Roller Derby

Ignoring the stereotypes that rough sports are only for boys, more and more girls today are taking up sports that have them in rough situations. One sport in particular, Roller Derby, is quickly rising again to popularity amongst the ladies.

The Sun City Roller Girls are a group of your average, everyday women: students, professionals, wives, and mothers in El Paso, Texas. Several times a week they swap in their heels or sneakers for a pair of roller skates and prepare to kick roller derby butt!

“There’s a certain something, a reputation, [that comes with participating in roller derby]. The sport is athletic, I wanted to work on getting some activity,” Veronica Villanueva said. A mother, student and volunteer, Villanueva adds three days of practice with the Sun City Roller Girls to her already loaded schedule.

According to wisegeek.com, roller derby made its debut in 1935 when two skaters raced for a certain amount time and distance while people paid to watch the race. However, today’s roller derby leagues which are mostly all-female, like the Sun City Roller Girls, did not become gain clout until 2001 in Austin, Texas. The Austin roller derby team was even the subject of the 2009 movie directed by Drew Barrymore and starring Ellen Page called, Whip It.

Roller derby matches, known as bouts, consist of two teams with five skaters on each team. Each team consists of one Pivot, three Blockers and one Jammer. Each round where all 10 participants skate in a pack for no more than 2 minutes is called a ‘jam.’ The Pivot’s job is to start the jam and control the pack’s speed. Blockers simultaneously work on two objectives: they block the opposing team’s Jammer, while assuring their own Jammer advances to the front of the pack. The Jammer is the point-earner of the pack. Jammers start at the tail of the pack and fight their way to the front where they start to accumulate points.

Bouts get aggressive to the point where skaters can injure themselves seriously if not careful. Villanueva said she is no stranger to feeling the pain of competition. “I’ve had bruises and scratches. Recently, I fell on my tailbone, and got a small fracture on it. Because of that, I could barely sit for a month.”

However, she added, neither the risk of injury, nor the way some people think Derby skaters are just doing it for attention, stop her from continuing to compete in bouts.

“You go into it knowing [an injury] is a possibility. But no matter, what you’re going to do it…Same thing with first impressions, some people are excited about this new, fresh thing… but others think we’re just trying to show off our bodies, but that’s not it,” Villanueva said.

Committed to her community work, Villanueva said the Sun City Roller Derby girls participate in service projects and would like to be seen “as a positive asset to the community.”

By Rosemarie Montez

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