The Ohio Roller Girls was originally the brainchild of Melissa Wallace, aka Scarlette Fury. The first organizational meeting was held in April 2005 at a local pizza shop. Recruitment continued throughout the summer of 2005, and by that winter the league had about 30 skaters practicing regularly at local rinks. OHRG also was one of the original 30 leagues in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), a now international coalition of roller derby leagues. In December 2005, the league hosted an exhibition bout at a skating rink. Titled “Skatemare Before Christmas,” the game pitted the Jingle Belles v. the Roller Ghouls. In later years, this matchup has been revived as a “just-for-fun” charity benefit game at the end of the competitive season.
For the first three years, competition was mainly focused on four home teams, who competed in a season, ending with the Envy Cup championship. The Band of Brawlers, Blackeye Bullies, Sprockettes and the Take-Outs matched up in front of Columbus crowds at Battelle Hall in the Greater Columbus Convention Center, and later the Lausche Building at the Ohio Expo Center. Concurrently, roller derby’s national growth spurred OHRG to form an All Star team for inter-league play. That team travelled to Minneapolis in November 2006 to take on the Minnesota Rollergirls in OHRG’s first inter-league game.
In August 2007, OHRG took on their first major hosting effort when the league both hosted and competed in the first ever Eastern Regional Women’s Flat Track Derby Association tournament, Heartland Havoc. Twelve leagues from east of the Mississippi River competed for the chance to go to Nationals.
After three seasons of intra-league play, OHRG took a step back and decided to refocus on inter-league, ranked competition. At the end of the 2008 season, the four home teams were disbanded, and skaters were re-organized into two competitive teams, the Ohio Roller Girls All Stars (the WFTDA Chartered Team for sanctioned/ranked games) and Gang Green (the B, or “farm” team). The league also “got small to get big” and moved into the smaller Central Ohio Roller Hockey rink. This allowed OHRG to focus on their business development, training and recruitment without the pressure of bigger venues and marketing needs. At the same time, OHRG ramped up their participation in the bigger roller derby world, hosting the WFTDA Annual Meeting, dubbed “Oh!Con” in May 2010.
As a result of the renewed focus, in 2011 the team returned to compete at the Ohio Expo Center, and has ridden a simultaneous upswing in rankings and competitive level. The OHRG All Stars made their second-ever regional appearance in 2011, entering the WFTDA North Central Regional Playoff (Monumental Mayhem in Indianapolis, IN) as the tenth-seed and leaving ninth after defeating the veteran Mad Rollin’ Dolls of Madison,WI.
2012 saw OHRG make even bigger strides towards becoming a regional powerhouse. Starting the year ranked #9, they played a grueling twenty-one bout schedule and steadily climbed the rankings, entering the regional playoffs as the #5 seed. After an exciting win over the Arch Rival Roller Girls, and a pair of losses to Windy City (#1) and Naptown (#3), OHRG snagged the #4 spot in the North Central. Although Ohio narrowly missed qualifying for the Championship tournament, the team garnered national attention and the votes for both MVP awards at the tournament.
In 2013, WFTDA shifted from a region-based tournament structure to a division-based one, in which every team is seeded and assigned to a bracket (much like the NCAA playoffs). The Ohio Roller Girls entered as the 6th seed of one of four Division I playoffs and continued their success in the post-season defeating 3rd seed Arch Rival (St. Louis, MO) and 2nd seed Montreal Roller Derby. These two playoff wins earned OHRG 2nd place in the tournament after a loss to 1st seed Denver. For the first time in league history, Ohio earned a bid to the WFTDA World Championship tournament. OHRG defeated Rat City (Seattle, WA) in the first round, but lost to the eventual champion, Gotham (New York, NY) in the second round.
For the 2016 season the Ohio Roller Girls changed the league name to Ohio Roller Derby. Ohio Roller Derby (OHRD) decision to drop the gender specific “Girls” from the league’s name is just one of many steps OHRD has taken to better represent the league’s members, and the diversity of skaters, referees, and volunteers of roller derby in general.
The dedicated members of the league are from throughout Central Ohio, and are a very diverse group. Every league member – whether skater, referee, coach, statistician, announcer – is a volunteer. No one in the league gets paid, and most members wear several hats, contributing in business positions as well as their on-track personas.
There is no one “type” of person who gets involved in the OHRD. The stereotype of skaters in contemporary derby leagues tends toward the young, fishnet-wearing, tattooed punk rocker. While that group is certainly represented, the day jobs of Ohio Roller Derby players include stay at home moms, students, educators, accountants, IT professionals, nurses, and many more. Many skaters are able to use skills from their careers in order to further the mission of the league.
The Ohio Roller Derby players are also dedicated to making a positive impact on the community of Columbus. OHRD strives to support local charities and community events, whether financially (when possible) or through volunteer work. In 2006, the league donated a portion of proceeds from each bout to a local charity, including Easter Seals, Cat Welfare, the Columbus Metro Libraries and Toys for Tots. The league has an ongoing commitment to Columbus’ Neighborhood Pride Program instituted by Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. As a result of our participation in Community Pride nights and Bicycle Safety Days for local school children, the league has been named a Neighborhood Pride Partner by the mayor.
The league also maintains an active community presence by participating in the Community Festival (ComFest) and Stonewall Pride Festival, as well as a variety of community parades and events throughout the city. We donate merchandise and tickets to non-profit groups to use as fund-raisers and offer volunteers when needed. Occasionally, our games are partnered with a non-profit sponsor such as Amethyst Inc, the Open Shelter, the USMC’s Toys for Tots, the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, and the PKD Foundation.
OHRD Mission Statement
The Ohio Roller Derby players are committed to advancing the recognition of the sport of women’s flat track roller derby on a local and national level by facilitating the development of athletic ability, sportspersonship and goodwill among our members and with the members of other flat track roller derby leagues. We are dedicated to becoming an important part of Columbus via active participation in events, activities, and community involvement.