Roller Derby Girls
The next Roller Derby star could be the girl next door. The Tornado Alley Rollergirls revived the sport in April 2006, the first Oklahoma team in thirty years. The Oklahoma City umbrella league has four teams practicing and their first exhibition bout is scheduled for January 7, 2007.
The four teams practice in a warehouse donated by Gardener Tanenbaum Group, one of their sponsors. Players are required to practice at least twice a week, once with their own team and once with the whole league. Practices are not open to the public.
Brooke Burleson, or “Sally Strych 9,” a hairstylist with Guinns Salon, doesn’t look the part. A ‘girlie girl’ she skates three times a week, three hours at a time. “It’s great exercise,” she said. “I hadn’t skated since I was thirteen years old, so I had to totally relearn. It was very, very hard at first.”
Reagan Kloiber, or “Suzy Heartbreaker,” started the idea along with eight skaters. They got together in April, 2006. Now almost forty women practice. Normally, only one league per state is allowed, but permission for leagues was granted to Tulsa and Oklahoma City because of the distance. Begun about the same time, Tulsa has one team on their league.
“We have strong leadership, we’re strong willed and we all feel comfortable skating,” said Amanda Lipscomb, aka “Jane’s Affliction,” the league manager and one of the original members.
“Most of the girls work. And most are mothers and professionals,” said Lipscomb. “I work at Tinker and have three children ages 13, 14 and 17. My husband is head of league security and my youngest son is my teams’ water boy.”
Players must be at least 21 years old. “We have skaters up to 40, but the average age is the late 20’s to early 30’s. Some girls get involved because they need exercise. A few used to skateboard.”
“We have gone back to the 1930’s and 40’s version where the sport originated. Before fights were staged,” said Lipscomb. “We skate flat-track, which may be harder than banked-track.” Eventually, the league plans to form a travel team from the ‘best of the best’ in Oklahoma City, to go across country to play other women’s teams.
A full contact sport, Rollerderby skaters are insured as an extreme sport by the same group who insure the Olympics. They are part of the National WFTDA or Women’s Flat Track Derby Association as a rookie league. An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is at all league practices.
A game is played in sets of 14-minute periods which usually consists of seven or eight jams per period, depending on whether or not the jam goes all two minutes or is called off early by the “lead” jammer. Positions include blockers, lead blockers, pivots and jammers. After clearing the pack the first time, jammers score points by legally passing their opponents. See www.wftda.com for the rules.
Injuries do happen. Burleson recently spent a night in ER with a jaw out of alignment. Most injuries are tailbone, knee and broken knuckles. Lipscomb has been hurt, but afraid to be left out of the scrimmage, she waited on seeing the doctor. “I had to put up a good front. Sometimes I come across as uptight and abrasive, however, I’m more like the league mom.”
More players are needed so they are still recruiting. “After two to three practices, we can tell if a player is really interested. You can’t be a roller girl without being committed. It’s a structured way to get rid of your aggression, but we realize it’s only a game. It’s a way to get away from reality. A real outlet. Some women jog or lift weights. We roller derby,” said Burleson. “It’s an alternative to bunko. Everybody needs some time away. We play to our alter egos. Let the wild side out.”
Volunteers are also needed. Referees, setup, security, EMT’s, towel girls/boys. “If you’re interested, we can use your help,” said Lipscomb. “We want to be taken seriously. We give 110 percent every week, so we deserve respect. Hey, we wear less padding than football players and it’s a tough sport.” Outside of skating, the Roller Derby girls do charity work such as hosting events like Toys for Tots or filling boxes at Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
The Roller Derby season starts in March. Their Exhibition Bout in January will be at Rockin’ Roller Rink on N. Lincoln in Edmond. For more information see Tornadoalleyrollergirls.org.
Tickets cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Kids 12 and under are free. Doors open at 6:00 and the bout begins at 7:00. Tickets can be purchased at www.okclive.com or at Book Beat & Co, Size Records, Beni Salon or at Rockin’ Roller Rink.