Derby Dames enjoying second season, which includes first winning bout
Veteran and new members of the 301 Derby Dames roller derby team gained a modest reprieve from the hot, humid conditions for Wednesday evening’s practice at the Charles County Fairgrounds in La Plata, although the unforgiving concrete floor occasionally reminded the jammers and blockers of the sport’s perils.
In only their second season of existence, the Derby Dames have already grown in numbers and experience and after a winless inaugural campaign the local squad has already recorded two victories this season. But the Derby Dames’ 2-3 record is hardly the final measuring stick of the local squad’s success, with veteran and rookie players and their rookie coach adhering to that belief.
“It’s been a great season,” said Kara Edwards, known in the rink as “iKaraless”. “The new girls have been a great addition to the team and everyone has just fit right in. The wins were great, but even in some of the losses we really grew together as a team. The camaraderie that we have is just incredible.”
Another returning player, Heather Matthews, known as “Just Heather” has displayed her versatility in the rink during bouts and noted she is among the numerous skaters who quickly adapt to playing different positions. Matthews was born and raised in Prince George’s County, but she moved to Charles County at a young age and graduated from La Plata High School.
“One thing that I think separates us from the other teams is our camaraderie,” Matthews said. “It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose, we have a lot of respect for one another and our opponents. It’s just like other sports. Once the bout begins we’re all fierce competitors, but once they end we’ll slap each other on the back.”
Last year Terrence Gawith volunteered his time as an assistant coach for the latter half of the season, but this year he is the Derby Dames’ first head coach. Wednesday’s practice, less than a week after the team’s most recent bout, a 203-151 loss to Salisbury, was scaled back to allow players to heal recently acquired bumps and bruises.
“This team is so family-oriented,” said Gawith, who also does stand-up comedy. “Even the new girls have such a great vibe. They all want to come in here and be part of the team. We’ve won two bouts and we have also had some moral victories. We’ve lost to established leagues by 40 to 50 points, but in those bouts we made a few mistakes that can be easily fixed.”
Twice each year, Edwards and Matthews organize boot camps which introduce new potential players to the sport. Admittedly, most of the women who try roller derby want to become part of the team. Sometimes their first evaluation of new players needs to be amended as several adapt to the skills required right away.
Two of the prominent new players who graduated through the boot camps are local products and sisters, Erin Summers and Kelly Walter, both Lackey High School graduates. Summers, known as “Blondie” in the rink and Walter, known as “Krazzy Train”, were longtime swimmers for Indian Head in the Prince-Mont Swim League who have since traded in their goggles for skates, elbow pads and knee pads.
“Tonight we were on opposite teams and matched up against each other,” said Summers, who works as a massage therapist in Virginia, “but we’re not that competitive with one another normally. We’ve always gotten along, but I think we both knew from the first boot camp that we wanted to be part of this team. This floor is hard and you don’t bounce. At other rinks at least you bounce.”
“We got introduced to the league through the boot camps about a year-and-a-half ago,” said Walter, who works in White Plains. “It’s really been great being part of the team. We all have a lot of respect for one another. The friendships and the team chemistry is amazing.”
The Derby Dames posted their first win in team history against the Mid-Atlantic Roller Derby (Va.), one which arrived shorthanded, so many view their narrow victory over the Black Rose Rollers (Pa.) as their first genuine triumph.
“They came here and beat us at our place,” Matthews said, “then we went there and beat them. I don’t think we thought it was revenge. It was just a nice win against a team that we have a lot of respect for. We’ve had close bouts with them and good scrimmages.”
The Derby Dames will travel to Fredericksburg, Va., for their next bout on Aug. 20 before ending the 2016 season by hosting a team yet to be determined on Oct. 8 at the Charles County Fairgrounds. Edwards said two teams are in the running to be the Derby Dames final opponent.
Left, 301 Derby Dames jammer Aubrey Scarza, also known as “Aub Zombie” during bouts, leads her teammates through another drill in Wednesday’s practice at the Charles County Fairgrounds in La Plata. Right, members of the 301 Derby Dames take a brief break during Wednesday’s practice at the Charles County Fairgroundss to map out their final drills.