In the realm of athletics, teams can seem like families. The sport of roller derby is no exception.
I’ve skated with the Inland Empire Derby Divas, a local women’s flat track roller derby team, for almost a year. Now I can’t imagine my life without skating and this second family in it.
I found out about roller derby for the first time when I saw the film “Whip it.” While I knew there was acting involved, I found the physical and mental toughness of the on-screen women inspiring. However, more than anything else, roller derby looked incredibly fun.
I remember going to check out one of IEDD’s practices, and what I witnessed was far better than the film because it was completely and totally real.
The premise of the game is simple, but victory isn’t. Players wear quad skates and compete in a strategic game to score the most points. Two teams each consist of four “blockers” that make up the “pack.” Each team has one “jammer,” who scores a point for each blocker she passes on the opposing team as she laps the track.
“As a jammer you have to go as fast as you can. You’re moving the whole time, so you definitely run out of breath a lot quicker than a blocker would. You’re trying to get past the players [in the pack],” Chantal “Evil Chantievel” Shamma said.
Our vice president Heather “Morrigan McTerror” Douglas joined the league just months after it was established in 2006.
“I always loved roller skating as a kid and the idea of getting knocked down was nothing new to me since I spent all my free time at punk rock shows as a teenager,” Douglas said.
In roller derby, it’s understood that every player has two names—the preexisting name off the track and one as a skater.
“On the track it’s all business. I don’t think about anything but getting through the pack any way I can (legally, of course). If I take you out it’s nothing personal, you were just in my way. On the track I am confident and focused. Off the track I am much more of a passive, friendly person,” Douglas said.
“Heather is a wife and a mom, the only thing Morrigan [McTerror] and Heather [Douglas] have in common is being Irish,” Douglas said.
Another teammate, Misty “OOPsee BOOPsee” Webber is also a wife and mom.
“Misty is more aggressive than OOPsee BOOPsee—I know it should be the opposite, [I’m] not sure how that happened. Off the track I am usually the loudest person, super sarcastic and the ‘go-to person’—especially at work. On the track I am not the loudest … I am more of an observer,” Webber said.
Like other sports roller derby attracts players from all over the place, nationally and internationally. According to iederbydivas.com, skaters may come from varying careers and educational backgrounds, ages range anywhere from 19 to 49 years and vary in body type and skating level. What connects us is our passion for roller derby.
This couldn’t be more true.
“I’m a single mom of a sweet 9-year-old boy, Zach, who has Juvenile Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome, so my world revolves around him, his therapy, school and just trying to make his life a little easier,” Sara “Cherries Juke-A-Lee” Chappell said.
Chappell is also a cancer survivor. After being diagnosed with Uterine Leiomyosarcoma in 2006, she was given a 30 percent survival rate at five years.
“Just putting on my skates and taking a couple strides takes away so much stress and truly clears my head. Some people say ‘roller derby saved my soul.’ For me derby has saved my sanity,” Chappell said.
My team is full of strong, confident women who’re beautiful inside and out. I admire this about my teammates because they refuse to conform to a society that tells us we are anything but beautiful.
Roller derby is not only a women’s sport. There are men’s, co-ed and juniors leagues out there as well. Dedicated men coach, referee and volunteer in important roles in our league.
“I tend to have a different style of coaching. I tend to run with the presence of respect. If I respect the women then they will in turn respect me and with that I feel I have a give and take relationship with all of my players (refs included),” James “Coach Richard Johnson” Blacksher said.
On March 24, we won our season opener in Tucson, AZ against the Tuscon Roller Derby Bandoleras.
“Tucson was a huge victory for us. Yes, the IEDD is a topic of discussion among the So-Cal derby community because of it. That allows me to stand with my head held high and be very proud of the amazing group of women that I have on my side,” Blacksher said.
Blacksher continues, “This season I would like to focus on more smart playing. I would love for all of my girls to be able to play three bouts in a row and not be all beat up. It is very possible to mix the physical and mental aspects of the game together and still make it very exciting for the fans.”
We will be playing our first intraleague home bout at Cal Skate in Grand Terrace on April 29.