Radical recreation: Roll out of the way

Photo credit: Jules Hannah

To some, roller skating around in circles and hitting people is not their idea of fun. For Nicole Sola, better known as ‘Supernova’ on the track, wouldn’t have it any other way. Sola is an electrical engineering major at UAA and member of the Rage City Rollergirls derby team on her off time. Although there is a lot of skating and hitting involved in roller derby, there is much more to this underground sport than meets the eye.

Being a fan of competitive sports and not having many options after high school influenced Sola to try something new. She had an interest in roller derby in the past, which sparked her interest and being participating in the fall of 2014.

“I was scared because I don’t like meeting new people either, I was just at a time in my life that I really want to make new friends, meet new people and wanted to try something new. I literally just bought my gear and showed up,” Sola said.

Sola has been a part of the roller derby community since then and attends practice at least three times a week. Shen has played in many tournaments in Alaska. Being in the roller derby scene has fulfilled Sola in her playful competitive needs while creating new friendships.

“Being a part of this team means that I can be competitive, play a sport that I really love with people who have become like a family, and continually learn new strategies,” Sola said. “I have people that rely on me but I also rely on them, on and off the track, it is always so much fun.”

While roller derby is a contact sport, there are many rules and strategies to the game. Besides the skating and hitting, the actual point in roller derby is to score points by passing the opposite team. Sola explains that there are five members of the team at a time that consists of four ‘blockers’ and a ‘jammer.’ The jammer is the person who scores the points by making her way through the other team’s blockers, which are known as a ‘pack.’ On the other hand, the blocker’s job is to block the other team’s jammer to keep her from scoring any points by not letting her past.

However, one of the blockers is also known as a ‘pivot’ and she has the power of becoming the jammer if the jammer is too tired or needs help. There are many other rules that come with roller derby but the basic idea is to score points by passing the other team a numerous amount of times. Sola plays the blocker position that is able to become the jammer when needed.

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One major point that pops up when roller derby is mentioned are the safety concerns. Like many other contact sports such as football, hockey and soccer, injuries can happen at any time.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, well, can’t you get hurt?’ and I say, ‘Well yeah, but you can get hurt in any sport,’” Sola said.

Aware of the safety concerns, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) provides specific regulations to prevent hazards from happening. According to the Rage City Rollergirls website, “Each skater in our league must meet the WFTDA minimum skill requirements, including basic skating skills, falls, balance/agility, skating with others, blocking and knowledge of rules.” Safety gear such as helmets, elbow pads, kneepads, wrist guards and mouth guards are required.

Even though Sola has only been in the roller derby league for three years, it has become a part of who she and exposes her to new people every day.

“Roller derby has become a big part of my life I have met so many amazing people and friends through roller derby,” Sola said. “It is such a great sport. It has become worldwide and it brings people together from so many different walks of life.”

Sola is working towards her electrical engineering major and plans to go to grad school for astrophysics or astro-engineering and hopes to work for NASA in the future while continuing to participate in roller derby in the mean time.

“If that fails, I will just become a pro derby girl, kind of joking. I will play derby until it no longer fits into my schedule or life,” Sola said.

Starting a new hobby or sport can be nerve-wracking when you’ve never done it before. In roller derby, everyone is very supportive in helping individuals looking to join.

“It is super empowering because you’re playing with this group of women who are very supportive and encouraging to you,” Sola said. “I would definitely encourage other people to join derby, or any sport really. So many people think that you have to be a certain shape or size to play a sport, but in derby literally any and all sizes have an advantage. A lot of people on the team had never even played a sport before joining derby.”

Over the last couple of years, roller derby has been impacting Alaska forming over 20 roller derby teams all over the state. The growing amount of individuals intrigued by the sport has lead to bigger derby meets and even greater friendships. If skating around in circles and hitting people is your cup of tea, along with intense strategic plays, team bonding, and most importantly fun, then roller derby might be the sport for you. Learn more about it on the Rage City Rollergirls website at www.racecityrollergirls.org.