The words, “Bridge! Bridge! Bridge!” rang in their ears as the bout began. They immediately got into formation and braced themselves.
The opposing jammer tried to sneak through the pack of girls who were dead set on keeping her out. Elbows flew, girls were shoved and penalties were called.
The smell of burned rubber stung their noses as the whistle blew to stop the jam.
The Roller Girls of the Apocalypse roller derby team, originally the K-Town Derby Girls, is a non-profit sports club for anyone looking for a little recreation.
“There are five skaters on the track from each team — four blockers and one jammer,” said Michelle Richart. “The jammer is the one with a star on her helmet.”
Once the whistle blows, the jammers try to make their way through the blockers without receiving a penalty. The first one through is declared the lead jammer.
“On each pass through the pack, the jammer scores points for each blocker from the opposing team she passes,” said Tamsyn Medina, one of the founders of the original team. “A jam lasts two minutes unless called off by the lead jammer. A bout consists of two 30 minute halves.”
But it can get loud with all the yelling. That’s how the team communicates.
“Communication is crucial in roller derby,” Richart said. “Everything happens extremely fast and each skater has to be able to communicate with their teammates. Everyone needs to be able to rely and depend on each other.”
Roller derby is open for everyone. Volunteering opportunities are also available.
“It’s great being on the team, it is a great way to get the stress out,” said Airman 1st Class Sharon Kahl, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator.
Not only is it a great stress reliever, roller derby has also been growing in popularity in Europe and the U.S., and it’s exciting to get involved, Richart said.
“Getting into roller derby in Europe in these early stages allows an immense opportunity to influence the direction of the sport,” Richart said. “We have skaters from the United States, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and France.”
The Roller Girls of the Apocalypse play teams from all over Europe including Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and France. Anyone over 18 can participate in the league as long as they are in the local commuting area.
Getting started can be expensive, as all the gear needs to be purchased, plus there is a monthly fee of €20.
In order to skate, members need quad-speed skates, a helmet, mouth guard, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.
“Roller derby is a bigger commitment than most realize,” Richart said. “Our ‘fresh meat,’ rookie skaters, must go through the rookie training sessions prior to actually joining the team.”
Roller derby is a complicated sport, Kahl said. Having the “fresh meat” sessions really helped. They break the sport down and make it more understandable.
“Being on the roller derby team helps with stress relief but most of all it helps with my physical training,” Kahl said.
Practice for the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse is two hours a day, three times a week.
“I have had the chance to meet other people in the Air Force who are on the team. It creates a sense of camaraderie and it’s a great way to network,” Kahl said.
Not only is roller derby a great way to get any aggression out, but it’s a great way to meet new people, Richart said. Skaters come from all backgrounds and walks of life and some of my best friends are fellow skaters.
“Whether I feel happy, sad, overwhelmed or tired,” Richart said. “I always leave derby practice feeling better than when I arrived.”
The next “fresh meat” rookie training program is scheduled to begin March 2 for inexperienced skaters and lasts three months.
For more information on training programs or bouts, visit the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse at www.rgaderby.org.
For those interested in playing, officiating or volunteering, email email@example.com.