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Hits and giggles - Central Maine Derby offers athleticism, camaraderie

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Hits and giggles - Central Maine Derby offers athleticism, camaraderie (edge photo by Sienna Barstow)

BANGOR – Flat track roller derby is a sport that offers many things at once – true athleticism, cutthroat competition, quick-thinking strategies, fast-paced scoring and a level of spectacle that cannot be found anywhere else. Regardless of the tongue-in-cheek derby names skaters have, they mean business out on the track. 

Roller derby originated in the 1920s. The sport gained popularity in the late ‘40s when it began to be televised. By the early ‘60s, competitive roller derby franchises were born. However, the sport ultimately became kitschy ‘70s TV. In 1973, roller derby ceased to exist.

Roller derby began its comeback in the early 21st century as an all-female, woman-organized sport. In 2003, a group called the Texas Rollergirls brought attention to the sport and rebuilt the sport into what it is today.

The game as currently constituted is made up of two 30-minute periods. Each period consists of an unlimited number of jams which last up to two minutes each. During the jams, five players from each team are on the track - four blockers and one jammer. The jammer scores points after passing opposing blockers. The blockers work together to stop the other team’s jammer from getting through while simultaneously helping their own jammer get through. In 2005, there were 50 all-female leagues. Now, there are nearly 2000 roller derby leagues.

Central Maine Derby formed in 2012 with eight members. Now, Central Maine Derby is the largest flat track roller derby league in the greater Bangor area with 50 active members. They practice in the gym of the Orono-Old Town YMCA at least seven hours a week and compete against teams from all over.

Central Maine Derby is more than a sport. The league was created to be a safe space for women. A player named Shelby Fastback (her derby name, in case you were wondering) said, “When we first founded this league it was based on inclusivity and wanting to create a safe space for woman to find empowerment and fitness.”

Central Maine Derby not only creates a safe space for their teammates but also the community. CMD created the Skate Don’t Hate program to share their anti-bullying platform. The skaters present at local schools and talk to kids about promoting tolerance and acceptance, working as a team, respecting diversity and speaking out against bullying.

Shelby Fastback expressed her feelings about how rewarding it can be.

“It’s the best part,” she said. “Those kids look at me like I’m a superhero.”

If Central Maine Derby interests you, they are always looking for new players. No prior experience is necessary to sign up. The league offers newbie training, where skaters learn how to skate, stop and fall.

Shelby Fastback says the sport is all inclusive. “Give it a shot! Basically, we have a space for every skill level, every body type, every age, every size, and every shape,” she said. “It’s a very interesting sport in that there are spots for everybody.”

If you are more of a spectator, you can check out Central Maine Derby this weekend. On Saturday, October 14, Central Maine Derby’s Northwood Knockouts will take on Les Buches at 6 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center. Even though the teams have never played each other before, one thing is for certain - you’ll see some kickass gameplay. 

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