For many of the women who participate in the sport of roller derby, taking punches and teamwork have become metaphors for life.
This was the sentiment many of the roller derby players talked about just minutes before the Duke City Roller Derby Muñecas Muertas (Dead Dolls) took on the Assassination City Roller Derby Conspiracy at the McDermott Athletic Center on Saturday.
This was the first time The MAC hosted roller derby, and the first time many of the players had been to the City of Vision. Roller Derby is something like a roller-skate race in which players on one team try to block their opponents on a circular track.
As athletes prepared for the competition, they shared a sense of camaraderie.
Angela Reece, known as Killer Queen in the ring, a blocker for the Muñecas Muertas, said she always gets into the zone before entering the ring of competition.
“I’ve been skating for 15 years because it’s fun and a great way to make friends,” Reece said. “I’m queer and a lady, and most sports are straight-male focused. It’s pretty rare that there’s this much of a worldwide sport that’s focused on women and women empowerment.”
She said her teammates come from all walks of life and backgrounds for one goal.
“I’m a party planner; we have lawyers and teachers…In our regular lives, we are all working professionals,” Reece said. “I like to think that we have become the norm with tattoos and colored hair.”
She said she has traveled the nation, competing in several roller derby events.
“Everywhere we go, the teams are welcoming,” she said. “No one judges you on things like life-style, body shapes, you name it — that’s what makes this sport unique.”
Callie Thomason French, aka Bo Derelict, a jammer for the Muñecas Muertas, said most of her teammates practice four times a week.
“It depends, because we have different levels — like our travel team practices a lot more,” Callie said. “On top of that, we also have community service hours that we have to do, so we also set up time to give back to the community.”
Holleigh Thomason French, Callie’s wife and a blocker for the Muñecas Muertas, nicknamed Holicidal, said her team also runs a training program for girls and adults who want to join.
“We like to pay it forward, so our skaters help train new skaters, which could be kids, teens or adult skaters who want to learn,” she said.
Into her 11th season, Holleigh said she likes to skate because of the competition and confidence boost roller derby gives her.
“There is also a mental and physical stress relief that comes along with playing roller derby and organized sports,” she said. “It’s not the same when I go to the gym. I get much more of a release and I feel calm after we play.”
Callie said the team spends so much time together that they form a kind of family and encourage each other outside of the track.
“We all go to do things as a group,” Callie said. “This is our chosen family outside of our actual family…It’s just a different relationship when you let it all out on the track.”
Holleigh said whenever she has moved to a new city, she looked to see if it had roller derby because the community is so strong internationally and nationally.
“I know if I join, I’m going to have friends and somewhere I belong,” Holleigh said. “I met my wife doing roller derby high-fiving Callie.”
The rules of engagement
The rules for roller derby can be confusing at best to the layman.
So here’s a list of facts that can help break the game.
First, each game or bout lasts for one hour, divided into two 30-minute periods. Each period consists of multiple jams, which last a maximum of two minutes.
Each team also features five girls: three blockers, one pivot and one jammer.
The objective of each jam is to score as many points as possible. Points are scored each time a jammer laps a member of the opposing team.
One whistle blow begins play, with each team lining up as indicated. The first jammer to clear the pack becomes the lead jammer, and can end the jam at any point.
The members of each team attempt to prevent the opposing jammer from passing, and help their own jammer score points.
The jammer is the only player who can score points. She wears a star on her helmet.
The pivot dictates the pace of the jam and acts as a blocker. The pivot can also swap and become the jammer. She wears a stripe on her helmet.
The blockers work with the rest of the team to prevent the opposition from scoring and help their own team’s jammer.
Source: Duke City Roller Derby