IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY- War! The home favorite Greensboro All-Stars of Greensboro Roller Derby (GRD) took on the invading Charlotte All-Stars of the Charlotte Roller Girls (CRG) in their Roller Derby Wars bout in the Coliseum. A battle not to the death but to the end of two 30-minute halves, the bout was decided early, with GRD opening up a 96-64 lead at halftime and cruising to an easy 174-123 victory for our hometown GRD Jedi Knights against the treacherous Sith ways of CRG…
In all seriousness, a roller derby bout, especially on Star Wars Night, is a sight to behold, especially for the uninitiated (basically, that included me). It’s tough to catch onto the rules and might be tricky to keep up with the action even when you’ve learned the rules—essentially, you have to keep track of two players on opposing teams called ‘jammers’ trying to shove their way through a pack of sparring players as they skate around a ring.
For each player the jammer passes an opposing player, a point is awarded to their team. With five players on each team, a jammer can earn up to five points for each pass. Not to mention, it’s a full-contact, collision sport. And no, they don’t punch players or clothesline anyone.
Still, you’ll be quick to find out that the actual game is only half the fun at a roller derby bout. Each player takes on a derby name, and boy, are they creative. Amongst the best names there were ‘Kam N. Gettit’, ‘Rolly Smoke’, ‘Rae D. O’active’, and, my personal favorite, simply ‘Pants’. Even the refs have derby names plastered to the back of their zebra jerseys, such as ‘Freddy Mercury Poisoning’ and, in honor of Star Wars Night, ‘Kylo Ref’.
Puns seem to reign supreme as far as derby names go; you won’t find any complaints about that from over here. That’s not to mention the incredible cosplayers on hand, dressed out in authentic, movie-quality Stormtrooper, Mandalorian bounty hunter and Darth Vader costumes, which were huge hits with the kids.
Look deeper still and you’ll find that, aside from the hoopla and, quite honestly, sometimes brutal hip-checks, there is something special about roller derby. It’s a sport unlike any other I’ve witnessed. While the competitive zeal is still absolutely there, with coaches signaling commands and opposing players hollering at each other, roller derby players form an identity and thus a bond between fellow players.
“It empowers us,” Rolly Smoke said during halftime. “It encourages us. It builds our self-esteem and our self-confidence, and all of those things leak out into our lives.”
Kam N. Gettit, adorned in face paint, agreed. “My self-esteem has definitely gone up since I started playing derby.”
Indeed, when derby players get on a roll, it’s clear that this sport is one of empowerment. Empowerment when winning, empowerment when playing, empowerment when hip checking the living heck out of an opponent, sending her flat on her butt.
In a society that disempowers women, it is important to combat that injustice, both directly and indirectly. For these groups of women, roller derby is their way of empowering themselves. If you find yourself interested in this, they welcome anyone who wants to skate.
“It’s great that anybody of any age, shape, size, ethnicity, sexual orientation can be a big part of the family,” Kam N. Gettit said.
It was true. For those sixty minutes, women from all walks of life joined together on that track. The torrential downpour outside the walls of the Coliseum was drowned out by the cheers of the crowd. The evils of the Empire seemed distant, for a moment. It was just… us. And it was nice. It was fun and carefree. For a little while, it fulfilled some need that we all have, a need that’s hard to place. It’s a mix of family, friends, and a tiny bit of violence.
You can find GRD on their Facebook page. Just search ‘Greensboro Roller Derby’ and shoot them a message. They’ll reply promptly.