Roller derby is gaining popularity across the nation and that includes right here in Wisconsin. Skaters say the sport is not only a great workout, but also a way to connect with the community.
On Saturday, members from several teams gathered for a fundraiser in Stevens Point to raise awareness about the sport.
"It's brutal, it's fast, it's awesome," Northwoods Derby Knockouts skater Jessica Thunder told Newsline 9. "It's just getting bigger and better."
For women looking to lace-up, there are teams in Wausau, Stevens Point and now Rhinelander.
"People grow up roller skating and for people who do the sport, roller skating brings back a lot of good childhood memories," Mid-State Sisters of Skate team member Lisa Pett said.
That team has about 40 members and was founded in 2010. Pett said there are more and more people getting involved in roller derby.
"We've doubled in three years," she added.
Skaters attribute that to the uniqueness of the sport. It all begins by picking out an individual derby name.
"It's actually my Indian name is Rolling Thunder so it was just kind of meant to be," Jessica Thunder said.
Others, like Pett, play off more sinister themes. Her derby name is "Rose Redrum." The inspiration came from her maiden name, Rose, and the word murder spelled backwards.
No two names can be the same. Skaters said the way flat track roller derby is played also adds to the appeal.
"When the whistle blows the jammer is supposed to lap the pack. For every opposing player that the jammer laps, she scores a point," Pett said.
Each bout lasts 30 minutes and is made up of a series of shorter competitions called "jams."
Flat track roller derby is not an all-out brawl. Skaters use strategy and athleticism to try and dodge or block the person trying to make their way through the pack. Skaters who fight are ejected.
Members of local teams told Newsline 9 it's the sense of community within Wisconsin roller derby leagues that keeps them coming back.
"Modern roller derby is an amazing phenomenon. It emphasizes competition, athleticism, community service. It's an amazing thing," Pett said.
And these skaters said the bumps and bruises that come along with it are badges of honor.
If you are interested in trying out roller derby for yourself, many of the teams hold open tryouts and practice training sessions to help you lace-up.
Check out one of these links to get involved:
1908 Grand Avenue, Wausau, WI 54403
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