Okay, okay, okay. Admit it. You read “roller derby” and your mind went, “Tough hot chicks in ripped stuff swirling around I don’t know what’s happening and they’re on skates and they will kill each other while I drink beer and watch.”
Fine. I’ll admit it.
Roller derby women are hot shit. They’re strong. They make skating look easy. They have cool names. And I didn’t even realize I completely overlooked their athletic prowess until I took the opportunity to meet with a few players of the Providence Roller Derby.
Unbeknownst to me, I was a biased asshole, who now reformed, reports to you that, yes, you too, can evolve when you learn more about this SPORT and the REAL WOMEN (and men) involved.
“The level of athleticism has really escalated,” shares Cindy Lou Screw, who’s been part of Providence Roller Derby for eight years. “The amount of effort it takes to skate fast and knock someone over is really hard. I’ve fallen in love with the way everyone is passionate about athletics. It’s playing a sport. [Roller Derby is] not a hobby. “
Cindy Lou Screw’s fellow members nod as we sit at a bar sipping beer and snacking after one of their evening practices. There’s the first years, Goldie Glocks and Dita Von Muerta, and the veterans Cindy Lou Screw, Varla Gunz, and Citizen Toxie.
Each one of them shared their reasons for joining Providence Roller Derby and for staying in the league. I gotta say, I was impressed and also disappointed there’s only so many words allowed for an article.
These ladies on wheels really are athletes; for example, take Gunz, who does a little Crossfit when she’s not on wheels. “Craisy Dukes says, you need to think of yourself as an athlete in order to succeed and take care of yourself like an athlete,” notes Citizen Toxie,.“We really do.”
To even make it to the first year level like Glock and Muerta you have to pass nearly a full year of trials and training. That’s up to four practices a week. This isn’t meant to scare you, reader or fan who’s interested in trying out, but it does separate the merely interested from the true member.
“We accept from every level,” emphasizes Toxie, who happens to be the Providence Roller Derby league president.
The Providence league has five teams broken down between the competitive travel teams — The RI Riveters (A travel team) and Killah Bees (B travel team) — and the home-city teams: Mob Squad, Old Money Honeys and the Sakonnet River Roller Rats.
Right now it’s travel season until July. Travel season is more competitive as it means rankings and a chance at the WFTDA Championship title.
Okay, so I’ve established we’re talking athletes here, not just a bunch of dolled up actors pretending to hurt each other in skates.
Want to hear something else? Each of these players are real people. Shocker. But it’s true. I sat next to them and they are sort of like everyone else. By sort of, I mean I still wouldn’t pick a fight with these ladies, but otherwise, I was sitting next to art directors, a veterinary technician, a professor, and a start-up office manager.
These athletes on skates hold down careers and manage to play a demanding sport.
The references to a roller derby widow are real. They all laugh and agree that the sport can definitely take up a lot of personal time. But it’s really about community.
“Know the dedication it takes,” says Glock. “We take on two to three jobs within the roller derby league to make it all happen.”
Toxie and the ladies also emphasized how the league does more than just develop athleticism; it offers ample opportunities for professional development, too. Each member wears many hats because of the leagues’ non-profit status (insert shameless plug here about donating to a local nonprofit such as the Providence Roller Derby).
Alright, alright, these are real women and real athletes … but you still want me to convince you that Roller Derby isn’t all show. Fine, WWF fan, I’ll tell you.
Yes, there’s a level of showmanship – the names, the cool outfits, the outspoken players hustling around the track. But that’s part of the appeal. We let ourselves watch millionaires in spandex run, walk and skate on TV with flashing lights and shiny helmets, yet we call them athletes. In other words, Providence Roller Derby is more than fluff, it’s freakin’ substance. Real women, real athletes, real pain.
So. Don’t be an asshole.
Do go to the next bout. Do cheer for a real-live Providence team. And hey, there’s beer, too. We actually don’t have that many home-city teams. Think about it.
Check out the first bout in July – and the entire season by going to the Providence Roller Derby website: providencerollerderby.com.