Derby Chix into roll playing
KINGMAN - Its participants call it "Derby Love" - the feeling of camaraderie and sisterhood that comes with strapping on a pair of roller skates and taking to the track in the increasingly popular contact sport of roller derby.
For 40-year-old Angela Torres, the sport allows her to revisit a sport popular in her youth. For 31-year-old Holly Ackerman, it's a chance to get active, meet new people and have fun. And for 35-year-old Dawni Rotten, it's the opportunity to adopt a superhero personality of sorts.
"It's a big release for women. It's anger management," she said.
Roller derby has experienced an explosive revival in the last decade, with women forming grass-roots teams and competitive leagues sprouting up across the country. The Route 66 Derby Chix league was formed in July and includes two teams - the creatively monikered Belladonna Bruisers of Kingman and the Head Hunter Harlots of Bullhead City. The players adopt similarly novelty-styled aliases - Molly Merkam or Necrolove, for example - meant to reflect their skating alter ego.
In addition to helmets and other protective gear, their "uniforms" consist of everything from fishnet stockings, colorful tights and other rockabilly-type fashions, with players on quad skates versus roller blades or inline skates.
About the only requirements of the sport are that players must be 18 or older, have their own personal health insurance and a strong commitment to the team. Kingman's squad is made up of more than two dozen women who have been practicing two to three times a week for the last several months in preparation of their first bout.
In simplified terms, bouts consist of two teams on either a flat or banked circuit track with players from each side vying to score points by getting their "jammer" past the other team's blockers. A 45-page rule book is full of other nuances that lay out how the 2-minute "jam" is played. Each bout lasts about 30 minutes and is packed with an intensity and showmanship that draws large crowds.
"People don't go to roller derby to watch girls skate nicely around a track," Ackerman said.
The health insurance requirement becomes obvious during the first 30 seconds of a bout. With women skating so close to each other in a pack at high speeds, falls and injuries aren't uncommon. Belladonna Bruiser Roxy Natoli, 22, was off her skates for a few weeks nursing a cracked elbow. Another player in Bullhead City is recovering from a broken tailbone.
Most players, however, say that the game is safe and that serious injuries are uncommon and can be prevented with some common sense and proper protective gear.
With no skating facilities in Kingman or nearby, the girls have been forced to practice wherever they can, such as the Walleck Ranch Park basketball court or a warehouse-type facility in Bullhead City. They're hoping to get the community behind the idea of bringing a skating rink back to Kingman, which would not only give the Derby Chix a permanent home, but would allow for a junior derby league and recreational skating for the general public.
They envision a facility that would become a community center of sorts, with concessions, arcade games and, of course, a roller track.
"There is no generation gap when it comes to skating," Torres said.
The girls are also active in the community, lending their playful personalities to such events as the Halloween Bash and the Pink Heals cancer awareness event.
Anyone interested in learning more about the league can log onto their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Route66DerbyChix, e-mail them at KingmanRollerDerby@yahoo.com or check them out in person during their practices, which start at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays on the Walleck Ranch Park basketball courts. The team is also looking for those interested in refereeing the bouts.