Bludgeoning and clawing their way into Utah’s Roller Derby scene, rolls the O-Town Derby Dames, a group of local, female athletes that welcome diverse lifestyles and interests, as they prepare for a new season of flat track roller derby.
“Roller Derby is amazing,” said 29-year-old first timer Andrea Carroll, aka Gretchen Gore. “It has brought me some sense of self, great friends, and lots of fun. It brings women together doing something that we are all really passionate about.”
The Derby Dames roller derby league is made up of female, amateur athletes or those looking to get involved in a new sport who against local and out-of-state leagues. Like many leagues, Derby Dames welcomes players with experience and others inexperienced with indoor skating in a team atmosphere. Weekend morning practices allow the women to learn, practice and participate in a team dynamic that requires speed, endurance, and strategy.
“We are always looking for fresh meat.” said league organizer, Sarah Lawr, aka Pepper Diamond. Lawr and fellow veteran skater, Tristan May, aka Twisted Violet, reorganized and revitalized the Davis Derby Dames this past August, developing and recruiting new members.
“Our league is still in its infancy, but the great thing about our league is that we train our girls,” said Lawr. “You don’t have to know how to skate, we will get them there.”
Each player brings a bit of creativity to the game by adopting an alter ego with a special Derby Dame identity. The identity is used in practices, team functions and at bouts, and players accent their team uniforms in the style of their alter egos.
“My name is Goldilox and I have a school girl look and blonde hair,” said Monika Waldrum, a single mother of four. “I have been playing some kind of sport all my life, starting with roller skate racing, to softball, now roller derby, soccer, mma and muay thai [mixed martial arts fighting and a Thai form of boxing]. I saw a flyer and knew that Roller Derby was for me.”
“It can be really hard for a lot of girls to find their name. When you choose a name you have to look online and make sure it’s not already taken,” said Gore. “It’s funny because you get so used to your Derby name, I would probably answer to either no matter where I was.”
Teams in the Derby Dames league include Sailor Mary’s, Ladies of Capone, and Sucker Punch Sweethearts.
Opening the season, March 7 at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center is an annual event, called Spring Massacre 2. The current teams will split into two new teams just for this event, the Bloody Mary’s vs. Graveyard Dolls. Live entertainment, food and merchandise will be available and tickets are only $10 in advance at the otown website (The first Spring Massacre involved the Davis Derby Dames.).
The birth of the modern Roller Derby bouts began in America during and after the Great Depression in the 1930s. Back then, people created specific sporting events that everyone could participate in — like dance marathons and walkathons — to make money for producers and to entertain the general public. Roller skating at long distances had already been tried in the late 1800s, with contestants actually dying after the competitions. So in the 30s, the sport transformed to five member teams competing against each other on an oval track.
Teams consist of five members. Three from each team form a pack, called blockers, with the other team’s three members. They try to stop the other team’s scorer, called a jammer. The fifth team member is called a pivot, who acts like a pace car in a NASCAR race and controls the speed of the pack. The goal is for the two opposing jammers, who start behind the pack, to start skating with the referee’s second whistle, skate through the pack, and on the second circling, garner points by passing the other team’s members by ‘womaneuvering’ through the pack. Team members are allowed to get physical, throwing elbows, ‘whipping,’ and slamming into each other to create a ‘body’ jam.
“Don’t get me wrong though, there is fighting every now and then, but that girl knows she will be kicked out of the bout should she start a fight.” said Lawr.
The jammer that takes the lead over the other jammer, can ‘call the jam’ to stop the race, or she can continue around the track again to try to pass more opponents and score more points, within the two minute period. All team mates can play the position of jammer, exchanging a specially marked helmet that signifies the position. Jammers wear stars, pivots wear stripes, and blockers wear blank helmets.
To run the league, fundraising and advertising during bouts help pay for the costs, which include skating venues, electrical services, insurance, costumes, security and costs to travel to other cities. This year, the Derby Dames have created a ‘bootytisement,’ where an advertiser can put a name and website on the uniform in the buttocks area.
“We are trying to pay for our portable skate floor which covers 6,000 square feet and consists of one foot by one foot, snap-tight tiles,” said Susan Secora, aka Psychora. “Each tile is $10 to rent. If you rent ten tiles you will get a two foot by five foot space for your advertisement.”
Volunteers include referees, trainers and supporters. One such volunteer is Killa B., a young, male enthusiast of the sport, who has learned to referee bouts.
“Words cannot explain how much we appreciate him in our lives. He does everything from keeping time, being a chauffeur, to being a waterboy,” said Lawr.
“It takes a lot of work in order for Roller Derby to succeed, but [it’s] well worth it.” said Gore. “That is why we need a lot of support staff and volunteers, and the girls are all required (according to bi-laws) to help with a certain percentage of all the events we have going on.”
The thrill of seeing female athletes in revealing attire, wrestling and falling on the track provides entertainment, of course. But with that comes the realization that stamina is required to maintain the constant circling, the strategy to block and slow opponents, and the skill and speed of the jammers to score, while dodging, crouching, and exploding. These women are focused, getting in great shape, and participating in a sport they love — and you will love it, too.
For full schedule and more information go to derbydames.net. For advertising or sponsorship, contact Susan at [email protected] or (801) 920-3302.