Lace up your skates

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

A whole host of sports ex­ist for women to­day, but none is quite so in­vig­o­rat­ing as Ge­or­gia roller derby.

“Any­thing you do on the track, [the crowd] is so ex­cited about be­cause it’s so dif­fer­ent from any other sport they’ve ever seen,” said Liz Wise, pres­i­dent of the Musco­gee Roller Girls in Colum­bus. “I think what amazes peo­ple the most is when we’re done knock­ing the hell out of each other on the track is we shake hands, we hug and we go have a beer to­gether.”

The full-con­tact sport pits two groups of five women — four block­ers and a scorer, called a jam­mer — against each other on a cir­cu­lar track. Jam­mers must pass block­ers to score points.

“The op­pos­ing team will try to knock her down, stop her, try to keep her from scor­ing,” Wise said.

To­day’s derby dames evolved from a nearly 90-year legacy of skat­ing sirens. In the 1930s, the sport was like a skate-a-thon, then came back in the ‘60s and ’70s as a more the­atri­cal en­deavor, Wise said.

Derby in its modern form came out of Austin, Texas, in the early 2000s, less the­atri­cal than the pre­vi­ous evo­lu­tion — but they did keep the names.

I am wo­man — watch me roll

Tess Har­ri­son, bet­ter known as Baller Shot Caller, plays for the At­lanta Rol­ler­girls. She moved to At­lanta to be on the team.

“It was kind of the sis­ter­hood I never had,” she said. “The team that I was on was ranked in the 100s, and the team here

June 9, 2017

Cut­ting the track: One of the top penal­ties for jam­mers. When she gets knocked out of bounds, a jam­mer is sup­posed to come back on the track be­hind the peo­ple who blocked her out. Lead jam­mer: The jam­mer who first pushes past the op­pos­ing team’s block­ers. She can de­cide whether or not a jam will last the full two min­utes al­lot­ted. Pivot: The sec­ond-in-com­mand jam­mer, who takes over if the orig­i­nal player can’t get through the block­ers. was No. 11. I’m cap­tain of the No. 11 team in the world and I love it. We’re look­ing to break into the top 10 this year.”

Re­becca McAleer, an out jam­mer on the Mid­dle Ge­or­gia Derby Demons, said derby is one of the few ways women can get to­gether, let go and be them­selves.

“It’s us cool, strong women be­ing ex­actly what we want to be and we don’t have to apol­o­gize for it,” she said. “The at­mos­phere is re­ally cool. Al­co­hol, have a good time be­ing rowdy and ex­cited. Our team tries to stay re­ally fam­ily-friendly.”

She said many times, the team leaves with­out know­ing the score, and the au­di­ence is al­ways in­vited to af­ter-par­ties.

“We have peo­ple that are moms over 40 that come out and de­stroy their bod­ies for this sport that they love. We have such a great com­mu­nity of skaters that are will­ing to help our com­mu­nity,” Har­ri­son said.

Karen Glover, pres­i­dent of the Peach State Rollerderby League — which over­sees both the Rome Rol­ler­girls and the Ma­ri­etta Derby Dar­lins — said most peo­ple won’t un­der­stand what hap­pens dur­ing their first bout, but ev­ery­one en­joys watch­ing.

“I re­ally en­joy the way that we are set­ting an ex­am­ple for other girls and even for young men to show them that women can be out there, they’re play­ing a sport of all ages, of all body types, across all walks of life and they’re do­ing it well. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to show that women are strong and they can play a sport,” she said. Wise said some teams have try­outs, while oth­ers — es­pe­cially newer or smaller teams like hers — take all who want to be part. And there are no back­ground skat­ing skills re­quired, though some of the top derby ath­letes are for­mer fig­ure skaters.

New team­mates learn how to skate if they don’t al­ready know, then go through as­sess­ments learn­ing proper con­tact and be­com­ing scrim­mage-ready.

“It’s a tough thing to go through, ad­vanc­ing through the as­sess­ments. A lot of laps, a lot of drills, a lot of foot­work, a lot of things that are hard on your body,” Wise said. “I like to think our league is re­ally good about teach­ing and train­ing the ladies so they love the sport and don’t feel self-con­scious about not know­ing ev­ery­thing there is to know about derby when they start.”

McAleer said the hard­est thing for her to learn was en­durance, and keep­ing her­self mo­ti­vated.

“My derby fam­ily was there for me. They teach you how to do ev­ery­thing you don’t know,” she said. “You’re never strug­gling by your­self.”

And if be­ing on the team is a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing to start with, Glover said there are plenty of non-skat­ing po­si­tions for leagues and teams.

“Derby girls in gen­eral have a lot of trou­ble with these pre­con­ceived no­tions that this is some the­atri­cal no­tion of, we’re all out there in tu­tus and try­ing to clothesline each other,” McAleer said. “There are a lot of peo­ple who think we get out there to be silly and not mean it. But it’s ath­letic, and there’s no doubt about it.”

By DAL­LAS ANNE DUNCAN

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