“You mean that game where women go around a track on roller skates, beating each other up and knocking each other down?” I asked, skeptically.
But it turns out roller derby has been making a modern-day comeback, and is currently the fastest growing women’s sport around the globe. More than 1,200 leagues have formed worldwide, and it’s evolved from a rock ’em, sock ’em show of theatrics to a serious sport of athleticism and strategy that’s being considered for inclusion in the Olympics.
I’m a sometime athlete at best, and far from the aggressive type, but something about the sport appealed to me: camaraderie with a group of strong women, a chance to challenge myself physically, and an opportunity to dress it all up with flashy-coloured tights and my very own derby name? How could I say no?
Over the next three months, I joined the other “fresh meat” for practice, where we learned the rules of the game and team positions. The jammer skates around the track scoring points, the pivot makes on-track calls, and the blockers (that’s me!) try to slow down the jammer so she can’t score.
We learned everything from how to skate to falling and hitting safely. I quickly learned that derby attracts women of all backgrounds. Amongst the skaters in our league are an events planner, a pair of scientists, an animator, a dental hygienist and a property assessor; skaters range in age from 18 to 45, and many of them are mothers.
For someone who had been on roller skates once in her life, it was a steep learning curve, but a challenge I faced head-on. I arrived home from practice sore, exhausted, sweaty — and completely exhilarated.
“So this is roller derby,” I thought. “This is so much fun!”
At the heart of the league is a strong community engagement component, and we’ve paired up with the Breast Action Coalition-Sudbury (BAC-S) to heighten awareness about breast health. Our travelling team has been christened the “Tatas,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to our raison d’être that we hope will make people smile and get them talking about breast health in the community.
We’ve structured our league around fundraising initiatives designed to raise funds for BAC-S’s Dragonfly Fund, which assists women with breast cancer who are challenged financially. We’ve committed to donating 75 per cent of ticket sales to the fund so that we can help local women.
Six months after I first strapped on a pair of quad skates, I’m about to compete alongside my teammates in my second home bout. The Tatas will take on Timmins’ Gold Miners’ Daughters this Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Copper Cliff Curling Club, starting at 7 p.m.
To see how the season ends, come out and cheer on local skaters, while learning about the sport — you won’t be disappointed. This will be a great family event, with musical entertainment, vendors’ booths, food and beer and, of course, lots of roller derby action.
And, if this sounds like a great opportunity to get involved, we’re always looking for more people to join. Skaters, referees and volunteers are always needed.
I may not be headed to the Olympics any time soon, but I’m sure having a lot of fun.
Learn more about Greater Sudbury Roller Derby by visiting their Facebook page or www.greatersudburyrollerderby.com.
Lindsay Kelly (a.k.a. Spellcheck Her) is a reporter for Northern Ontario Business