Whip It Good! Roller Derby Encourages 'Hitting Like Girls'

Ever since I can remember, I’ve let out my aggressions through writing.

When I got mad at my best friend in junior high, I wrote her a letter—in slanting cursive—on spiral-bound notebook paper. (She had sent another friend a note that said: “In Nerd City, Chrissy would be popular” and that friend shared the note with me. Come on! Nerd City!? I think it’s funny now, not so funny when I was 11.) In college I expressed my frustrations in a sophisticated leather-bound journal. When a good friend acted in a not-so-friendly way a few years ago, I wrote her a long, heartfelt email.

Maybe all of that writing seems passive-aggressive, but it’s how I blow off steam.  

A roller derby bout, on the other hand, is all about aggressive, strong, sassy women who blow off steam with full-body contact “cruising and bruising” around a flat track—on rollerskates!—and in the process, sometimes break noses, knock out teeth, and more often than not collect an impressive array of bruises along the way. And it’s fun for them. And surprisingly fun for me to watch, the girl who refuses to stand up and cheer when a fight breaks out during a hockey game because really? Those testosterone-fueled brawls just seem so ridiculous.

roller girlsAs much as I love spending time with my husband, dad, brothers, sons, and guy friends, sometimes a girl needs a tiny little break from all that testoterone. Sometimes a girl wants a night out with her girlfriends, something different than the usual dinner-and-cocktails/dinner-and-dancing combo. Going to a roller derby bout is the perfect remedy.

I was first introduced to roller derby a few years ago when my softball friend Mandi, aka “Mickey Dismantle,” invited a group of softball friends to one of her Minnesota North Star Roller Girls (NSRG) bouts at a crowded rollerskating rink in Coon Rapids (they later moved on to compete at the Minneapolis Convention Center). What I saw wasn’t so much violent as it was empowering (ok, some of it was violent).  Watching that bout was proof that female athletes come in all shapes and sizes (some of the most powerful girls were also the smallest), you can wear fishnets and miniskirts and helmets and knee pads and mouth guards and look tough and sassy rather than classless and trashy, and as a professional woman in your 20s, 30s, 40s, even 50s, you can become part of an amateur sports team—a group of energetic, fun-loving, supportive women—who have a reputation for not only lacing up their rollerskates and “hitting like girls” (there are some pretty spectacular knockdowns and wipeouts), but also doing really great things for the community through volunteer work.

I found myself admiring these fearless women and maybe even wishing (just a teensy little bit) that I had the guts to create an alter ego and try out for one of the local teams (even though I haven’t rollerskated in years). This sport is the perfect combination of sweetness and swagger. It’s aggressive and hard-hitting, yet has a no-matter-who-you-are, we’ll-find-a-place-for-you-here supportive mentality. It’s high-energy, with rock music blaring, beer flowing, and the audience getting caught up in the excitement, but I think what I love most is that these women are who they are, without apology. I think it’s great when women support one another, and I think any excuse to support other women—while spending quality time with your girlfriends—is a win-win for everyone.

So gather together a group of fun friends this Saturday, March 3 and watch the nationally-ranked Minnesota RollerGirls take on Montreal at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. According to the website theroy.org, “This month’s ‘Assault on Nice’ is the second of three bouts of the 2012 All-Star season. WCCO’s Jason DeRusha will be in attendance to help count down to the derby.” (We love Jason DeRusha here at Minnesota Monthly magazine. He blogs for us at Dara & Co.!)

The RollerGirls will donate proceeds to the Ann Bancroft Foundation to fund fitness grants that “increase girls’ participation in sports and organized fitness activities by eliminating cost as a barrier.” More girl power!

Trackside seating is $14 in advance: $16 on the day of the bout.

If you need to learn the basics of flat track roller derby (what’s a jammer? A pivot? A blocker?), watch this video.

Roller derby is all about letting out aggression in a healthy way, just like writing, only on eight wheels.