Make a Day of It: Roller Derby with the Rose City Rollers

Run Oregon loves running – that’s no surprise. But we also love the Pacific Northwest and all that it has to offer. Running is a part of us, but it does not fully define us. In our new “Make a Day of It” feature, we aim to showcase some great local non-running events and highlight where to run and how to make the most of your experience!

The next installment of this series is catching a bout with the Rose City Rollers.

The Running:

The Hangar at Oaks Park hosts the Rose City Rollers and makes a run, of any distance, a cinch. Head north on the Springwater and make it an out-and-back, or extend it into the Waterfront loop and come back on the new Sellwood Bridge for some nice distance. Or head south out the park and meet up with the eastward bound Springwater to get any amount of miles in as well. The options (and distances) are endless!

If you are looking for some trails, Tryon Creek Park is only about 4 miles from Oaks Park. The main Terwilliger/Riverside entrance is closed for the time being, so you will need to come from a different route.

If you are looking for a pre-bout place to eat/drink, I recommend any number of great breweries in the Sellwood/Westmoreland areas:

  • Ancestry Brewing (within walking distance)
  • 13 Virtues Brewing
  • Laurelwood Public House

The new Double Mountain Pub (based out of Hood River) is just a little further east in the Woodstock Neighborhood.

The Experience:

As an ex-baseball player and current runner, I am full of a bunch of rules and terminology that seem straightforward, yet aren’t really as simple for those who aren’t as versed. I have discovered this on many occasions, from trying to explain the intricacies of baseball rules to discussing pronation with my wife. It makes sense in my head, I swear!

I found myself on the other side of things as I attended the April 8th bout with the Rose City Rollers – the Break Neck Betties vs. the High Rollers. While I had some great communication and teaching via their marketing manager, I still had trouble following over the first half of action. Jammers? Pivots? Passing the Star? WHAT?! It took some watching and analyzing, and I finally got it down. Here’s a little bit of simplified info that is helpful to know when attending your first bout:

Four blockers from each team make up the “pack.” One jammer from each team lines up at the jammer start line behind the pack.

When the jam start whistle blows, the first jammer to get through the pack without fouling any opposing players is called the “lead jammer” for that jam.

After the initial pass through, jammers receive one point for each member of the opposing team they pass. Jammers don’t need to be the “lead jammer” to score points. Each jam lasts a maximum of two minutes, but the “lead jammer” has the right end the jam by tapping their hips.

Blockers are simultaneously trying to block the opposing team’s jammer and help their own jammer make it through the pack.

If you’re new to derby, keep an eye on your favorite team’s jammer. Then, watch the blockers to see how they help or hinder the jammer.

Make sense?? I assure you that it is much easier to be armed with this information and then watch a live bout to piece it all together.

Despite the obvious differences between Roller Derby and running, I found some really cool similarities:

  • Inclusive
    • Much like the majority of the running community, Roller Derby is a very inclusive sport who is welcoming to people from all walks of life.
  • Woman-centric
    • According to Running in the USA data, women accounted for about 57% of race finishers between 1990-2015. While there is a men’s derby league, the women’s sport across the state and country significantly outnumbers their male counterparts.
  • All Abilities
    • Running is one of the most easily accessible sports out there. People with all abilities, body sizes and shapes, and skill levels are out there day-after-day and week-after-week running races and competing in events. Much like that, Derby also offers opportunities for women of all skill levels and builds. Just in our bout, I noticed a few small jammers, as well as some taller ones. Additionally, the blockers came in all packages and were still fleet of feet while doing their work
  • Strategy
    • Roller Derby has been modified and updated over the years, to keep up with the evolving strategies and skill levels amongst the participants. Back in the day, blockers used to line up in a wall and take their chances in stopping the lead jammer shoulder to shoulder. Now, blockers work together in a triangle (the strongest shape) to keep jammers from being able to easily break through. Additionally, if the jammer is stuck and unable to move, they can pass their star (each jammer has a star bandana on their helmet) to a striped-helmet “pivot” skater who can take over the jammer roll. While not exactly similar, I sort of view them as bringing the diversity of a “libero” in volleyball.
  • Mile Milestones
    • In running, the “holy grail” is the 4-minute mile. While it’s a challenge to pinpoint exactly how many miles a jammer (or blocker) skates during a match, or how fast they are (since they are ramming into each other more often than not, there are “Minimum Skills Requirements”, one of which includes skating 27 laps in 5 minutes. If someone skates the pattern, which is a circle that hits the inside edges of the apices and outside edges in the middle of the straightaways, 27 laps is about a mile (though likely it’s more as it’s unlikely anyone will skate the pattern perfectly.
  • Volunteers
    • Much like races rely on volunteers to keep things up and running, so too do volunteers keep the Rose City Rollers “rolling” along. It’s quite impressive to take in the magnitude, support, and overall atmosphere of a bout and then realize that there are only a small handful of paid employees. From ticket takers to referees to photographers, it’s all done by a committed and great corps of volunteers who make it truly a fun time.

The Rose City Rollers is a roller derby league made up of 10 individual programs and teams. From the website:

Rose City Rollers is a league that consists of 4 home teams, an internationally ranked travel team, 2 junior derby programs, a developmental Fresh Meat program and a recreational program. Home teams include the Break Neck Betties, Guns N Rollers, Heartless Heathers and the High Rollers. Our travel team is made up of all-stars from the home teams: the Wheels of Justice. Our junior programs are Rosebuds and Rose Petals. Our developmental program for aspiring competitive team skaters is Fresh Meat, and our recreational adult roller derby program is Wreckers.

This is truly a unique and awesome experience that I highly recommend you check out before or after a run – or when you are looking for something to do in Portland. The atmosphere was electric (PG-13 though; I took my two girls – seven and five – and there were no issues with feeling uncomfortable) and there was obviously a lot of action and passion on the oval AND in the stands. The bleachers were packed, there were raffles and halftime entertainment, and concessions and drinks were on tap.

Follow the Rose City Rollers on Facebook.



  • Between $7-$20/ticket
    • $30 family pack available to some matches (GA admissions for 2 adults, 2 kids, 4 drink tickets, and popcorn)
  • Season Tickets – $325 (pro-rated as the season goes on)
  • There are other ways to take in the match as well, from bidding on the best seats in the house to being the Grand Marshall (and getting to watch the beginning from the middle of the first jam).

2017 Schedule:

  • 1 weekend/month through December
    • 4.22
      • Wheels of Justice vs. Bridgetown Roller Derby – Bridgetown Menace
    • 4.26
      • Guns N Rollers vs. Heartless Heathers WEDNESDAY
    • 5.12
      • Heartless Heathers vs. High Rollers
    • 5.13
      • Break Neck Betties vs. Guns N Rollers
    • 6.03
      • Season 12 Championships (double header)
    • 6.23-25
      • Hometown Throwdown (3 day event), including London Rollergirls – London Brawling, Austin’s Texas Rollergirls – Texecutioners, Los Angeles’s Angel City Derby Girls – Hollywood Scarlets, and Portland’s own Wheels of Justice
    • 8.18
      • Wreckers vs. Seattle’s Tilted Thunder Rail Birds – Tilted Thundercatz
    • 8.19
      • Wheels of Justice & Axles of Annihilation vs. Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls All Stars and Rain of Terror
    • 9.15
      • Break Neck Betties vs. Pullman WA’s Palouse River Rollers All-Stars
    • 9.16
      • Juniors Season 2017-2018 Opener:Rose Petals (Killer Bees vs. Voodoo Dolls) & Rosebuds (Little Red Riveters vs. Undead Avengers)
    • 9.17
      • Fresh Meat vs. Los Angeles Renegade Rollergirl
    • 10.13
      • Guns N Rollers vs. Victoria BC’s Eves of Destruction – Margarita Villain
    • 10.14
      • Rose Petals (Daughters of Doom vs. Killer Bees) & Rosebuds (Death Scar Derby Droids vs. Little Red Riveters)
    • 11.10
      • High Rollers vs. Salem’s Cherry City Derby Girls – Panty Raider
    • 11.11
      • Wreckers vs. West Virginia’s Morgantown Roller Vixen
    • 11.12
      • Rosebuds (Death Scar Derby Droids vs. Undead Avengers
    • 12.01
      • Heartless Heathers vs. Bend’s Lava City Roller Dolls – Smokin’ Ashe
    • 12.02
      • Rose Petals (Daughters of Doom vs. Voodoo Dolls) & Rosebuds (Death Scar Derby Droids vs. Little Red Riveters)
    • 12.03
      • Rosebuds All-Stars: Purple vs. White


Many thanks to the Rose City Rollers for allowing us to check out a bout! Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.


About Matt Rasmussen (1599 Articles)
Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching the Olympics, sampling craft beers, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

2 Comments on Make a Day of It: Roller Derby with the Rose City Rollers

  1. Just a reminder there is a junior league as well, and it is more family friendly!!!

    • Yes there is! I didn’t feel that the Rollers event was not family friendly, however. My kids were there and I didn’t have any concerns!

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