Exploring Roller Derby Skaters’ Progression Into the Sport

Guangzhou Chen, Andrew J. Kerins, Toni Liechty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent years have seen a revival of interest in roller derby as a unique and player-managed sport that women are drawn to for the opportunity to be part of a team and engage in physical activity. As a non-mainstream sport, however, roller derby lacks a mature player development system and clear progression path for skaters, which poses a challenge for recruitment and retention of players. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore skaters’ roller derby experiences, specifically focusing on their progression into the activity and through varying levels of engagement. Qualitative data were collected via photo elicitation interviews with ten current or former roller derby skaters in the Midwestern United States. All data were analyzed thematically. Four themes were identified to highlight skaters’ progression into and through the sport: their introduction to the sport (getting started), their initial process of skill development and familiarity with the sport (getting up on skates), their increasing commitment to the sport (picking up speed), and transitioning away from skating either temporarily or permanently (slowing down). The findings have implications for understanding conceptual models of specialization or commitment to a leisure activity including the Psychological Continuum Model.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207–227
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Leisure
Issue number2
Early online dateSep 22 2021
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Leisure progression
  • Sport
  • Roller derby
  • Psychological continuum model
  • Photo elicitation


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