Gem City Rollergirls bring a little attitude and a lot of fun to Hara Arena with Dayton’s only roller derby league.
We are Gem City! When you hear that, you know the Gem City Rollergirls (GCRG) are coming down the track. The Girls, comprised of the two teams “Purple Reign” and “Violet Femmes,” have been Dayton’s only roller derby league for 10 years and counting.
What is roller derby? Take a little bit of Red Rover and rugby, put it on roller skates, give it some ripped tights and attitude, and you’ve got an idea.
The game, or “bout,” is held on an oval track with an inside line of 25 by 60 feet, and the outside line 13-15 feet around it. When you’ve got 10 women in a roller skating pack all vying for a place – that space in between the lines becomes much smaller!
The way to score in derby is for the “jammer” on each team to get past four “blockers” of the opposing team – after the initial pass, the jammer gets one point for each blocker they pass in a 2-minute jam.
Plus, the jammer who gets through the “pack” of blockers first gets a scoring bonus and the title of lead jammer. That means she can call off the jam before the full two minutes is up – a helpful advantage when the other team is about to score. Each bout is made up of two 20-minute periods, and as many jams as you can fit in there.
But of course, the blockers don’t make it easy. These women do whatever they need to do – within legal play – to make sure the jammer does not get through. Have you ever seen someone knock another girl out of a track by butting them with their hip? There’s a reason the front row at their derby is referred to as the “suicide seats.” Shoulder digs and hip checks are common ways to move someone out of your way. Illegal target zones are above the shoulders, back of the torso or thigh, and below mid-thigh.
However, the Gems are quick to point out that they don’t hit people out of spite. They get the points, but not at someone else’s expense.
“If we can’t win with class, it doesn’t feel like winning,” Lady Deathlock says of one of the team’s ideals (in derby, every team member chooses their own nickname – and that’s what they go by all the time…one of the players admitted she only knew people’s real names because of Facebook!).
“We want teams to want to play us!,” says Debonatrix, who goes by Debo, adding “Skill and strategy saves our butts more than being able to hit hard.”
The sport of roller derby certainly has a community atmosphere. The home team leaves snacks for the visiting team in their locker room, kids run around the outskirts, and even the “non-skating officials” get nicknames.
“Roller derby is definitely a family you choose,” says Scotchy Scotch Scott, head non-skating official. Yes, in this sport even the positions off the track get nicknames. Other non-skating official nicknames include “Loch Jess Monster,” “Hegla Huffletough,” and “Epic Brendemic.”
GCRG’s playing roster is made up of 36 females from all walks of life and ages (the average age is mid-20s, but they just had a 60-something lady retire). Some were athletic before, some were not. Day jobs include office positions and family raisers. And they’re always looking for “fresh meat.”
“There’s no hazing – we want them to stay!” laughs Debo.
Whatever your skating level, GCRG can work with you. They are a non-profit pay-to-play group, and welcome new players to train and add to their roster. If you’re a man or physically unable to skate, you can volunteer in several non-skating official positions.
Visit gemcityrollergirls.com or like “Gem City Rollergirls” on Facebook for more information. If you’re a coffee drinker, support GCRG by purchasing coffee at www.drivencoffee.com and use the coupon code “gemcityrg” – 10 percent of the purchase goes toward the team.