On August 25, the Middle Georgia Derby Demons held open practice at the Bibb Skate Arena. The roller derby team is preparing for an official bout (a roller derby competition) on November 10th.
Roller derby is played on a track with two opposing teams of five players in a jam, which is two minutes of play. A team consists of one pivot, who acts as a captain, three blockers, and a jammer.
The two opposing teams travel as a pack around the track and vie for control so that their own jammer may get through the pack. Once a jammer gets ahead of the opposing jammer and laps the pack, they score three points for each successive lap of the pack.
The Derby Demons hold three-hour practices every Saturday and Tuesday. The first hour is open to beginners and focuses on general derby techniques, such as proper stance, agility and dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching is reminiscent of yoga on skates. Other agility practices include hard stops, direction reversal, jumps, and falling practice.
The women practiced falling on one knee, two knees, backward (called the rock star) and all fours (called the porn star). Being able to recover quickly from falls is essential for pack cohesion and prevents penalties.
Roller derby is a full contact sport and injuries are inevitable. In the past, the Derby Demons have broken two ankles and a collarbone. The Demons’ motto reflects their injuries: “We bruise Black and Pink.”
The vice president of the Derby Demons gave her derby name, Nellie Shovit, in lieu of her real name. She instructed other team members to do the same. However, women without a derby name – not members of the team- were under no restriction.
New players must pass a bout assessment before they may join the team and earn a derby name. Earning a derby name is a badge of honor for new members of the team and is similar to lettering in a varsity team.
“I started back in March, and I couldn’t even stand on my skates,” said Katheryn Thompson.
Thompson, a Mercer law student, has been attending the open practices for several months and aspires to join the Middle Georgia Derby Demons. Her plans were delayed after breaking her wrist during practice in the Spring.
“We’re flying at each other on wheels,” said Shovit. “We teach every precaution that we possibly can.”
The last two hours of practice are reserved for team strategy and scrimmaging for the official team members.
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) is the governing body of women’s roller derby in the United States. The Middle Georgia Derby Demons is not a certified league of WFTDA but follows their rules and guidelines. The Derby Demons hope to become a full-fledged league by next season, which starts in February.
The Middle Georgia Derby Demons started in April 2011 as a group of women who were simply interested in forming a roller derby team.
“We’re basically a bunch of women who got together, formed a small business and hit each other,” said Shovit.
Most derby names are plays on words. Examples from the team include: Stephoenix, the president and coach, Painsley, Kim chi, Smash Monkey, Idle Vice, Pelvis Breastly and Ctrl Alt Defeat.
“We’re a bunch of misfits,” said Vice.
All players on the team are amateurs and provide their own equipment. Also, the referees are all volunteers. The Derby Demons are actively recruiting members and referees.
“It is a very big time commitment and can be very expensive,” said Monkey. Quad skates can cost anywhere from $100 to $600, depending on the material.
“I love skating; I love the aggression; this is a group of very strong women,” said Shovit.
Mike Skelly, the owner of the Bibb Skate Arena, has been hosting the Middle Georgia Derby Demons since last October. He stocks all their equipment and sells it to the women at cost or at a reduced price.
“I’ve always been open to try something new,” said Skelly. “I’m not making any money off of this, but they enjoy it.”
“[Mike] loves skating for skating,” said Stephoenix.
Roller derby is tough, participants are tougher