There’s an old-fashioned sensation re-sweeping the nation, and Anchorages Rage City Roller Girls personally invite you to check it out: roller derby.
For those who are a little late to the party, here is some history: Roller derby is like rugby on skates. It began as early as 1935 in Chicago and regained popularity from the pioneering efforts of a hardheaded group of women from Austin, Texas, in 2001. The sport now has 1,250 amateur leagues worldwide with an athletic-punk aesthetic that has an emphasis on female empowerment. Two teams currently compete under the Anchorage “Rage City Roller Girls” umbrella: the B-team, “Orange Crush,” and the A-team, “All Stars.”
If you have always wanted to say, “Man! I feel like a woman!” then this contact sport is for you.
“You don’t have to have skating experience to join. We have had people with hockey experience or figure skating experience join the team, but it isn’t required by any means,” Dawnell “WickedSpeedia” Smith, All Star member and UAA alumna, said.
Despite the lack of prerequisites, this sport takes work. The Rage City Roller Girls are committed to excellence as a team. They practice three times a week on skates and cross-train once a week at the AT&T Sports Pavilion.
“Being in shape is a good idea if you want to come in strong. If not, derby will definitely get you in shape,” Smith said. “But if you have a strong core, you are less likely to get hurt when you get hit.”
Competitive roller derby games are commonly referred to as a “matches” or “bouts,” and roller skates are referred to as “quads.” Each team consists of five women. One player from each team is the designated “jammer,” the scoring speed skater who earns points by lapping the other team.
During each bout, teams race on roller skates around an oval track, each playing defense and offense simultaneously in an effort to get their jammer through the pack and on to victory — and not just national victory. This year the All Stars are traveling to compete in Japan.
“My shoulder left my body. I looked down at my ribcage and then looked back a little to see my arm, which is not a good way to have your arm,” UAA alumna Patricia “New England Pat-Riot” Bergeron said, describing a recent arm injury that required surgical attention. “But I’m back, and I am going to Japan! I couldn’t give it up!”
Recruits must be 21 years of age or older to join Rage City Roller Girls. There is junior roller derby in Anchorage for those who are younger. To participate, a $45 monthly fee is required. Every player must purchase her own personal gear, including quads, a helmet, kneepads, elbow pads, wrist pads and a mouth guard. The sport is a time commitment and often becomes a large part of players’ lives.
New recruits are called “fresh meat,” which means no bouts, physical contact or nifty name. After certain skating skills are demonstrated, fresh meat can test up into rookie status. Once a player becomes a rookie, she can register a name and number with Rage City Roller Girls and the Two-Evils National Registry. When a rookie is ready, she can test to become a Roller Girl, which entails a physical skills test and a written rules test.
Roller derby is a contact sport, and competition injuries range from common bruises and sprains to broken bones, concussions and beyond. Insurance through the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is required.
“The derby community is really tight, so if you do get hurt, everyone is checking in on you at the hospital, bringing you food, making sure you’re okay,” said Smith. “If you travel to other states, or even other countries, and let them know that you are coming, most often they will let you practice with them, hang out with them and even pick you up from the airport.”
For more information of Rage City Roller Girls, visit http://www.ragecityrollergirls.org.