By Emily Harrington
On Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings you won’t hear youthful giggles echoing throughout Skateland’s rink. However, you will hear whistles blowing, wheels screeching and the spine-tingling sound of helmets smacking into each other. Oh, and maybe the occasional expletive. But, that’s to be expected when your helmet is being driven into another helmeted head. Ouch.
These girls are tough—derby girls.
The Twin City Derby Girls (TCDG) were formed in early 2010 by a group of women who wanted to do something meaningful in the community. Quickly the league grew in scope and popularity, sprouting multiple teams.
Now—five years later and the league has reassessed and reorganized itself, rolling out three new teams for this upcoming season which opens on Sunday at home (see below for ticket information).
Veteran Ashley Lawrence, aka Sasha Smashmouth, explained that each of the three teams has distinctly different expectations yet all skate in green and black as a united front.
The Evil Twins are the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) charter team. The Evil Twins compete in tournaments and bouts for national rankings and (at the time of publishing) are internationally ranked #83 by the WFTDA.
The Dead Ringers are the “B” team to the Evil Twins and often travel with the Evil Twins on bout weekends throughout the Midwest to compete with similarly matched opponents. The third team is the Alter Egos, skaters who choose to compete locally against other leagues in the region like Bloomington, Decatur and Springfield.
As in most sports, the highest score wins. In roller derby, scores can be 75 to 100, or as high as 300 to 350. Each team fields a jammer, who skates fast around the track and avoids blockers, accumulating a point for each opposing jammer passed. Bouts are 60 minutes on the track (two 30-minute periods).
Historically, roller derby was seen as mostly kitschy with scantily-clad women roughing each other up for entertainment. There’s a bit of that here, too, with the new generation of derby girls. The witty names and outlandish accessories are still an amusing part of the sport. But, there’s an obvious sense of commitment and family in each of the players, too.
“The motto of WFTDA is Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary. I think that sums up the essence of this roller derby movement. Although our bouts are fun to watch, none of the action is scripted. What you see on the track is 100 percent real,” Lawrence said.
Athletic is right. The skaters train on wheels two to three times per week and cross-train the other days.
“When you come to a bout, you’ll see strong women competing against one another in a fast-paced, aggressive, highly-skilled game. In today’s version of roller derby, you’re more likely to see compression pants and shin guards rather than the short-shorts and fishnets of early roller derby,” Lawrence said.
Sound good? The league is all-inclusive. Moms—even dads—are welcome. You just have to have the passion and the commitment derby takes.
Crystal Hubbard Djordjevic, aka Duplicity, was a member of TCDG for three years and served as a member representative on its Board of Directors and as bout coordinator.
“The league is open to women from all walks of life. TCDG recently lowered the age requirement to 18 and the oldest skater is in her 50s. The membership runs the gamut of occupations and backgrounds: teachers, students, professors, stay-at-home moms, working moms, small business owners, professionals in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors,” said Hubbard Djordjevic.
She wears many helmets as a working mom and active participant in her son’s extracurricular activities.
“I love and admire the women in this league. I made so many friends, and for me, skating reminds me of childhood. I had fun and was doing something just for me when I laced up my skates to practice. Derby is liberating and empowering. I am proud to be an alum of TCDG and grateful for the skills, constant challenges and relationships fostered,” she said.
The passion these women have is clear. Once you are bitten by the “derby bug,” as Lawrence calls it, you are hooked.
“There are lots of ways to get involved and be part of something with the mission of fostering athleticism, empowerment and sportsmanship, while benefiting local nonprofit organizations through charitable donations and service,” Lawrence said.
If you are interested in lacing up skates for the 2015 season, or prefer a behind-the-scenes roll, the roller derby could use your help! Don’t be intimidated, they provide training and guidance along the way. Skater tryouts are scheduled for Sunday, February 22 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Skateland in Savoy. Get inspired by two derby girls, who are also Chambana Moms to Know, Kate Clancy and Tina Davis.
In the meantime take the family to a bout this winter—they promise fun for the entire family with games for kids during halftime. The first home bout is Sunday, Feb. 8, with action starting promptly at 6:30 p.m. at Skateland. Arrive early to get a great seat! Ticket prices are $8 for a single bout, or $24 for a pack of four. Kids age 8 and younger are free! Check out their full schedule at twincityderbygirls.com or on Facebook—“Like” them while you are there! If you have any questions, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.