Fort My­ers Derby Girls Mean Busi­ness

Roller derby evolves from show to sport

Gulf & Main - - News - BY BRIAN WIERIMA Brian Wierima was the sports edi­tor at Detroit Lakes News­pa­pers in Min­nesota for 17 years be­fore re­lo­cat­ing in Au­gust 2014 from the long, cold win­ters of the North­land to the Sun­shine State.

The evo­lu­tion of roller derby has hit both spec­trums of the sport: from the scripted for-entertainment-only bouts of the 1970s and 1980s—which fea­tured fish­net stock­ings and tu­tus— to the mod­ern-day ver­sion of a more le­git­i­mate sport, in­volv­ing se­ri­ous train­ing and real com­pe­ti­tion. Gone are the tu­tus, re­placed with highly com­pet­i­tive bouts, where the par­tic­i­pants take the sport se­ri­ously and de­vote many hours to train­ing.

The sport of roller derby is en­joy­ing a trans­for­ma­tion world­wide, with more than 300 teams com­pet­ing in the Women’s Flat Track Derby As­so­ci­a­tion. The sport is even be­ing con­sid­ered for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Fort My­ers is part of the roller derby re­vival, with the Fort My­ers Derby Girls racing into their 10th year of flat-track com­pe­ti­tion. The team’s home base is Bam­boo­zles Skat­ing and Event Cen­ter in Fort My­ers, where it plays up to six home bouts, along with five to six away bouts each sea­son.

Sta­cie Pratt, who goes by her derby alias TeKil­lYa Sun­shine, joined the Fort My­ers Derby Girls in the team’s in­fancy in Oc­to­ber 2007 and over the years has wit­nessed roller derby chang­ing from a sports-entertainment prod­uct to a le­git­i­mate com­pet­i­tive sport.

“Back then, it was short skirts, fish­nets and tu­tus,” Pratt says. “It was pro­moted with free beer, and, ba­si­cally, we were a drink­ing team with a derby prob­lem. Now, though, the play­ers have to be much more ath­letic. We train very hard to com­pete. The game changed about five to six years ago, and now you need to train mul­ti­ple days a week to pro­mote your strength and mus­cle train­ing.

“The sport has re­ally evolved,” she adds, “be­cause back 10 years ago, there were about 13 pages of rules. Now, there are about 90.”

The Fort My­ers Derby Girls have 20 skaters who train and re­cruit ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing at Bam­boo­zles. The team also holds two to three evening prac­tices dur­ing the week, work­ing on skat­ing skills, strat­egy and train­ing their bod­ies to take the pound­ing that oc­curs on game nights.

Dur­ing a flat-track roller derby bout, two teams have five skaters—four block­ers and one jam­mer—on the floor, play­ing two 30-minute halves. The jam­mer has a des­ig­nated star on her hel­met and is the scorer for the team. “Ba­si­cally, she has the tar­get on her back,” Pratt says about the jam­mer.

The jam­mer scores points by lap­ping the op­pos­ing play­ers, while block­ers try to im­pede the jam­mer from get­ting around them. The block­ers play both of­fense and de­fense at the same time, since they are try­ing to stymie the op­pos­ing jam­mer,

while help­ing their own.

It’s a phys­i­cal sport, with com­mon in­juries in­clud­ing con­cus­sions, knee sprains and, in some cases, bro­ken legs.

“There are con­cus­sions, along with plenty of bruises and scrapes,” Pratt con­cedes. “You have to train your body to take [the phys­i­cal as­pect] of the sport.”

One fea­ture that has been kept from the retro days is the use of cre­ative nick­names for play­ers. Among those on the Fort My­ers Derby Girls ros­ter are Peaches N Car­nage, Pinkie Swears, Bub­bleVi­cious and Yo Slam­mity Slam.

“It’s fun. It’s like an al­ter-ego thing,” Pratt says with a laugh.

The play­ers come from all walks of life, from doc­tors to lawyers to stay-at-home moms. But one thing they all have in com­mon: a de­sire for tough com­pe­ti­tion.

“The com­mon thread we all have is it has to be some­body with a lot of will,” says Fort My­ers Derby Girls player Deb­bie Med­lock, whose roller derby name is Lit­tle Deb­bie Smack­Cakes. “No one is get­ting paid, and we prac­tice mul­ti­ple times a week. There are a lot of hours put into it, so you have to be some­body with a lot of in­ten­sity.”

Women’s flat-track roller derby has two di­vi­sions in which teams can play for the in­ter­na­tional cham­pi­onships, which last took place in Port­land, Ore­gon, in Novem­ber 2016. The Di­vi­sion I level in­cludes the top 40 ranked teams in the world, while Di­vi­sion II con­sists of the teams ranked from 41 to 60. The Fort My­ers Derby Girls team is cur­rently ranked in the top 90.

“I would love to see the team grow and be able to move back up into Di­vi­sion II and maybe even­tu­ally to Di­vi­sion I,” Pratt says.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Fort My­ers Derby Girls, check out the team web­site at fort­my­ers­der­by­girls.com.

The play­ers come from all walks of life, from doc­tors to lawyers to stay-at-home moms. But one thing they all have in com­mon: a de­sire for tough com­pe­ti­tion.

The Fort My­ers Derby Girls team (be­low) has been com­pet­ing for nearly 10 years. They have plenty of fun on the rink while com­pet­ing in a phys­i­cal sport. Two Derby Girl block­ers (top) sand­wich an op­po­nent dur­ing a bout.

Fort My­ers Derby Girls’ “Peaches N Car­nage” and “CoCo Cream-Ahoe” sti­fle an op­pos­ing jam­mer.

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