Friendly with the Floor: Inside Roller Derby
Falling and getting back up continuously, that’s what roller derby is all about. It’s also about athleticism, competition and pure grit.
“I love the sport, nothing makes more feel more fearless and more in control than being on skates and hitting people,” said a player named “Menace.”
On a recent cold night, the Alamo City Rollergirls were all geared up in skates, helmets and pads, ready to roll. The court was lit by three electrical lamps brought by the league and the mood was high energy. It’s off-season for the team, but that doesn’t mean time off. This month, the girls are focused on strength training drills to build endurance. This off-season is about rock climbers, bear crawls around the track, and derby technique.
Alamo City Rollergirls is the official roller derby league in San Antonio. Since launching in 2005, the league has progressed into a national ranking team. Members say endurance, power and perseverance are all necessary skills in order to participate.
Many of the women interviewed say they are affiliated with the military. Therefore, some team members are only in San Antonio for a short time. Recruitment nights are every two months, to try and gain more players.
This year, the league incorporated four home teams: The Mustang Sally’s, The Bradley Bombshells, Las Estrellas and Las Luchadoras. The four teams have home team bouts playing against each other, then have a championship. This year the Bradley Bombshells took home the win.
“The sport itself keeps you moving. It’s fun, it’s always changing. It’s pretty much like football on skates and you can hit people without going to jail,” Diana “Skullyvera” Schmeluer, said, laughing. “I think that’s what I love about it. Beside from it being a sport, for us it’s a hobby.”
“Skullyvera” has been with the league since 2006 and recounted how the league was founded by a couple of friends, Kat “Kitty Glitter” Feuerbackner and Cate “Nita Spankin” Compton.
“I feel like we as adults try to stay away from the floor, you don’t want to be on the floor,” player April “Purple Reyna” Esquivel explained. “How many of us just go and sit down on the floor, we go to a chair, we go to a sofa.
I think as adults after we get to a certain age out of childhood, we try to be up because it just helps us as a species. We want to be up, so it’s kinda weird to be very friendly with the floor, especially if you are an adult already.”
Derby consists of five-versus-five on the track at a time, one “jammer” and four “blockers.” The goal of the game is to get your jammer past the other opponents team, while the opposing team attempts to block her. There’s approximately 14 girls on the bench. Team member rotation throughout the match prevents exhaustion.
“It is a very physical game. I know there is a lot of girls that like to do the tutus and the fish nets and all that, and that is great,” said “Purple Reyna.” “It is a lot of fun and the fans love that, but at the same time they are out there taking hard hits, being hit, and it takes a lot out of you endurance and strength wise,” she added.
“Purple Reyna” helps the league track statistics, scores, penalties, lineup and other important data to keep players safe and in order. There is on skate referees who make the calls and follow the action on the track.
Let’s say you’re ready to hit the track but don’t know if you’re qualified. The ACRG league offers many teams:
Asphalt Assault is the fresh meat program for girls who have never done derby, can skate and are ready to learn the basic requirements that Women’s Flat Track Derby Association sets up for all leagues.
“In order to scrimmage safely in bouts and compete, you have to pass your minimal skills requirements, which is the physical test to pass backwards skating, jumping cones things like that, there is also time drills you have to pass and then there is a written rules test,” Purple Reyna said.
The Las Tejanas compete in tournaments to qualify for national rankings in the WFTDA standing around 170/180 out of 360 teams. They are the all star team that travels around the globe to compete.
Derby, meaning race or multiple race, has evolved into an international phenomenon.
“Derby is everywhere, Germany, London, Australia, South Africa,” Purple Reyna said. “It’s like an explosion, this past year and half, it really is worldwide.”
The trophy everyone bouts for is called “The Hydra.”
The nicknames come from your personality, interest and hobbies. The girls call each other these names first before their real names. The coach is ‘Germanator,’ hence, from Germany. Other team member derby names are Atonement Fireball, Jugs Judy, and DiaRita.
“We will be here for you but the floor will be there for you every time, it will catch you everytime, but you gotta get back up,” “Purple Reyna” explains.