Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

TOP STORY >> Rock Hard Rollergirls: Members sought for new state team

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Women's roller derby team seeking new members to compete against other state teams.

Women’s roller derby–competitive roller skating between teams– is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the efforts of the Rock Hard Rollergirls, a central Arkansas team practicing twice a week at Skateworld in Jacksonville.

“We know we can get hurt doing this but we don’t care,” said Amber Stevens, one of the Rock Hard Rollergirls organizers. Stevens has already injured her tailbone, but it doesn’t keep her from skating. She bought a tailbone guard and tied her skates back on for a recent reunion at Skateworld.

Stevens was inspired to start a central Arkansas roller-derby league by “Rollergirls,” a short-lived reality television series following members of the Texas Roller Derby.

Other leagues have sprouted across the state including Northwest Arkansas Rollergirls in Fayetteville and the River Valley Rollergirls in Fort Smith. Roller rinks were an important part of many teenager’s social life in the late 1970s and early 80s. As inline skating became popular, skaters tended to hit the streets instead of the local rink.

“The transition from inline skates to quad skates isn’t hard at all,” Stevens said.

The Rock Hard Rollergirls team is currently recruiting women 21 and over and is working with trainer Rick Langston of Skateworld.

“We’re working to build everybody’s speed and endurance right now,” Langston said.

Stevens says she’d like to see the team grow to about 12 or 15 members.

Roller-derby rules vary from league to league. Generally, two teams of five skaters wearing protective gear such as helmets, mouth guards and elbow and kneepads take up positions alongside each other in a pack formation. Each team consists of blockers and a jammer. A signal is given and the pack of blockers start skating. A second signal is given and the jammers start skating.

Jammers navigate through or around the pack, then lap around the back of the pack. The first jammer to get through the pack is dubbed lead jammer and may stop the skating at any time by signaling the referees by what is known as “calling off the jam.”

Scoring commences when the jammers lap around the track and pass through the pack a second time. One point is scored for each member of the opposing team passed by an inbound jammer. Blockers try to stop the opposing jammer from passing them, while defending their own jammer whom they can assist by pushing or pulling in an attempt to advance them through the pack. The jam concludes after a fixed period of time or when the lead jammer calls off the jam. Until then, both jammers are free to lap the pack again and again.

Physical contact between players is frequent and sometimes violent. Roller derby skaters generally adopt gimmicks such as team costumes as well as stage names. Stevens, a stay-at home-mom, uses the name “Tara Niploff” at the rink. Andy Holms, a graphic artist in Little Rock, has adopted the moniker “Doma Skatrix.”

Team practices are on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 8 a.m. at Skateworld. Full gear such as helmet, kneepads, elbow pads, wrist guards and mouthpieces are required to practice. Quad skates are available to rent.

For more information e-mail amberstevens21@hotmail.com.