There is a lot of data out there in the derby world. Scores, jammer deltas, penalties, lineup effectiveness, you name it. But that’s just for the stuff on the track. What about data for the social life of the community when it’s not skating on the track?
Jack King, player/coach for Men’s Roller Derby of Kentucky and a professor at the University of Kentucky, wants to take a serious look at how roller derby changes those that play it from how they identify themselves and their bodies, to their relationship statuses or lack of them. He has prepared an online survey to collect a wide variety of information, information he hopes may eventually lead to a contribution to greater academia.
“My big goal though is to dispel rumors and preconceived notions with cold hard facts and analytics,” said King about the goal of the survey. “One of the common jokes around leagues I’m around is that when someone’s marriage falls apart that the ‘Derby Divorce Machine’ strikes again. While funny, I was also curious if the rate of divorce was higher among derby than the general populous.”
The idea started off as a poorly-structured survey that a friend of King’s organized. After a few weeks of hand-organizing the collected data, he noticed a very interesting trend. “People that identified as anything other than ‘straight’ tended to ‘come out’ more while playing derby and reveal what they considered to be their ‘true selves,'” he observed. “That made me VERY interested in expanding and refining the survey to make it much more nominal and more easy to analyze.”
That led King to blow out the survey to include other aspects in the social lives of derbyists. “One of my dear friends in derby is also a professor here at the University of Kentucky in Social Work,” he said. “She asked if I could include some of the questions about comfort level with body image and sexuality in there to give it some ‘umph’ research-wise.”
King noted the ultimate goal of this research is to shed some light on how dynamic the roller derby community really is. “She and I are hoping to write at least one, if not more, academic papers out of this data to publish out in some sociology journals.”
For more information on the study, and to participate, check out King’s data visualization blog.