What moves on eight wheels, can take a body slam and goes by names like Lady Burn Johnson and Condoleezza Slice?
Folks who know anything about roller derby can figure out that this describes a DC Rollergirl. But what they may not know is that there’s much more to these tough ladies than their nicknames and colorful outfits. The women who roller skate competitively on teams are actually dedicated athletes in a sport that demands intense physical training and strategic knowledge.
The DCRG league is made up of three teams — the pink-clad Cherry Blossom Bombshells, the red and black DC DemonCats, and the black and blue Scare Force One. Added to that is the league’s traveling All-Star team and the Capital Offenders, a traveling exhibition team.
Except for the entertainment value of the skaters’ on-track alter egos, the league’s bouts aren’t too different from any other sporting event. Fans drink beer in the stands, stand for the national anthem and cheer for their favorite team. They’re even entertained by mascots, such as the Bombshells’ Da Bomb and the DemonCats’ BeelzeBubba.
But roller derby may be the only sport that requires a pre-competition demonstration so fans can learn the rules.
To play the game, each team puts five skaters on the track. Four of those players — one pivot and three blockers — form the pack. Pivots are responsible for strategically communicating with and leading their blockers. The fifth skater, the jammer, scores points by fighting her way through the pack and lapping it. She earns one point for each member of the opposing team she passes.
Samantha McGovern, known on the track as Green Eggs and Wham, said that while there aren’t always set positions for skaters, each position requires certain skills. A fast and agile skater would be a natural jammer, and a strong skater with excellent team awareness and communication would make an ideal pivot.
Though they play the same game, the rollergirls come from diverse backgrounds and career paths, from veterinarians to Capitol Hill staffers, and each has her own reason for joining the league.
Who Are the Rollergirls?
Lori Brown waited a long time before she joined a roller derby league. She knew she wanted to start skating when she saw her first bout five years ago, but had to wait until she graduated from college and moved closer to a league.
“It was this alternative sport that emphasized how strong women can be,” she said. “I think that’s what attracted me in the first place.”
Brown, who skates for Scare Force One as Wham Slam Bambi, works in a House Member’s office as a legislative correspondent. She sees roller derby as the perfect post-work activity.
“It’s great because I can leave work and come and do this and it’s great stress relief,” she said.
Christy Chason, aka BAT CAT of the DC DemonCats, looked to roller derby when she was seeking a new physical challenge. The former gymnast said other team sports she tried, like softball, just didn’t have the excitement she craved.
Minutes into watching her first DCRG contest, she turned to her boyfriend and said, “I am absolutely going to do this.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.