July 10, 2010 6:13:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Weaving, shoving, blocking, falling. So, maybe it''s not every girl''s idea of a fun sport. But a unique band of Golden Triangle women with heart, nerve and flare think roller derby might just fill the bill.
In three short months since their first interest meeting on Easter Sunday, the Tri-City Derby Dolls have armed themselves with an official logo, team T-shirts, a dues system, regular practice schedule, fundraiser plans and the all-important "derby names."
By day, they''re mothers, nurses, college students, waitresses and chiropractic clinic workers. But two evenings each week, they strap on the quad-skates and gamely try on bits and pieces of their still-new alter egos -- like "Tarinasaurus Wrecks," "Molly Toff" or "She Who Must Not Be Tamed."
Megan Dareing ("Linchpin Luci") of Columbus is credited with getting the wheels rolling on the fledgling team.
"I''d joked around about it before. But I was watching the movie ''Whip It'' with my boyfriend and said I''d start a team. The next day I thought, ''I can''t turn back now,''" she said.
With the help of Facebook, e-mail and flyers, Megan spread the word. To date, about 20 to 25 women with varying levels of skating skill have shown real interest in the start-up team, which practices at Skate Zone in Columbus on Monday evenings and Skate Odyssey in Starkville on Thursday evenings.
One of those skaters is 23-year-old Jenny Sullivan, admiringly labeled "hardcore" by a few of her teammates. The New Orleans native, a self-described former "military kid," is experienced, having played street hockey, roller hockey and later ice hockey for several years.
"It takes a different kind of person," the Columbus resident said when asked about what it takes to embrace this aggressive sport. "It takes a lot of heart. The average person is not going to want to run into people and fall down all the time," she grinned.
On track, on stage
Roller derby is part fast-paced contact sport, part sports entertainment. In most leagues (there are about 500 worldwide), these high heels on wheels are encouraged to play up the camp or punk aspect.
Dressed out in striped socks, short pleated skirt, purple tights and nails to match at practice Monday, Jenny seems to exhilarate in the drills and games of "Red Light, Green Light," as the girls test their quick starts and stops.
"It''s kind of a derby tradition that everybody dresses funny," she remarked. "I kind of want to get in the habit of wearing the short skirts now, I just want to go ahead and get comfortable with it."
The dress and derby names add a theatrical element for the participants that "normal life" may not afford, noted Megan.
Comes with the territory
Sonja Webb ("Sonja Blade") would normally be on the track with the others. For now, she''s watching and cheering them on, sidelined with a broken arm, a souvenir from a previous practice. Ironically, it''s the left arm; mimicking the pin-up style skater depicted on Tri-City''s logo.
The medical assistant and mother of two from Columbus takes her injury in stride. It''s the sixth broken bone for this 33-year-old who once raised horses with her dad.
"I was a veterinarian technician for six years, and that was a pretty tough job. At least here I don''t have to worry about anything biting me," she laughed.
As the Derby Dolls organized, help came in the form of the Southern Misfits out of Hattiesburg. That roller derby team sent members up to conduct a boot camp.
"It was awesome," said Tarina Trzebiatowski ("Tarinasaurus Wrecks"). They gave us guidelines, told what we needed to do physically and how much dedication it would take to get to a point to ever compete. It was very empowering."
The Misfits introduced the Dolls to how the game (bout) is played and how to fall, and threw in some helpful hints -- like wearing two pairs of leggings to prevent "rink rash."
The Tri City team is coached by Bruce Wright.
"Good job, good job!" he praised Monday, as skaters wrapped up a drill in which they rotated at different offensive and defensive positions -- as jammers, pivots and pack members. During breaks, some girls do stretches, some leg lifts, and one, push-ups.
Bruce, 25, has lived in Columbus for about 10 years; he works with a landscape contractor and came to this coaching position through his friend, Megan.
"I told Megan I''d turn her marshmallows into freight trains," he grinned. "My goal is to keep them moving almost the whole practice. ... This team is a family; that''s what I try to inspire in them."
The Dolls encourage anyone interested to watch a practice to see if the sport appeals to them. E-mail [email protected] for details. "You don''t even have to have skates; you can rent those from the rinks," Megan said.
The group hopes to be ready for a scrimmage with "fresh meat" (beginning players) from another league -- perhaps from Hattiesburg, Jackson or Birmingham, Ala. -- within six to 12 months.
Megan explained, "We''d eventually like to find a practice space that we could rent-to-own, maybe; a place dedicated for our practice and actual bouts." For now, dues of $20 per month per member help pay for facility rentals. Sponsorships from supporters would be most welcome.
"This sport is really fun and gives us a chance to work out our frustrations. We''re Southern ladies but this gives us a chance to be a little bit more dangerous," Sonja said, with a hint of mischief.
Jenny summed up, "When will we ever get the opportunity to do this again? I guess we could all pick something like golf or tennis or swimming ... but it''s not nearly as colorful."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.