Note from Di: I’ve known about derby girls for a long while, since I have multiple friends that participate in roller derby. Thanks to my friend from Me and My Red Stapler Against the World! I’ve been connected to a group of fabulous plus-size roller derby women who have graciously consented to interviews.
Meet Green Eggs and Wham
How did you get involved in roller derby? What position do you play?
I discovered roller derby about 4 years ago. I have been an ongoing fan of NY illustrator Molly Crabapple. At that time her Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art Schools were taking off. These are environments where “interesting” people pose for artists. Some of the people she brought in to pose were roller derby girls. I did some research and discovered roller derby. Even then I didn’t think it was for me, I didn’t know how to roller skate. It wasn’t until November 2008 that I saw my first DC Rollergirls bout, and purchased my first pair of skates.
Please talk about the hazards you face as part of engaging in sport.
The contact involved in roller derby is very similar to the contact involved in other sports such as rugby or football. There is chance of injury from falling and from giving and receiving blocks. However, we spend a lot of time conditioning and practicing to help minimize the physical hazards.
Can you describe training? What do you do during practice? How many hours a week?
During a standard week I will have at least 3 on skates practices. These practices usually last 2 hours and can include an additional skills practice practice that would be one hour in advance. We have three types of on skates practices skills, endurance and scrimmage. During a skills practice we break a part smaller parts of the game and enhance specific skills. Endurance involves lots of skating, and falling, basically anything to make you tired and push you beyond your limits. Scrimmage is what it sounds like. In addition to on skates practices we also have off skates training. I do crossfit, ride my bike, plyometrics and yoga to help strengthen my core and to work other muscle groups. So I guess in total I shoot for 10 hours a week dedicated to practicing or training.
What is the most physically challenging part of this sport for you?
The most “physically” challenging part is getting through mental boundaries. Its having your back, or knee or hip, or a blister or anything hurt and having to push through it. To go 5 steps faster. To push myself further.
Whip It: true to form, or highly exaggerated?
The rules are accurate-ish. The diversity among the skaters is sort of true to form. The punching and crap is highly exaggerated. That behavior and strategy would not be tolerated.
Do you put together your own costuming/uniform for your derby matches? What considerations do you have to make?
Our home teams purchase matching uniforms that we use for bouts. The only thing we really have to have on the back of our uniforms is our number and it has to be specific height. The rest is just a matter of taste and comfort. For example, I always skate with leggings, I like a good barrier between my legs and the floor, but other skaters like to skate bare legged.
How does your body type affect your play?
I am not a little girl. I am heavy set and muscular. My weight and mass can make for better blocks. It can also help me become more stable. But your ability to execute a block or to be a good skater has less to do with body type and more to do with speed, agility and control. There are women of all sizes who play this game with much success.
On a scale of 1 – 10 for physical challenge/exertion, 1 being low and 10 being high, how do you rate roller derby?
Between a 5 and a 9 depending on how your playing, who you are playing and the specific strategy being executed.
What do you think the world should know about your sport?
It is not just a sport, it becomes a life style. Roller derby is run by the skaters, so in addition to training many of us spend countless hours making sure the business side of roller derby is successful. Then there are meetings and fun events among the league and the teams. These women become an extended part of your family. And your ‘real’ family becomes integrated into it as well. It just becomes an all encompassing part of your life.