Joining roller derby and why I love it 0
Me pictured with some of the girls on my roller derby team. Back L-R: Eddy Nigma, Grim Reber, Amelia Airbourne, Kim Jong Wheels, Lady Macdeath. Middle: Girlmeat, Scarlett Stone, Emberetta. Front: Dalliah Doomsayer (me). (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Who ever thought that the most difficult thing I have ever done would also be the most enjoyable? I’m talking about joining roller derby – a fast, physical, and fun sport that has captured the heart of this writer.
Those who know me best would probably say the idea of putting me – the person who trips over her own feet – on wheels is a scary thought. And honestly, the moment I strapped on those roller skates and went to stand was absolutely terrifying but once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t wait to put them on again.
The theatrical, staged farce of the 1970s that our parents remember as roller derby really doesn’t exist anymore. In the early 2000s in Texas some amazing women revamped the sport and turned it into something that carries on today around the world. What is today known as roller derby is a real, physical, sport that is all about strategy, speed, blocking, and giving (and taking) hits.
Despite what you see in the movies and what you might think derby is about it’s not as violent as you might think. The rules are very specific about where you can hit a player and with what part of your body. They also specify all the things you can’t do – like biting, tripping, head butting, punching, elbowing, or pulling hair or parts of another player’s equipment. That being said it’s not uncommon to trip or go flying by taking a good hit from someone’s shoulder or hip.
How does roller derby work?
Roller derby is played by two teams of five members skating in a counterclockwise direction around an oval track.
A game consists of short matchups called jams where a point scorer for each team (the jammer) tries to lap four blockers of the opposing team. One of those blockers is called the pivot, who may take over the role of jammer during the game if needed. The jammer wears a helmet cover with two stars on it while the pivot wears a helmet with a stripe on it.
The jammers get a point for every member they pass. The goal of both teams is to help their own jammer to pass players and block the opposing team’s jammer from passing their players.
Investigating a sub-culture
My first real experience with roller derby was back in 2010 when I was a student at the University of Winnipeg. I was taking a course called New Journalism, and our final project was to create our own piece of New Journalism by investigating a subculture. My subculture? Roller derby.
During that project I did spend a number of weeks getting to know many of the skaters in the Winnipeg Roller Derby League. I attended a number of practices where I watched their drills, interviewed players, and really got to see first hand what it is they do. And then I watched them play a bout against the Red Deer Nightshades and all of the practice drills finally made sense.
In speaking with those players I got to learn that roller derby is really a lifestyle. The players are literally running a business – they form the committees, they staff the events, they plan the fundraisers, they get the word out there. It is something that consumes much of their spare time, but they don’t mind because it’s something they really love.
I also learned that there isn’t a specific type of roller derby girl. They come from all over the map – they are welders, nurses, teachers, accountants, designers, media professionals, and scientists – all with a common love of derby. They will accept you for whatever you are – any size, shape, sexual orientation, or personal interest. Derby allows you to create a ‘character’ that is really individual and you.
Derby in Portage la Prairie
I first heard of roller derby in Portage la Prairie here at the Daily Graphic. I was the one to initially start covering the league as it was looking to find players, and followed it along it’s progression into the Plap City Rollers. I didn’t officially become a member until the beginning of August of 2012.
The Plap City Rollers started in the spring of 2012 and now has between 20 and 25 girls, of which I am one. Portage is really the perfect location for a league – right between the Winnipeg Roller Derby League in Winnipeg and the Wheat City Roller Derby League in Brandon.
When I joined I picked the moniker Dalliah Doomsayer after a 30-foot tall demon, Dalliah the Doomsayer, in a World of Warcraft dungeon and I picked the number 969 because it spells out WoW on a common telephone.
Joining roller derby has really changed me as a person. At first I thought it looked like fun, it would be a good way for me to meet some people my own age, and get some exercise but it has since evolved into something that I need to have in my life.
The girls I play with at Centennial Arena twice a week are the most amazing people I never would have met otherwise. My derby sisters encourage me when I’m having a tough practice, they are patient with me when I am slow to pick up a skill, and I know they will be there for me if I ever need anything.
Thanks to them even during those off practices I come home excited about derby. Sometimes it’s just because I mastered a new skill, or I pushed myself harder, or I deliver a good hit or block. It’s those little things that keep you going even when practice is hard, and for that I love it.
The sport has also given me this new confidence that is amazing. There is something about a bunch of women doing such a physical sport that makes me so happy. I feel great when I master a new skill and once I got used to them and I love putting on the short shorts and knee high socks because I feel great in them. I don’t really mind getting stared at when I need to go grocery shopping after practice because I feel more comfortable in them than I do in real clothes.
Currently, the Plap City Rollers are looking to find a new practice venue as the Centennial Arena will be putting the ice on in October. We need a winter venue in order to keep skating and keep our endurance up over the winter. The league is also trying to master all of the basic skills in order to bench mark and start bouting against other teams in the spring and over the summer.
For more information on the Plap City Rollers visit them onFacebook
or email the league firstname.lastname@example.org