Skating at the next level

Sean C. Morgan

Anthony “GQ” Warner, 33, has been a longtime roller skater, but now he’s taking his sport to the next level, moving from the rink to the roller derby track.

Warner and his team, the Lane County Concussion, open their second season of roller derby at the Willamalane Sports Center in Springfield on Jan. 15.

Warner, who plays the blocker and jammer positions, got into roller derby last March while at a session skate at Oaks Park Roller Rink. He saw some people wearing roller derby shirts and asked them what it was all about.

The roller skating is in his blood, he said. His mother, Vernell Warner, was a figure skater and derby skater in the 1960s.

Warner, who works at Game Time Sports Bar in Lebanon and skates two to three times a week, moved to Sweet Home from Salem in the first grade. He first skated at Skate Palace in Salem. He attended Sweet Home High School and Linn-Benton Community College.

Warner also enjoys Airsoft, swimming and camping.

He has two sons, Layne, 7, and Lawson, 5, who are both learning to skate.

“It’s a stress relief,” Warner said. “It keeps me fit. I love being on skates. In the summer, I skate around town. Roller derby itself is a team sport.”

It’s a new option since hockey went away in this area, he said.

“It’s just an adrenaline rush. There’s so much going on. It’s like human chess.”

Roller derby is a contact sport that developed, in the 1930s, from endurance roller-skating races held in the early part of the 20th Century. In bouts, two teams of five skaters each – a jammer, three blockers and a pivot, all skating the same direction around a circuit track, try to knock each other out of bounds and send them to the back of the pack. The pivot leads the pack of blockers and sets the pace, starting at the pivot line. The jammer starts 20 feet behind the pivot line.

Anthony Warner puts on his gear prior to a recent roller derby bout.

The jammer’s goal is to get through the pack of blockers and then get around the track to pass them again. On the second time around, if the jammer is in the lead, he scores one point for each blocker passed, and if he laps the jammer, he scores a grand slam – an additional five points.

Each race around the track is called a jam. A jam is two minutes long. There will be about eight jams per half in a typical 30-minute half.

Blockers and the pivot attempt to keep the opposing jammer from passing while assisting their jammer through the pack.

The sport lost popularity in the 1970s after matches had become very scripted, but has experienced a resurgence in the last 10 years, particularly among women. Roller derby is played on every inhabited continent.

It requires speed, strength and a lot of technique, Warner said.

The Concussion is in its second year as a team, he said. Women brought back the roller derby sport about seven or eight years ago, and they’re now training the men’s teams. The Concussion is coached by the Emerald City Roller Girls.

The team will have about seven games throughout the year, Warner said. The team can field up to 14 skaters at a bout. The Concussion is running 10 to 11 players ages 18 to 73.

The game is intense and physical, Warner said. He sustained a concussion in a bout in August and was out for four weeks on doctor’s orders.

The team is in a building mode right now, Warner said, and it’s helping start new programs, with two players going to a new team in the Puget Sound area in Washington this year.

Participants are amateurs – pay-to-play, Warner said, although some players get sponsors – and he’s looking for them too.

He’s planning to “roller derby until I can’t skate anymore,” he said.

The Concussion will face the Deep Valley Belligerents of Mendocino County, Calif., at 2 p.m. on Jan. 15 at 250 S. 32nd., Willamalane Sports Center.

Further information may be found at, which says, “This isn’t old school derby. The track is fast; the hits are real.”