Roller derby has had its bouts of popularity since its creation in the 1880s. It started in America as simply an endurance race in which skaters would try to see who could skate the fastest and longest in a circle. In the 1950s through the ’70s, it had more entertainment value than sporting value. In the early 2000s, roller derby had its revival, as the full contact intense sport we know now.
Though many are somewhat familiar with roller derby in that they wear awesome outfits and have fun names and skate in circles, not much is known about what the object of the sport is.
Roller derby is a race. Each team has a jammer, who scores a point for their team with every member of the opposing team they pass, a pivot, who leads the pack and regulates the speed, and three blockers who defend their jammer and try to prevent the opposing jammer from passing them.
Though roller derby is a violent sport, the skaters can’t be ruthless. It isn’t legal to make contact with an opposing skater’s back, use their elbows or intentionally trip another skater.
Getting interested yet? Ypsilanti’s neigboring city of Ann Arbor has established their own roller derby team, the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes. Founded in 2010 by Kellee Gallardo and Milinda Villegas, A2D2 held its first scrimmage open to family and friends May 1.
The league is committed to giving strong, intelligent women of all ages, backgrounds, sizes
and skill levels the ability to participate in the sport of roller derby. Women ages 18 to 50 represent A2D2, a few of which attend EMU. It is completely run by the girls on the team and committee and they’ve recently applied for non-profit status. Right now there are over 70 active participants.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s growing,” Villegas said.
To spread the word about A2D2, the derby girls have held fundraisers and charity functions, raising money for the Salvation Army and local groups like the Ozone House. They’re also working on raising money to purchase a bank rink for their league. As of now, A2D2 skates on a flat track, due to the lack of bank rinks (as in, a track with inclines on all sides, the typical type of rink used in the sport) in the area.
Though A2D2 allows everybody an equal opportunity to learn the sport, not just anyone can throw on some fishnets and start bashing the other players on the rink.
A2D2 takes safety very seriously, because even the best skaters are at risk. Within five minutes of the first scrimmage, a Dime injured her leg and was taken to the hospital. Skaters might not skate unless they have all of their equipment on, and there is medical personnel at all scrimmages. They’re also required to have insurance from USA Roller Sports. Don’t get discouraged, though.
“We’ve had girls break their arm or wrist who were back on the rink as soon as the doctor gave them the okay,” said Villegas, “They’re too tough not to come back.”
In order to become an official member of the league, skaters must attend a six-week boot camp with professionals who teach them the proper ways of derby skating, blocking and how to play the game. After attending the boot camp, skaters must meet the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association skills requirements. Once the skills test is passed, it’s official. You become an Ann Arbor Derby Dime.
“Watching them compete is great, but the best part of this is watching them grow and improve,” said Villegas, “The confidence they gain is just amazing.”
The league is split into two teams right now, and a new group of “fresh meat” was welcomed to A2D2 in January 31 skaters completed their skills test last month.
This summer, they will begin a series of intra-league bouts as well as preparing for another round of boot camp this September to expand the league once again. If you’re interested, but skating isn’t your thing, A2D2 is always accepting new volunteers as well.
“I’ve always been into roller derby,” said “fresh meat” Pee Wee Vermin, “And once I heard about them, I knew I wanted to be a part of something that was growing.”
A2D2 is a competitive sport, but the Dimes are mainly there for the thrill and love of roller derby.
In the words of the announcer, Betty Beretta of the Detroit Derby Girls, at the Friends and Family Scrimmage, “Even if you lose, win the afterparty.”
Some upcoming events for the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes are their first public scrimmage, Heroes vs. Villains at Total Roller Hockey in Novi on May 21 and a Skate-a-thon at Rollers Skate Park in Belleville on May 29.
For more information on upcoming events, volunteering, or recruiting, visit www.a2derbydimes.org.