by Carmen Doyle
During Women’s History Month, we thought you should know a little about a relatively new Fort Wayne women’s organization that pairs sports and entertainment to raise money for worthy causes. The Derby Girls are unique in Fort Wayne- a city with a lot of sports history- and relatively new. They’re all female. The Derby Girls are not a “feeder team” (minor league) for a big league pro team. The Girls aren’t paid to compete and aren’t looking to show off their skills in order to advance in the world of professional roller derby. The women have to pay dues in order to be able to participate. The Derby Girls are amateur only in the sense they don’t get paid to compete- these women are in all other ways pro athletes.
According to the Derby Girls website (www.fwderbygirls.com) they are Indiana’s first (and Fort Wayne’s only) all-female, flat track roller derby league. The aim of the Derby Girls is to exemplify “the strength, courage, and vitality of Fort Wayne women”. It was started by two women to not only promote the sport of roller derby, but also to raise money for local women and children’s charities.
The Derby Girls can be difficult to take seriously at first- they all have stage names and a lot of them are wearing fishnets. Watch them skate and you realize how tough and athletic these women are. While there are rules about elbowing and clothes lining other skaters, roller derby is still a contact sport. There are medical personnel at every game- and they’re not there for the spectators. (Although ringside seats are known as “suicide seats” and you must be 18 to sit there, volunteer medical personnel are there primarily to take care of any skater who gets injured during the course of the game. Those helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads aren’t there just for decoration!)
They have played at the Coliseum since 2009, after a small start at the Roller Dome South in 2006. The league has grown over the years. They started with five skaters and have since grown to about 50 skaters, as well as many volunteers. The league is now over 100 people.
Each team has five women on the flat track. (Flat track means it’s easier to set up.) There are three positions: jammer, pivot, and three blockers. The jammer, with the star on her helmet, is the woman to watch. She is the one who scores the points. The blockers’ job is to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from getting through the pack. The pivot, wearing a helmet with a stripe on it, is the last line of defense. If the blockers can’t stop the opposing team’s jammer, the pivot’s job is to stop her from getting any further.
Scoring is determined by the jammers. The jammers start behind the pack and circle the pack once to determine the lead jammer. Jammers get one point for every member of the opposing team they pass- including girls in the penalty box. A jam can last up to two minutes. In that time, the jammers circle the track as many times as they can, gaining a point each time they pass an opponent. The lead jammer can call off a jam at any time by placing her hands on her hips.
The Derby Girls are composed of three different teams: The Bomb Squad, SWAT team, and The Academy. All home bouts feature both the Bomb Squad and the SWAT Team, but the Bomb Squad is the “All-Star” team, ranked nationally by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The Bomb Squad is the team that is listed with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association- they are the main team. The SWAT team is a “feeder team“ for the Bomb Squad. The Academy is for skaters new to roller derby.
The Derby Girls’ motto is “Charity Driven, Hard Hittin’” While the “Hard Hittin’” is easy to see, the Derby Girls also support local women and children’s charities. Charities apply through email to have the Derby Girls support them. When there are enough applicants, every league member looks through the mission statement of the charities and then they vote on which ones they want to support. Charities in 2012 include The League for the Blind and Disabled-Youth Services, Mad Anthony Children’s Hope House, Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities, and Hoosier Burn Camp. Past charities have included diverse groups such as SCAN, Erin’s House, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Make A Wish Foundation and Charis House. The Derby Girls website features a brief paragraph about each charity they support this season, as well as links to each charity’s website. The charities are then contacted about which bout they want to be featured at. Revenue earned (after deducting team costs) from tickets sales and the 50/50 raffle is then donated to that night’s charity. Since 2006, the Derby Girls have raised over $75,000 for local women and children’s charities.
The next bout is at Memorial Coliseum on April 21st, to benefit the Hoosier Burn camp.
(Thank you to PushyCat, The Adkins Riot, and Miss Mauly Rocket for additional information!)