The Wheel Life
A larger than normal crowd rolled into Skate World last
In addition to the regular group of roller-skaters looking for fun and exercise, about 40 local women were there last week, women with but one thing on their minds: starting a local roller derby team.
Organized by Appalachian State University student Jordyn Coats, the new roller derby team has the hope of becoming on official Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) team, one that will be sanctioned by this national league and that will compete against teams, such as the Blue Ridge Rollergirls of Asheville and the Little City Roller Girls of Johnson City, Tenn.
"I started this organization about two weeks ago," Coats said. "I set up a Facebook page for 'Appalachian Rollergirls' and told everyone on the page that I would be out at the skating rink in Vilas. After that, four other women-Jenni Dobies, Mason Herman, Chelly Richards and Megan Carmody-met me at the rink and we formed the 'Hoard of Dictators' leadership for the Appalachian Rollergirls."
Coats' Facebook page quickly took on a life of its own. Through Facebook friends of the five "dictators," and through friends of friends, the Appalachian Rollergirls Facebook page gained more than 600 fans in less than two weeks, many of them expressing interest in participating in the sport.
It was also through the Facebook page that Coats and the other leaders were able to recruit so many skaters to the first organizational meeting of the Appalachian Rollergirls last week.
"Thursday was our first official practice, and it couldn't have gone any better," Coats said.
"Normally, a first practice for a derby team consists of about two to five girls, but we had 38 roller girls show up. It was wonderful. In general, I have a feeling that a lot of questions still need to be asked and answered, but for the most part, it's going so much better than I could've planned."
Last Thursday's inaugural meeting of the Appalachian Rollergirls featured a lengthy free skate at Skate World before getting down to the business of forming a team. On hand were Jelly Roll and Impress IntoYa, two teammates from the Little City Roller Girls, a roller derby squad based in Johnson City.
The pair of veteran skaters talked to prospective Appalachian Rollergirls about the time commitment it takes to be a roller derby participant, and how much they could anticipate spending for things like skates, helmets and pads.
"You don't want to buy cheap pads because they won't protect you as well, and they wear out super quickly," Jelly Roll said. "Then you end up paying for good pads after you've wasted your money on cheap ones."
Jelly Roll said that a pair of good roller derby kneepads cost around $60.
"Impress IntoYa and Jelly Roll from Little City Roller Girls have been such a blessing," Coats said. "Their guidance and experience is going to really get this team off to a great start. They are wonderful additions, and I owe almost everything to them."
According to Coats, she met Jelly Roll at Skate World about a month after she started thinking about starting a roller derby team in the High Country.
"One night I saw Jelly Roll out there on the rink floor in her gear and everything and instantly knew she was a roller girl," Coats said. "Jelly Roll sat down and talked to me after we were done skating and really influenced me to start up a team. She gave me all the starting advice I needed and, more importantly, the confidence to jump in and actually do the work."
Once Coats got the wheels rolling, she discovered that she had several women with a similar interest in the Boone area.
"After Jordan made the Facebook page, I picked up on it immediately," Carmody said. "Jenni Dobies and myself and some other girls had been talking about this for some time, but never had the wherewithal to do it. Then Jordan came along. We met Jordan at Skate World two weeks ago, and she asked us if we would take over the organizational aspect of this, and we accepted."
Many of the women on hand at last week's event at Skate World had traveled to Johnson City the week before to see the Little City Roller Girls take on the Low Country High Rollers, a roller derby team based in Charleston, S.C. Little City won in exciting fashion, 102-100.
After witnessing firsthand the skills, professionalism and physicality that the sport of roller derby demands, the women of the Appalachian Rollergirls realized that theirs is a long-term goal.
"We are looking to continue having weekly skate practice at Skate World on Thursdays for the next several weeks," Carmody said. "These practices will be for skating skills only; we are not ready to move onto derby skills yet. We will be looking for a permanent practice space as soon as possible."
The team is looking to practice on a large empty concrete or wooden floor, something similar in size to a basketball or volleyball court. Carmody added that she hopes the team will be ready to compete with other WFTDA teams by early 2011 and that the Appalachian Rollergirls are still looking for team members.
"Our team should be up and running and ready for scrimmages in about six to nine months," Coats said. "Our practices currently revolve around gaining a comfort zone in skates. The women are just trying to get used to being on skates again, and after they feel comfortable, we will begin a 20-plus day training program that we have adopted from the Blue Ridge Rollergirls of Asheville.
"Candy Korn, a Blue Ridge Rollergirl, generously sent me a copy of their 'fresh meat' training program, so that we can gain more insight into what we need to do as a team here in Boone."
As you can probably tell from the monikers "Candy Korn," "Impress IntoYa" and "Jelly Roll," roller girls take on stage names and sometimes even on-track personas as a way of creating personality and fan interest. The WFTDA maintains a Web site listing all of the player and team names, and new teams and players have to create their own original handles.
At last Thursday's meeting of the Appalachian Rollergirls, several possible player names were bandied about, including "Dirty Sally," "Suzy Smack Attack" and "Megan for Mercy."
There was also discussion of whether the group wanted to move forward with the team name of Appalachian Rollergirls, or use a different name, such as the suggested "Boone Shiners," a name that references both our area's traditional moonshine culture and the black eyes that roller girls frequently sport.
"I am hoping that the Appalachian Rollergirls will help improve our community in Boone and the surrounding areas by providing women with an enjoyable sport to play and have fun with their teammates and friends," Coats said. "Everyone else can benefit by becoming managers, volunteers, sponsors, and the best fans a team could ask for. The community will have something they can bring their fans to, and, hopefully, everyone will have a great time."
Founded in 2004, the WFTDA promotes and fosters the sport of women's flat track roller derby by facilitating the development of athletic ability, sportswomanship and goodwill among member leagues.
The philosophy of the WFTDA is 'by the skaters, for the skaters." Female skaters are primary owners, managers and/or operators of each member league and of the association. Operational tasks include setting standards for rules, seasons and safety, and determining guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues.
"Modern roller derby appeals to people from all walks of life, from aging fans of the banked track, to 20-something hipsters who, before roller derby, wouldn't have been caught dead at a sporting event," said a spokeswoman for the WFTDA. "Our demographics cut a wide swath across gender, race and age, with the average fan in the middle- to upper middle-class tax bracket and between 20 to 45 years old. The WFTDA member leagues provide quality, family-friendly entertainment with an edgy component that captures the imagination of fans and the media."
For more information on the WFTDA team being formed here in the High Country, email (firstname.lastname@example.org)