While roller derby has been around since 1935, in 2001, it got a makeover.
The release of Derby, Baby!, a documentary about flat-track roller derby, coincides with an increased interest in the sport.
The Cincinnati Rollergirls think it’s about time the sport got more recognition.
“We’re trying to get rid of preconceived notions that we go out there in these staged fights and all are in tutus and make-up and stuff,” says Holly Funk, known in the Cincinnati Rollergirls as Garden of Beatin’. “We want to be regarded as athletes now. It’s become an actual sport.”
Derby, Baby!, which premiered last week in Cincinnati, documents the addictive nature of the women's flat-track roller derby. “It’s seems like it’s the first truly big documentary that’s been made about the sport,” says Chrystal Roggenkamp, known in the Cincinnati Rollergirls as Truxtal.
Garden of Beatin’, a general chemistry professor at the University of Dayton, and Truxtal, a graphic designer at FRCH Design, both believe that roller derby evolved in the past several decades.
“We try to be very family-friendly and I don’t think a lot of people realize that that’s how roller derby has changed now,” Funk says.
All of the members of the Cincinnati Rollergirls are volunteers, from the referees to the coaches to the skaters, yet they all spend countless hours dedicated to the sport they love.
“I think the thing most people are shocked about when they get into it is the amount of time that it consumes because we have practices three times a week,” Roggenkamp says. “That’s the bare minimum and we’re all competing for rosters and trying to push ourselves to get better, so I would say it’s kind of expected that at least another two nights a week, you’re either going to the gym and weight training or going to the speed skating practices or doing something.”
Because the sport is so time-consuming and, like any sport, there is the risk of injury, and in this case, no compensation, what keeps Rollergirls in their gear?
“I think a very common thing you’ll hear is that the first time you saw it, you knew it was for you,” Roggenkamp says.
While some may believe that it takes special skills and training to become a flat-track derby skater, Funk remembers the first time she saw a bout and wanted to be a part of the sport.
“I was looking at all these amazing women, and they were so great, and yet I could tell that they weren’t the epitome of athleticism,” she says. “They were just regular women that work their asses off and are really good at what they did. I thought, ‘This looks like something that is fun and obtainable, and something that I’d like to be involved in.’ ”
The Rollergirls hope the documentary Derby, Baby! brings more attention to the sport and help it move from underground to Olympic status.
“This’ll be the documentary that hopefully gets more people aware of what we do,” Roggenkamp says. “I think Derby, Baby! provides a very accurate portrayal of roller derby. I particularly appreciate that it explores the business side of the game and the fact that we are all volunteers, spending both our time and money to help run our leagues and do what we love. The film brings up some interesting points about both the opportunities and consequences that we will inevitably have to face as the sport expands.”
For more information about the Cincinnati Rollergirls
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By Jocelyn Short