If you’ve never seen a Roller Derby Bout, you may have an idea of what it looks like due to popular movies like “Whip It” (2009). The women typically associated with Derby are rough, tough, and aggressive. While you will definitely find these characteristics on the track, you will find that these same women are also inspiring, intelligent, and animal- loving.
Many of these women never thought they would get into a sport like Derby, including Marcy Utheim, Pathologists Assistant. Utheim “fell in love with being in the presence of strong, athletic, passionate women who weren’t afraid of falling down”.
Nicole Powell, Veterinary Technician, agrees with Utheim adding, “it has given me the opportunity to become an athlete, to get involved in the community, and to create new friendships.” The women who have volunteered to help with our Pawmetto Lifeline fundraising to save community pets are as diverse as their derby nicknames might suggest.
Evolution of Derby:
Roller derby has transformed over the years since it started during the Great Depression. In 1935, Leo Seltzer created the Transcontinental Derby in Chicago as a new sporting event to attract spectators. The Transcontinental Derby started as a long distance, endurance skating event that would last multiple days. Each team consisted of a man and a woman who had to skate a certain number of miles per day and at least one member of the team had to be skating at all times to avoid being eliminated. The event had early success in part because it was one of the cheapest forms of sporting entertainment during the Great Depression.
In 1937, a tragic bus crash caused an explosion that killed nearly twenty Roller Derby skaters, including stars like Joe Kleats and Libby Hoover. After the loss of such important members of the Derby community, the Transcontinental Derby never made a full recovery. Instead, a change in rules and format allowed it to thrive in a new way.
Roller Derby began its revival in Austin, Texas in 2001. Roller Derby now consists of two teams where teams can score points by lapping members of the opposing team in timed intervals. Today it is one of the fastest growing sports, bringing together hard working, driven and passionate individuals to compete in an exciting athletic challenge.
More Than Just Collisions on Skates:
If you want to be part of this community you can! Within the group of women who have volunteered to help, occupations range from Lawyer to Nuclear Chemist to PhD candidate and beyond. The sport of Derby brought these women together and many can’t imagine what their life would be like without the Derby community.
Derby has become an identifier for many of these women. Fawnna Parker, administrative specialist at orthopedics clinic, said “I learned that there was so much more to Roller Derby than just big hits.” Each one of these Derby girls has found their niche in a community of strong and passionate women who would do anything for one another.
Julianna Virgili, Legal Assistant at Rogers Townsend and Thomas, agrees. “The empowering support and acceptance the people of the Roller Derby community offer is what made me a lifetime member,” said Virgili.
Check out their personal pages here to learn more about these exceptional and talented individuals. Then donate to raise funds for your favorite derby girl to help choose our calendar contest model and, of course, save our community pets.
History and derby information from: