Points for her team.
The scene is a late-night scrimmage at Fun Wheels Skating Center on Calhoun Highway in Rome.
The women in shorts, tights, tees, tanks and lots of pads, are the Rome Rollergirls.
The local league has only the one team so it competes against teams from all over the Southeast.
The Rome Rollergirls team is made up of more than a dozen women who get together several times a week to work on their skills and maneuvers.
They’re outfitted in the customary roller derby gear — elbow pads, wrist guards, kneepads and helmets. And when you see them on the track, it’s easy to understand the need.
In addition to the clashing hips, shoulders and elbows, falls are inevitable. And it seems that when one woman goes down, usually at least one more takes a spill too.
At the scrimmage these gals are less aggressive with women who are their friends and teammates than they are against opponents admits one player, Kristin Davis.
“You really don’t want to hit someone hard you know and like,” she said.
But that physical contact and the escape from daily life is also the lure, says Vanessa Hodge, team president and inter-league coordinator.
“The appeal overall definitely seems to be the alter ego you are able to create and the confidence that gives you. You can get on that track and be someone completely different than who you normally are. Most of us are not normally tough, violent women. I’ve never been in a fight in my life and am usually regarded as something of a wimp. So derby offers us the chance to be that tough woman — you can hit people and it’s all right. It is a great stress reliever and it gets you into great shape. I’ve lost 25 pounds.”
SPORT AND ENTERTAINMENT
While roller derby has existed in some form for more than a century, it didn’t become a contact sport until the 1960s and 1970s when showmanship and entertainment became part of the motif and allure.
Remember 1972’s “Kansas City Bomber” starring Raquel Welch with lots of action and cleavage?
The sport faded away in the latter part of the 20th century, but in the last decade it has seen a rebirth.
In 2001, the United States-born sport was home to a single flat track roller derby league. As of 2010, there were more than 470.
And 2009’s movie “Whip It” starring Ellen Page paints a truer and more current picture of the colorful world of women’s roller derby.
While still entertaining and complete with derby monikers for players — Amber Graves of Slain, Genie in a Battle, Charlie’s Mangle and Drag’N Tame-Her are of a few of the Rollergirls’ derby names — rest assured it is a sport that requires endurance, skating prowess and strategy.
The local league aligns itself with the rules and standards set forth by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
The basic premise of the competition is this: Each team has five skaters on the floor at a time. Each team has a designated scoring player called the jammer. The packs starts rolling around the track and the two opposing jammers start in the back. Their goal is to lap members of the opposing team. They get a point for each opposing member they pass if they are the first jammer to get through the group.
Since both jammers are doing this simultaneously, it means the skaters are all on the offensive and defensive at the same time. They’re trying to create openings and help their jammer pass the group while trying to block the other team’s members and keep the opposing jammer from passing.
Their competitions are called bouts and consist of two 30-minute halves made up of a series of jams that can last up to two minutes each.
Derby’s more outlandish rep from decades past does color modern perceptions, say local skaters.
Hodge says the most common misconception is that there are a lot fights in roller derby.
“When the sport was very popular decades ago, it got to the point where the action was staged, such as wrestling is on television. This involved a lot of fistfights and throwing elbows,” she said. “Roller derby is actually played by a strict set of rules as outlined by WFTDA, roller derby’s governing body. Elbows are not allowed and fighting is definitely prohibited. All hits must be legally made with the shoulder, hip, or a combination of the two on the front half of the opposing team’s body anywhere from the shoulders down to the knees.”
GETTING BATTLE READY
The recent scrimmage — in preparation for Saturday’s coming bout against the Classic City Bad News B’s — had half the team in white jerseys and the others in black.
As they skate, the players talk to each other.
“Black jammer outside. Watch her!”
That’s when the jammer cut through the group to score.
Coach Saul Limon whistles to stop the jam.
“She came across and you let her get by you,” he said to a player. “You’ve got to think fast, ladies.”
He reminds them to talk to each other about where the jammers are. “You’ve got to be listening and you have got to call to each other.”
Adds a player, “Yell at them like they’re your kids so you can be heard,” as her fellow players laugh and nod in understanding.
You see, most these competitors are moms. They probably have a dozen kids among them, says team member Davis. At most practices, children and dads are rink side as the roller derby moms train.
They all work too. Their day jobs range from health care to government work to retail.
Roller derby is just for fun and sport, not for pay.
What they get is camaraderie, exercise as well as some bumps and bruises.
But Davis says the gear is there to protect arms and legs and fingers that look to be in harm’s way as the pack pushes and shoves and sometimes falls amid a mass of churning skates.
And skaters do sometimes get hurt.
“Injuries are very common. It seems that a lot of girls experience a knee injury at some point. I’ve seen several instances where a knee pad slipped down slightly, exposing the knee as a girl was falling. The result of this usually varies in severity,” said Hodge. “I’ve also run into quite a few people who have had injuries similar to mine. I completely dislocated my ankle and broke my fibula. I had to have surgery to insert a metal plate over my fibula containing six screws, two rod screws on the side of my ankle, and one rod screw in the front.”
And there are more minor concerns.
“We wear fun, festive stockings and socks to protect our legs from getting what we call ‘rink rash,’ ” said Davis.
But what’s on their minds now is Saturday’s bout.
The team will don their purple shorts and black jerseys for this weekend’s competition.
“I would like to encourage everyone to come out and support us at our remaining home bouts this season: Aug. 13, Oct. 15 and Nov. 12,” said Hodge.
She adds, “We are also always looking to expand our league with the addition of new skaters, refs and volunteers. So, if anyone is interested, please contact us on Facebook or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Game time Saturday is 8 p.m. at the Fun Wheels Skating Center, 2606 Calhoun Road. Admission is $10 each and kids under 5 are admitted free. Doors open at 7 p.m.