BY KATIE MATTESON
Have you heard about the Root River Rollers?
It’s group of 22 women and one man, ranging in age from 18-60, who belong to Racine’s very own women’s flat track roller derby team.
What’s roller derby? “It’s like football, only tougher,” the team’s skater liaison Nicole Miller said.
Hella De Vil (Miller’s derby name) is one of the team’s experienced players known as “Vets.” The new players are called “Fresh Meat” and during their 10-week initiation period they wear yellow shirts to protect them from hard hits during practice. Those in between the two skill levels are called “Tenderloins.”
She explained that while many people think of the fast and brutal roller derby of yesteryear, the modern version is slower and a bit safer with the mandatory use of protective gear.
Now players are prohibited from things like using elbows and blocking with their heads and hits must be made in “legal zones.”
But, she was quick to say that it’s still a high impact sport which involves lots of bumps and bruises.
She explained the women who play the sport find it empowering. “It feels strong to take a hit and get back up again.”
“I hit my friends the hardest,” she quipped.
The sisterhood is also a big draw to the sport, as Punchy Bruiser, a newly graduated Fresh Meat explained.
She drives from Antioch, Ill. to participate in a group that makes her feel like she’s “part of a family.”
For Ziggy Starcrust, one of the team’s Vets, “it’s a really good workout and I’m an introvert, so it helps me process anxiety.”
Hella stressed that while many of the players come from athletic backgrounds and have skating experience, the women don’t need any particular prior skills to join the team.
“We’ll teach you everything you need to know,” Hella said.
The teammates work in a wide range of occupations including a teacher, police officer, homemaker, real estate agent, human resources director and an athletic trainer.
Machete, who’s in pilot school, said her 7-year-old son has playdates with the children of fellow team members.
“My husband now goes by Mr. Machete,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a nice switch from when I was known as Guzman’s wife during the 11 years he was in the Coast Guard.”
The team practices every Monday and Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at Memorial Hall. They expect to play their first bout later this year, once they gain acceptance into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
A new Boot Camp started Sept. 24, but Hella said new Fresh Meat are welcome to join the team for the first few weeks. To accommodate the newbies, the team will soon add another hour to the practice schedule so that Fresh Meat will practice from 6-7 p.m. and then be joined by Tenderloins from 7-8 p.m. and Vets from 8-9 p.m.
And what about the man in the group? That’s Mikey Likes It, who serve as one of the coaches. He skated with the Milwaukee Blitzdkrieg and said he enjoys helping the new team grow.
For more information, visit rootriverrollers.blog or like the Root River Rollers on Facebook.