Published on May 23rd, 2012 | by DerbyLife0
Short Story: Roller Derby Girls
Reprinted with permission of The Hour.
By: Folsom Bruise
My stomach turns in knots as I glance around at the 700 people staring at us. I can hear the announcer amping the crowd up, encouraging them to get on their feet. The toe stop of my Riedell speed skates is placed strategically on the Pivot line, and my hips are as far back as I can push them. I look at the other team’s Pivot. She looks intimidating.
“I’m going to puke everywhere,” I whisper to my teammate, Kate Dickson, also known as “Rock Brawler #J33P”, who is standing behind me.
“You’ll be fine. Did you eat your Pop Tart?” she asks with a joking smile.
I nod in agreement and smile back. She knows that food always settles my stomach on scrimmage nights. This is my first jam ever as “Folsom Bruise” with the CT RollerGirls (CTRG) and I as look straight ahead my mind goes blank and then the whistle blows.
It couldn’t have been by accident that I found roller derby. I’m a good candidate for being a bit non-traditional because I’ve always been kind of different.
In high school I had blue hair. Instead of playing normal sports, I was off dirt biking with my dad. I didn’t register for classes at Norwalk Community College until I was 20 years old. So, it didn’t surprise anyone when I came home raving about roller derby, after my friend dragged me out to my first game, or in derby terms, my first bout in November of 2010.
It was supposed to just be a fun thing to do on a Saturday night, but immediately I was hooked. The atmosphere was alive with excitement as skaters buzzed around warming up, while we explored the different vendors. However, it wasn’t until they started skating that I really fell in love.
Women lined up on the flat surfaced gymnasium floor wearing short shorts, tights and some fancy looking jerseys. By the time the whistle blew, my eyes were fixated on the jammers, the skaters from each team that score the points. They raced around the track and when they reach the back of the other skaters, known as the pack, they began fighting their way through, scoring points along the way for each player on the opposite team they passed. It was fast, it was aggressive, but most of all, it looked like fun.
The following week I was at open skate with a pair or rentals and a fragment of knowledge on how to actually use roller skates. After a few weeks and obsessively YouTubing “how to skate” videos, I decided it was time for me to upgrade and get some real gear. I bought my first pair of Riedell R3s, a lower-end speed skate model, and some much needed kneepads and wrist guards. Within weeks, I was feeling pretty confident on my feet and two of my co-workers (one of them being Rock Brawler) had begun training with me. We started heading to Roller Magic Roller Rink in Waterbury twice a week to practice on our own at open skates.
Flash forward to July and official CTRG try-outs. We had been training for months for this and a few days later we got the call individually that we made it. That was just the beginning of a long process: a 12-practice probationary “rookie” period, our time to prove our dedication to skating and the league; a league vote in which we are judged by the whole league as to whether or not we should make it; a few months as “fresh meat,” which we learn the proper techniques of hitting and blocking, stopping and going; a multiple choice test, to prove we know the rules of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA); the WFTDA minimum skills test, to show that we can skate and stay on our feet, hold physical endurance and can be “cleared for contact;” and finally team try-outs.
Brawler and I had stuck together from beginning to the end. We found out in January we had both made the CT RollerGirls B-team, the Yankee Brutals, and would be playing in their season opener on March 31. My initial reaction was excitement and utter happiness. The second reaction was absolute fear; wait, we have to play in front of people?
Adding pressure to my rookie debut, this game was going to be the first ever intra-Connecticut women’s bout; a historical night for Connecticut derby. Every practice felt more intense than normal, every drill I would push myself further. When bout day finally came, I was a mess of emotions, but I couldn’t wait to get on the track.
Shoreline Roller Derby of Groton, Conn. immediately scored points in the first three jams; two minutes of playing in which the teams skate against each other and score points. But we started coming together as a team, and by halftime we were ahead on points. The second half of the bout was even more intense. Shoreline racked up points and then we scored some more.
The back and forth scoring had the entire crowd on its feet and screaming. I had a few good blocks here and there, but most of it was a huge blur. If nothing else about roller derby, or sports in general, the thing I learned to love the most is how in the moment everything happens. Twice I got off the track to have my coach grab and tell me how awesome a certain hit or block was, and I had no clue what he was talking about.
The final score ended up being incredibly close, but Shoreline took the lead 111 to 102. It hurt coming in second, but even with the loss, I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.
It had been over a year and half since my first roller derby experience and now I was a part of it.
I gave Rock Brawler a huge hug after the bout, because we had done it together, and said, “Dude, I didn’t puke!”
Laurie Lawless of Bethel, AKA ”Folsom Bruise”, is a 2010 graduate of Norwalk Commmunity College, where she majored in communication arts with a concentration in journalism. She spent part the summers of 2008 and 2009 as an intern working at The Hour. She resides in Danbury.
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