New roller derby league looks to add ‘fresh meat’
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Roller Derby has come to the south side.
The Southside Jammers Roller Derby League currently practices in Fayetteville and is looking for “fresh meat.” That is, new members.
A “fresh meat” class starts Sunday, and anyone interested in the sport is welcome to come and watch – or come out and skate, as long as you have the correct gear.
The basic skills class begins at 3 p.m. Sunday and will be held at the Kedron Hockey Rink in Peachtree City.
Gear includes low top “quad” skates (not inline skates) helmets, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards and a mouth guard. No experience is necessary.
If you’re not ready to get started Sunday, that’s OK. New skaters will be accepted for probably the first six weeks or so of the course, said Lillian “Rock-a-Lilly” Winfrey of Palmetto, who, along with her husband, Mike, founded the league last summer.
Flat track roller derby is nothing like the televised matches some may remember from the 1980s. “It was all scripted fights between everybody,” Winfrey said. “It’s not like that anymore. It’s more sports related.”
During a roller derby “bout,” each team puts five skaters on the track – one jammer and four blockers. The goal is for the jammers to get through the blockers in order to score points. Blockers try their best to stop the jammers – but only by legal methods. That means no elbows and no tripping, among other things. Blockers who commit violations will be put in the penalty box.
Right now, there are about 14 dedicated members of the Southside Jammers, and all are still learning. Their first goal is to pass a roller derby basic skills test. Only then can they begin contact drills.
Winfrey said new skaters will probably be tested around November.
In addition to team members, the Southside Jammers also need skating referees and “non skating officials,” better known as NSOs.
Once you start actively skating, the league has monthly dues of $40, and all skaters are required to purchase insurance from the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which costs $65 a year.
Winfrey heard about the Atlanta Roller Girls, which has a recreational league as well as competition teams, and decided to check out the sport and see how she liked it.
“I went and I really enjoyed it,” she said, but the practices were held in Norcross and that was just too far away for the required three-nights-a-week practices.
After that, “Mike and I talked about it.” They found there were no other leagues within 30 or 40 miles. “We decided, let’s start something here.”
The league currently practices in a warehouse in Fayetteville, where Mike Winfrey works, but they’re hoping to eventually get a larger facility, with room for a full track, which is 75 by 110 feet. They also hope to have access to a venue for bouts, with audience seating and a concession stand.
Rock-a-Lilly likes derby for many reasons. “I like that it is a great way to get out aggression,” she said. “You’re still getting to hit somebody … that can be fun at the end of the day.”
And while it can be hard, “it is two hours a week where I just don’t think about anything but standing upright, and sometimes, you just need that.”
Kacie Landers of Senoia joined the Southside Jammers after her sister, Bethany Dumas, told her about it.
“I love it,” she said. “I get really passionate about it and here’s why – it is so important for women to feel powerful,” Landers said. “If you want to feel feminine and strong at the same time, it’s awesome.
“It just gives you the freedom to be sexy and be a tough and brutal kind of chick – so that’s why I love it.”
It’s also a lot of fun, and there is a great sense of camaraderie. “You adopt a whole new family,” Landers said.
Gwen Chambers’ husband saw something about roller derby on Facebook and looked into it. “I’ve been looking for something to do that is fun plus active, and I don’t like the gym,” she said. “It’s not really fun so it doesn’t hold my attention.”
She checked out a practice and she liked it, so about six weeks ago, she joined. Chambers has skated most of her life, playing hockey. But that was on ice skates and inline skates. “Making the transition from the inline to the quad has been my biggest challenge,” she said.
Bethany Dumas got involved with the league when her sister-in-law, Bridgette, told her about it. Dumas had never been on a pair of regular roller skates. One of the main reasons she wanted to do derby was for the exercise. Like Chambers, “I hate the gym,” Dumas said.
She stayed because “number one, it’s a really cool sport. Number two, it’s really good exercise.”
“If you’re thinking about getting into roller derby, don’t be afraid,” Dumas said. “It’s intimidating, because you’re going to fall, you’re going to lose your balance. It’s tough and it’s hard work.
“But it’s worth it and everybody catches on eventually.”
“Give it a shot,” said Landers. “You don’t have to invest anything, but come watch our practices, just come and see what it is all about."
For more information, visit www.southsidejammers.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.