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Dark River Derby

2011 has been a banner year for Quincy’s first all-female Roller Derby squad, the Dark River Derby Coalition.  The team played its first official bouts this year, and earned its first victory.  It’s also done a great job of raising awareness and money for some wonderful charities in the Quincy area.  Despite having watched some derby though, I found myself a little confused at exactly how the game works.  Lucky for me and the readers of Get Out, my friend Jessica (AKA Patella Crusher) was nice enough to write a guest blog today and explain the ins and outs of the game.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Dark River Derby Coalition as either a skater or a ref, they are holding recruitment sessions December 6th and December 8th from 7-9pm and December 11 from 10am-12pm, all at Scottie’s Fun Spot at 8000 Broadway in Quincy.  Also, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/darkriverderby

– Laura Sievert

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Derby 101

By Jessica “Patella Crusher” Snowden Patel

When I tell people that I play roller derby, their first reaction is complete shock.  I think this has to do with stereotypes of what roller derby is and who plays this sport.  After the shock subsides, I am always asked, what exactly is roller derby?

Roller derby is a sport played on quad roller skates. That may seem obvious, but many people remember roller derby from the 60′s and 70′s where it resembled more WWE than an actual sport.  Now, roller derby is a real sport with real skaters, real rules, and unfortunately, real injuries.  There are up to seven refs (or “zebras”) per bout to make sure those ladies don’t break the rules. Needless to say, you will see numerous skaters from both teams going to the penalty box.  If you go to the box too many times, you will get a nice trip out of the rink on your 7th major penalty.  If you get really into things and want to learn the zebra hand signals, you can do so here, but I recommend learning the basics first (http://wftda.com/rules/wftda-rules-appendix-c-referee-hand-signals.pdf).

Here are the basics: Each bout is made up of two 30 minute periods. Within those 30 minute periods, you have short matchups, called “jams.”  Each jam starts with four blockers and one jammer from each team on the track (the jammer is identified by the star on her helmet cover).  One blocker (“a pivot”) has a stripe on their helmet cover. The pivot is basically the leader of her blockers for that jam, and leads them by yelling out plays and setting the pace.  It helps to almost think of the jammer as a ball (i.e., a point scoring agent).

The whistle blows and the pack (i.e., the blockers from both teams) take off.  Once they cross a nifty line on the ground, the whistle is blown twice and the jammers take off.  The whole goal is to get your jammer through the pack first, while keeping the opposing team’s jammer from making it through. This is where you will see a lot of blocking, assisting (maybe even a whip), and hitting.  Remember, this is all real and very unpredictable.

The first jammer to make it through the pack legally is the lead jammer.  The jammer then needs to get around the rink as fast as they can to make it back through the pack.  On every pass through the pack (starting with the 2nd pass), the jammer can score up to 4 points for each blocker they pass from the opposing team.  Any jammer, lead or not, can still score, but only the lead jammer can call off the jam.  She can have the jam go for the full 2 minutes allowed, or she can call off the jam by putting her hands on her hips repeatedly.  A lead jammer typically will call off the jam to prevent the other jammer from scoring or when she is just so worn out from being blocked by the other team.  If a jammer goes to the box, they are no longer lead jammer and you will get to see a full 2 minute jam.

Once the jam is called off, the skaters have 30 seconds to reset. You’ll often see a whole new set of blockers and jammers in each jam.  There are a total of 14 skaters per team allowed on the roster for a bout.  Oftentimes, there are up to 40+ jams in a single bout.

The rest is simple. Whoever scores the most points wins!  Roller derby is a high scoring game. It is typical to see scores upwards of 100-200+ per team.

While the basics of roller derby are fairly easy to understand, there are many misunderstandings of the sport. The biggest misunderstanding is that roller derby is fake.  You can ask any of the ladies on the team who have been taken out with an injury, it is very real (and we have two very real EMT’s with an ambulance present at each bout). The second misunderstanding is that there is a certain “type” of person who plays roller derby.  Our team is made up of ladies from all professions, including teachers, nurses, the executive director of a non-profit, a psychologist, artists, salespeople, managers, a librarian, other medical professionals, college and graduate students, and mothers (to name a few).  There is no “typical” skater.  All of our skaters are also dedicated to volunteering in the community and have raised money through our bouts, in partnership with Scotties Fun Spot, for local organizations including Honor Flight, Quanada, Paw Pals, Madonna House, and the Quincy Autism Support Group.  The last major misunderstanding is that roller derby is violent.  Roller derby is a full contact sport, much like football, although we have even more rules. There will be hits, but no elbows (unless you want to go to the box) and definitely no punching like movies such as Whip It would have you think.  It is a family-friendly sport.

You can also find out more about roller derby at http://www.wftda.com. 

Want to join the Dark River Derby Coalition for its 2012 season?

Come out to Scotties Fun Spot (8000 Broadway) from 7-9pm on December 6th or December 8th or on December 11th from 10am-noon. Skaters must be female, 21+ (by 5/1/12).  Absolutely no experience is necessary.  Just bring yourself, $7 (for rink and skate rental), any safety gear you possess, and a good attitude.

If you think you’d be better off keeping those skaters in line, you can also come out and learn about being a ref (refs can be male or female, 19+).  We are also always looking for volunteers.

If you think that you’d rather stay on the sidelines, you can find out more about supporting the DRDC in its upcoming season on our website atwww.darkriverderby.com or on facebook atwww.facebook.com/darkriverderby.

Original Post November 29, 2011

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