Pink Snap-Her, Shady Skatey, Raven ClawUrEyesOut — these aren’t offensive slurs or deranged superheroes, they’re names taken by members of the Dominion Derby Girls roller derby team.
Roller derby is a sport like no other. It’s rough, unapologetic, and played on skates. Games are called bouts. Nicknames are encouraged. Bruises and broken bones are a standard rite of passage for new members, who are referred to as fresh meat.
Bouts are played with two teams of 14 players that simultaneously skate counterclockwise on a circuit track. Each team chooses a scoring player, called a jammer, who scores points by lapping members of the other team. Other players are called blockers and use body contact, including hip checks and elbow jabs, to hinder the opposing team’s jammer from passing them up. Bouts are played in two 30-minute periods.
Dominion Derby Girls have forged a path in roller derby since 2005 as members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The team has only lost one seasonal game in the past two years.
The team welcomed new members Wednesday night during a “fresh meat” intake at Haygood Skating Center in Virginia Beach, where the team practices twice a week.
To join, you must be over 18, prove you have health insurance, and be a woman. Skills are preferred, but not necessary. All you need to know about the sport will be learned on the rink, according to team coach, Justin Faucher.
“We start out teaching the primary safety stuff — how to step and move in skates, where their core center of balance is, and how to fall safely,” Faucher said.
Anyone may join, but the training is not easy. The intense training period lasts three months, and ends with an official try-out in March.
“It’s grueling,” team-member Khristal Nathaniel said. Nathaniel has participated in roller derby for three years and said it takes a special drive to keep up with the sport.
“Roller Derby is tough. There are some people that will go through ‘fresh meat’ two or three times before they make it, ” she said. “It also takes a lot of mental toughness. When you’re up against another team that doesn’t care about you, and they keep knocking you down, you have to know how to redirect your energy.”
No matter your experience on skates, or your knowledge of the game, nothing prepares you for your first bout, said Liz Faucher, otherwise known as Zombie Apocalyzz, a five-year veteran of the sport.
“Just two weeks after I graduated ‘fresh meat’ I was thrown into a bout because there weren’t enough people to play. I was like Bambie on ice,” she said. “There are so many rules and strategies. You can have the skills, but it’s so hard to grasp until you actually get out there.”
The sport appeals to those that thrive on competition, but it also provides an inclusive group of teammates and friends, said team member Kristen Warren aka Chuck N Trailer.
“This sport is so supportive, and has everything from nurses to teachers to veterinarians,” she said. “It’s hard to make friends when you’re older, but no matter where I go I instantly have derby girls.”
To learn more about the Dominion Derby Girls, or where to watch them play, visit www.dominionderbygirls.net.