They come from all walks of life – teachers and nurses, military and stay-at-home moms, accountants and beauticians. They range in age from their late teens to mid-forties. They all have one thing in common – their physical and mental dedication to the sport of roller derby.
“My family and friends (who are not in the sport), get tired of hearing about roller derby,” said Tulare resident, Laura Anderson, 24.
Anderson joined the V-Town Derby Dames and Darlings a year ago, when she found out about the club on Facebook. They were about to have their annual free derby clinic; she attended, and got hooked.
“I’ve been addicted to it ever since,” Anderson said. “It’s not something people kind of do, it’s all or nothing.
“You don’t use a bat, ball or a racquet; you use your body,” she said. “It’s what you can do with your body. It’s a very well-rounded sport.”
Naval Petty Officer Second Class Viridiana Trevino, 27, joined the V-Town club a couple of months ago. Trevino, based at the Lemoore Naval Air Station, had long been interested in the sport, as she is with most sports. She attended a party at Roller Towne in Visalia and saw the V-Town Darlings during a home game. She decided to go ahead and join.
“I figured this was cheaper than therapy,” Trevino said, with a smile on her face.
Despite the drive to Visalia, she tries to attend the three weekly night practices, when her duties allow.
The time commitment for being part of a roller derby team is large. The V-Town practices are approximately two hours, sometimes longer, during times when Roller Towne is not open to the public. The teams have traveled up and down the state, to Nevada, and even to Hawaii for games, also called bouts.
And, it takes a long time to wind-down from games and practices, said Melissa Hawkins, 35, who has been part of the team for four years.
Hawkins admits that roller derby can be a rough sport. She has suffered a broken ankle, dislocated shoulder and has lost a tooth. After breaking her wrist, she and her husband decided to get accident insurance for their family, including their six-year-old daughter who is on the junior team for 5-17 years of age.
“It’s still worth it,” she said. “I love the challenge and I have made some really amazing friends.”
V Town Derby Dames was formed in 2007. It is a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which is the largest governing body of roller derby, said Liz Lawson, 36, team captain and a founding member of V Town.
Until now, V Town has been in the apprentice league. Members are hoping for advancement into the regular league for 2015. This would bring the team into a rating system and would mean new teams to play.
V Town has two teams, the Dames, which is the primary team, and the Darlings, which is something like a junior varsity in football. While there are approximately 50 members in the club, only 14 are on the roster in any given game. Of those, five are on the track at one time, four blockers and one jammer. The jammer is designated by wearing a vest. The game is divided into jams, which can last up to two minutes. The object is to block the other team’s jammer and to allow your team jammer to advance or move forward from the pack.
“You have to play defense and offense at the same time,” Lawson said.
The team practices year-round, although the playing season is from February through November. There
are about five home games each year at Roller Towne.
While the V Town players are all female, there are male coaches and referees. There are male roller derby teams in other locations of the country, but not in the Central Valley. The junior team of 5 to 17-year olds has both girls and boys, however.
V Town is a non-profit club. Every home game has a non-profit partner, which generally helps with advertising. During the game, a raffle is held with proceeds going to the non-profit partner. It generally generates about $600. Some partners have included the Visalia Rescue Mission, suicide prevention and veterans’ groups.
Locally, there is also a club in Kings County, the Kings County Derby Queens, which formed in 2011. These ladies practice two nights a week at the Lemoore Parks and Recreation Center.
Both clubs are continually in need of sponsors and hold various fundraisers throughout the year. While team members purchase their own gear and bear most of their travel expenses, the club will pay for overnight stays when needed for away games and pays for all of the expenses for home games, as well as rink rentals for practices and more.
For more information for the V Town Dames and Darlings call Melissa Hawkins at 901-0034. For more information for the Kings County Derby Queens, call 343-3729.