The women on the Red Stick Roller Derby team don’t take the game lightly. When you’re ranked in the top 65 women’s roller derby flat-track teams in the world, you have to work for it. And work they do.
It’s after 8 p.m. on a Sunday night when the Red Stick Roller Derby team begins warming up for scrimmage at a warehouse on Wooddale Boulevard. An empowering playlist featuring female musicians like Missy Elliott, Megan Thee Stallion and Rico Nasty booms from the speakers. Watching the diverse group of women layer on their gear is like watching soldiers suit up for war.
Skates, check. Knee pads, check. Elbow pads, check. Wrist guards, helmet, mouth guard—check, check and check.
Roller derby is a serious sport. The local league, founded in 2007, has two travel teams: The All-Stars and Capital Defenders. In 2015, the league added three home teams, each named after local neighborhoods: Generals of Southdowns, Mid City Mafia and Spanish Town Flamingos. While the 50-person league continues to grow, it’s still a close-knit family made up of different backgrounds, professions, age groups and regions. Yet these unique women are brought together by a shared love of roller derby and their team.
NOT A HOBBY, BUT A LIFESTYLE
There’s more to roller derby than skating. Before each practice, the team does Crossfit-style workouts for at least 20 minutes. That includes burpees, frog jumps and running around the track. After workouts, the players warm up with light stretching. While on skates, they do hip-openers, stretch their arms and legs and ensure their skates are tied tight. Some players say the workouts have changed their lives. King says since starting roller derby, she’s lost weight, gained muscle and started living a healthier lifestyle. In order to stay strong and fit for games, the teammates encourage each other to make better food choices and work out outside of roller derby to improve their stamina.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Roller derby requires a thick skin. As a full-contact sport, the players often experience hard hits, falls and occasional blows to the face. Before playing for the team, prospective players go through training with seasoned players on the travel teams, also known as the A-teams. Once an A-team player feels the prospect is game ready, they can start playing. To build their strength, players hit punching bags, practice taking body-to-body hits and sometimes play against the men’s local roller derby team, Bayou Bruisers. But no matter the blood or bruises, the resilient players jump at the chance to get in the game, even after a fall.
Want to join the team? Red Stick Roller Derby is accepting new recruits Oct. 1-13. No prior skating experience is required to begin the Derby 101 program. Message the team on Facebook for details or email [email protected]