky Mountain, I bet that was pretty tough. How was all that coordination done?
Co-hosting Regionals actually went really well. Every committee consisted of members from both leagues, and there was a lot of great communication with everyone involved. In addition, having two host leagues meant more available volunteers. This meant the skaters could really focus on doing what they needed to on the track: which they obviously did, as both host leagues qualified for Nationals!

Any memorable experiences from hosting a big tournament that you'd like to share with us?
For the host leagues, the biggest game of the tournament was probably the Saturday night game, when DRD and RMRG met on the track for the first time ever. The fact that it was at the tournament we were co-hosting was even more amazing. We actually sold single-bout tickets for that one game of the tourney and sold out the venue! I don't know how many people realized that that was the first time we'd ever met on the track, but it was definitely a game to remember for the teams involved. It was pretty remarkable that we then ended up playing them again a month later at Nationals.

As of Q4 2009 WFTDA rankings, Denver is #2 in the Western Region, how does it feel to have moved up to the second spot right behind Oly?
The Oly Rollers are the only team that beat us in the 2009 regular season, and they're the top-ranked team in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, so it's an honor to be right beneath them in our regional rankings. It's a great source of pride that all three Western region teams—Oly, Denver and RMRG—placed in the top four at Nationals.

How long do you plan to hold onto that spot?
It's really a testament to the evolving nature of roller derby that neither we nor Oly were on anyone's radar at the end of 2008. We look forward to seeing how the sport continues to develop, and as a league we will continue to innovate and push the limits.

Your strategy of slowing down/stopping on the track and making other skaters skate back to the pack was pretty controversial last year, especially at Nationals. Do you have any comments on that?
The style of play that we adopted this year has been met with a fair amount of confusion. It is not an attempt to destroy the pack: we are actually forming the pack and controlling its speed to our advantage. While it frustrated many observers and skaters at Nationals who were not accustomed to it, we've received some great positive feedback from folks once they understood the strategy as well as the skill it requires to execute effectively.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
We'd like to thank everyone who has supported us through the years. 2009 was a great year for our league as we gained recognition across the roller derby community, as well as locally, and we only see that continuing. From its inception, Denver has comprised of skaters willing to take chances, and we appreciate everyone who's believed in us through our journey!

Would your league like to be the WFTDA Featured League of the month? Have you had an extraordinarily successful season that you'd like to share with the fans? If you are a full WFTDA member league and have the authorization to speak on behalf of your league, we'd love to hear from you! Please contact

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