Published on September 19th, 2013 | by Andy Frye0
Malice Reynolds, Photo: Andy Frye
Booty Camping in the City of Subdued Excitement
By Andy Frye, aka LeBron Shames, Chicago Bruise Brothers
Chasing the western-bound sun at thirty-five thousand feet is easier with a beer in your hand. Especially when you’re sore.
Just last summer, I had taken up men’s roller derby or merby as they call it, counting my aches from the undertaking. Last night’s drills felt today restated –as a lover of and now player of the sport—what I was in for.
After practice I hopped a flight for a last chance for summer vacation en route to the Pacific Northwest. I enjoyed my cheap domestic on the plane with the sear of derby pain, wondering how the women I know do this four times a week and then bout on the weekend.
Alongside a night in University Village, a soccer stop downtown for a Sounders game, and several breaks in Ballard for beers at the King’s Hardware, I left Seattle bound for Bellingham, Washington to hang with my longtime friend.
Dugg, a fellow writer, had never seen roller derby anywhere. But he had introduced me to the Bellingham Roller Betties, a local derby club from B’ham, or “The City of Subdued Excitement” as it is known. Luckily I arrived on a special weekend; one that marked the start of Booty Camp.
Booty Camp, as the Betties have branded it, is a two month long program run by the league to teach aspiring derby women the fundamentals. The camp, which starts mid-August, and runs every Sunday, is also the program in which the Betties recruit and develop the league’s future talent. Such clinics look to be a growing trend among smaller derby leagues that may not yet have the reach or the brand visibility of clubs in larger cities like Chicago, Denver or New York.
“You see people improve so fast. It refreshes the vets and inspires us to improve our game,” said IsaHella Vicious!, a third-year skater and member of the Betties. “Some have skated before or done other team sports.”
Specifically, Vicious explains that Booty Camp is really a two-month try-out session, rather than a recreational clinic. “It is a clinic of sorts,” she said, “but it’s not exactly for just anyone to come work on skating. It’s definitely intended for those trying to make the league.”
The first week of Booty Camp doesn’t require new participants to have gear. Skates-only is fine, and they can rent skates if they need. After an orientation about derby, booty campers start out by working on locomotion and elementary skating. Thereafter, by Week 2, participants must arrive with full gear –skates, a helmet, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and a mouth guard—if they plan to continue.
“There will be falling and they’ll learn to fall and get up,” said Chaos Fury, who runs Booty Camp. “We work on basic footwork, staying low, to get comfortable leaning forward, and build an athletic stance.”
Booty Camp also teaches skaters about the flow and pace of the game and the positions in roller derby. But Booty Campers won’t really do jamming, blocking and day-in/day-out drills done in regular practice. New players will however make basic contact once they master forward skating, stopping, and skating backwards.
“We do meet and greet beforehand,” said Chaos, “not only to get to know them but to talk to them about what it’s like to be in the league. So, those who show up get an idea of what they’re in for, with time to rearrange their lives.”
The idea of running a camp came from the Betties’ own training committee at a time when the club wanted to grow. Trainers say it’s typical to lose at least 10 to 15 per cent before camp concludes, but that the overall result is much better than the previous tryout scenario.
“Before we did the 8-week Booty Camp, we used to do a one or two day workout. We’d get 40 people to show up and invite some into the league only and find that others wouldn’t tryout,” Chaos said. “We’d hear from a lot of people who said they didn’t know practice would be two nights a week and we’d lose over 50 per cent.”
Those who can hack it develop derby-grade skills and fall in love with the lifestyle along the way. By the last week of the camp, skaters comprehend the brass tacks of a bout and are adept for the next step. Also as Choas puts it, “We get to see who’s improved and get a look at their mental toughness.”
During the Betties’ regular season bouts are played at the sports venue at Whatcom Community College. As with many leagues nationwide, Chaos said there they get lots of inquiries about joining roller derby.
“We get asked about tryouts and tell women to keep their eyes out for the Booty Camp,” she said. “We think it’s the best way to get potential players involved, and we pump it up to get people excited about the game.”