By: SARAH SHAW
Scream Filled Cupcake, anyone?
To many, that might paint a picture of an interesting dessert with an even more interesting centre, but in reality, it’s just one of the names chosen by a member of the Tri-City Roller Girls (TCRG).
Jules Hall, who goes by that name on the track, is a member of the Total Knock-Outs, the newest team to join the city’s TCRG league.
“Roller derby is all over the world and is becoming increasingly popular,” said Hall.
The sport, which is played on a flat oval track such as a concrete arena floor, features two teams, each with five players on the track at a time. Made up of four blockers and one jammer and run by an assistant captain, a captain and sometimes off-skate coaches, the object of roller derby is for each team’s jammer to move past the opposing team’s blockers and score points. However, the blocker’s job is to try and keep the opposing jammer from getting a point.
One round or a “jam” lasts for a maximum of two minutes. And the game consists of two 30-minute halves. Just like every sport, players can be penalized and sent to the “Sin Bin” which acts like a penalty box. Infractions include illegal hits and false starts.
Skaters whip around the track on rollers skates, not rollerblades, that are four-wheeled.
The skaters make sure they register their out-of-the-box names to set themselves apart from other opponents.
“Derby girls take on a derby name that is unique. I am Scream Filled Cupcake on the track, not Jules Hall,” Hall said. “I, along with all of our other skaters, registered my name online so that each of us will have a unique name.”
The Tri-City Roller Girls, which has a minimum age requirement of 18, but no age cap, accepts new skaters once a season when prospective athletes start out by signing up for an information session to make sure they would like to join. A new season begins in mid-April and ends at the end of October.
In order to understand the true level of commitment the women make, one must look at the ways an interested party goes about becoming a member. Before even gaining membership to a team, new skaters who are considered “fresh meat” must pass a series of tests to show they have the minimum skills required to play on a team. After they complete the required evaluations, players can be drafted to a team or remain part of the draft pool.
Hall, who has been skating since her team was formed in May 2010, said it’s not easy at the start but it gets better over time and with practise.
“When I first started it took a while to get my physical fitness up to the level required. Roller derby is a sport and requires a lot of physical skills. Boot camp gives new skaters a chance to build those skills,” she said.
Of course, with a sport as physical as roller derby comes the risk of injuries. Players wear full protective gear including elbow pads, wrist guards, knee pads, mouth guards and helmets. But sometimes you have to take one for the team.
“The sport is a full-contact sport so there are sometimes injuries,” said Hall, adding, “we do have some impressive bruises to show off.”
The four teams of the TCRG (Vicious Dishes, Venus Fly Tramps, Total Knock-Outs and Tri-City Thunder) often practise up to five hours a week in Kitchener, Waterloo and New Hamburg and compete in one game a month during the season. They also practise in the off-season.
Home games are usually played in Waterloo or New Hamburg and are against teams from Montreal, Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton and the U.S. (just to name a few). The only team in the league that competes in away games is Tri-City Thunder.
The TCRG is a not-for-profit organization that is run entirely by skaters, which Hall calls a “personal commitment” because of the level of involvement required.
“Skaters are members of not only teams, but committees that help run the league itself. Derby is a great experience because you as a skater get to shape the future of your league.”
For information on ticket prices, the sport itself and upcoming games, fans can go to www.tricityrollergirls.com.
Although roller derby is a clear acknowledgement of the strength and athleticism of so many of the women, the core of each team runs much deeper.
“The other amazing thing about derby is the family it creates. You share your struggles and successes with other women who have the same passion you do,” Hall said. “I have made amazing friends at derby and my team is a family that supports me not just in my sport, but in my life. It changed my life to be part of something that amazing for the first time.”