The roller derby is a sport that is more than women in roller skates and their intimidating appearances. Roller derby is a game of skill, endurance and backbone. There is a whole thriving underground culture in the roller derby world, a host of fans fill the stands at every bout and a pool of men and women help to run and support these do-it-yourself roller derby leagues.
“Since roller derby is 100 percent skater-owned and operated, we're responsible for doing everything ourselves as a league,” said Erin “Fifi Fleshwound” Knitis, Suburbia Roller Derby Public Relations Maven.
Suburbia Roller Derby is the first all female, flat-track roller derby league in Westchester County. The league was started in 2007 by “Slim Fast” and “Suffah Kate.” Since then, the league has grown to approximately 50 league members ranging in age from 20 to 50. In 2009, SRD was inducted into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).
“Fifi Fleshwound” explained the roller derby basics to me. First there is the game set-up. Two teams compete in what is called a bout. A bout is split into periods, and within those periods are an unlimited number of jams, or a race when the teams can score points.
Second, there are the team positions. Five women from each team play in a jam. Only one of the women from each team, called the jammer, will actually score the points. She is easily identifiable by the star emblazoned on her helmet. The remaining women are called the pack. One pivot, who sports a striped helmet, and three blockers comprise the pack. The pack’s job is to help their jammer skate by the other team’s pack and to block the other team’s jammer from scoring.
Lastly, in the roller derby basics is the play-by-play breakdown of a jam. The packs from both teams get in formation at the starting line. The jammers are side-by-side positioned 20 feet behind the packs. The first whistle blown is to signal that the jam has begun and for the packs to begin to skate. The second whistle signals the jammers to skate.
The first jammer to pass through the packs is the lead jammer. She can decide when a jam is finished. A jammer scores points after her first pass through the packs, and she earns a point for each opposing member she passes during each lap.
On Saturday, March 19, I had the chance to see Suburbia Roller Derby's travel team of all-stars Suburban Brawl play against New Hampshire Roller Derby Skate Free or Die! All Stars in a bout. At the bout, seats were set up alongside the flat track putting the fans at the same level as the skaters. We were close to the action and able to feel the skaters as they whipped pass us.
I could see the intensity and concentration on the skaters’ faces as they lined up in formation for each jam. Their ferocious attitude coupled with each player’s intimidating team name scrawled on the back of their jerseys was enough to send the fans into a frenzy of cheers and jeers.
During the jams, women were knocked down all over the track. It was impressive to see the jammers weave in and out of the tangled web of bodies aimed at putting them flat on their back. Suburban Brawl jammers “AWOL,” “Charlotte Bupowski,” and “Lesley E. Visserate” scored a ton of points. While the pack including “Ann Sane,” “IV Drop,” and “Slash Borden,” to name a few, blocked the Skate Free or Die! All Stars jammers.
Suburban Brawl defeated the Skate Free or Die! All Stars 254 to 21. The team’s next bout is on April 9 against the D.C. RollerGirls.
Visit the Suburbia Roller Derby website to learn more on joining the ranks of the Westchester women already committed to roller derby. Women with “basic skating skills, a desire to compete and have made their peace with gravity,” are encouraged to try-out for the Fresh Meat class.
“Other than basic skating skills, we're looking for ladies who are fun to be around yet seriously ready to commit to derby,” added “Fifi Fleshwound.”
Roller derby is an aggressive hard-hitting sport. And, the Suburbia Roller Derby women make derby look fun and exciting. The bruises and dedicated fans are an added bonus.