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Getting down and derby

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Roller Derby: forming lasting bonds

Roller Derby is a sport of contradictions: a full-contact sport just for women; a demanding sport that requires good cardio and hardcore dedication, but also one that anyone can play; a sport where you are crashing into a woman in a bout and then hanging out over drinks afterwards. It's a sport with theatrical roots but grounded in physical prowess, endurance and skill. In other words, it's pretty awesome.

'I like that it's contradictory. It's an aggressive, full-contact sport, but it's a women's sport. It's tough but it's a big sense of family. It's tough but with expressions of femininity,' said Wined Up, a member of Central Maine Derby, who is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine when she isn't cutting up the derby track. 'I love anything that challenges our normative ideas of femininity of what women are and what they should be. I love the contradiction.'

In the past couple of years, derby has taken off in our area in a big way. Since 2011, three leagues have formed in the area: two in the greater Bangor area, Central Maine Derby and Bangor Roller Derby and one Midcoast with the Rock Coast Rollers.

Rules of the road

Playing derby is, on its face, deceptively simple. Each team has five players on the track. Both teams have a 'jammer,' a woman who can score points by running laps around the opposing team. The other four players are 'blockers' who attempt to block the jammer from passing and scoring points. One of the blockers is called a 'pivot,' and she can become a jammer during the bout. The jammers and pivots have helmet coverings denoting who they are - star and stripe respectively.

The blockers try to stop the opposing teams jammer from scoring points and vice versa, meaning that both teams are playing offense and defense simultaneously. 

Now, unlike the roller derby of bygone days, these bouts are not staged. The results are not fixed. And you won't see a full-on brawl in the middle of the track. You will see full-body contact, but not throwing punches or elbows. MMA on wheels it is not. 

What's in a name? Or a number for that matter?

Not that all the theatrics are gone. The women who are involved in derby take on a derby persona, including picking out their own 'derby name' for some it has deep personal meaning, sometimes it is an incredibly funny play on words, and others just a twist of fate. 

Cracked Pepper (CMD): 'I wanted something original and unique. When I heard this I thought, that's it. That's the name.''

Wined Up (CMD): 'I'm a big wine person. I like to drink it it's a hobby. I love to read about it, I collect wine glasses My husband came up with the name and in my work life I'm kind of wound up, so it was fitting in that regard.'

Star Gazer (CMD): 'Mine's not that interesting. I used to skate with Maine Roller Derby, and I loved watching the jammers the people with stars on the helmets. And I love stargazer flowers. So it's the two meeting: flowers and gazing after the jammers.'

Shelby Fastback (CMD): 'Mine took me a long time to get something not already taken. I love cars, I work in the automotive industry and I love Mustangs, so it was a natural fit.'

Bristol Smashin' (RCR): 'It was a really long process. I feel like choosing a derby name is a pretty intimate process too. It's a way of expressing yourself and displaying yourself. I was at a loss, asking my friends I had previously worked professionally on sailing vessels and really wanted a nautical throwback to my derby name I was talking to my sailor friends who suggested Bristol Smashin', which is a play on Bristol Fashion, meaning ship-shape or in fine order.'

Smokey Porkchop (BRD): 'My roller derby name when I was not on the injured list is Smokey Porkchop. It was initially Smokey Robhersome (a play on Smokey Robinson). But one day I wore a T-shirt that read BRB Porkchop' and it stuck. Everyone was calling me that.'

What's it take to be a derby girl (woman!)?

There is no single type of woman who typifies a derby woman. They come from all walks of life stay-at-home moms, business owners, teachers (elementary up to college educators), medical professionals, marketing gurus, sailors you get the idea! You do need to be able to dedicate time to your chosen league. The leagues in this area practice hard to play hard. Many commit up to two evenings a week to practice. That being said, you don't need to be a top-notch skater just to try out.

'You need determination. The willingness to fall down a hundred times and get up 101 times,' said Bristol Smashin' (RCR). 'It's incredible to me. I remember very distinctly, sitting in a dusty classroom and looking around at the women there: all these women that had different social circles, different lifestyles, that I never would have met if it had not been for joining roller derby. Moms, teachers, reporters, bakers, gardeners, sailors, people who own their own business it's an incredibly eclectic group of people from different backgrounds.'

Derby is also a haven for those who aren't familiar with organized sports.

'A lot of people on our team never played a sport before. I never played a sport before,' said Stargazer (CMD). 'Anyone can do it. It doesn't matter if they think they can't skate or aren't athletic.'

Smokey Porkchop noted that physical endurance is something that a woman should have if trying the sport.

'Get yourself in shape. You really do have to be at the top of your game and be athletic and strong and take care of yourself. One thing is, if you're not 100 percent, it whips you into shape pretty darn fast,' she said. 'It's one of those things you'll either absolutely love it or find it's not for you.'

But derby is also about giving back to the community. Each of the leagues requires members to volunteer at least two hours per month, and as a league will participate in various community events.

'The biggest thing for us is being involved in our community. We participate in Skate don't Hate, our champion program. We send groups of skaters to talk to high schoolers and middle schoolers about tolerance and diversity. We talk about how derby girls work with each other on the track,' said Shelby Fastback. 

'Tolerance and diversity is woven throughout all our activities,' added Wined Up.

And once you're in derby, you have been adopted into a large extended family.

'I came in for a meet and greet, and it's basically like 40 new best friends,' said Shelby Fastback.

'It's amazing; we all support each other. We've gotten a lot of assistance from Kissy Kicks [a derbier from Maine Roller Derby out of Portland], who has a skate shop and is super supportive of us and willing to help us out with anything we need. They really want to see roller derby succeed in the state,' said Smokey Porkchop in a separate interview. 

Derby events

Bangor Roller Derby: The first home bout that is open to the public is being held at the Skehan Recreation Center, 1 Main Road North in Hampden, (the old Hamden Academy) on March 16 at 6 p.m. (doors open at 5:30) The Gold Diggers take on the Rainbros. Adults and children ages 6 and up are $5; children under 5 are $1. 

For more information on Bangor Roller Derby visit www.bangorrollerderby.com or find them on Facebook.

Central Maine Derby: Inaugural Brawl is being held on March 24 at the Bangor Auditorium. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the bout starts at 3 p.m., persons under 12 are admitted free. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door.

For more information on Central Main Derby, visit centralmainederby.com or find them on Facebook.

The Lucky Lass Throwdown will be held on March 9 with doors opening at 5 p.m. and the bout beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Rock Coast Rollers will take on The Port Authorities at the Happy Wheels Skate Center, 331 Warren Ave. in Portland. 

For more information about the Rock Coast Rollers, visit rockcoastrollers.weebly.com or find them on Facebook.

All of the leagues are on the lookout for referees as well as non-skating personnel. They are also looking for business sponsors from members of the community. 

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