Roller Derby and Mother’s Day

The clacking of the skates on the track is an unmistakable sound: with it comes ten skaters, two of whom—the point-scoring jammers—are pushing their way through, dancing around, or jumping over the edges of the blockers that stand in their way. Seconds later, they all have skated further around the track, surrounded by a cloud of whistle-blowing referees.

If this seems like an odd start a story for Mother’s Day, it probably is…if we were anywhere other than The Hangar, the home of Portland’s Rose City Rollers.

Ranked the number one roller derby league in North America and the number two league in the world, Rose City Rollers is home to over 550 skaters ranging in age from 7 to 55 and supported by about another 500 volunteers. Within Rose City Rollers’ ranks are mothers, children, siblings, spouses, and significant others.

Give the holiday, we thought that we’d take a moment and ask some of our mothers—current or former skaters, or the mothers of our current skaters—how derby has shaped their lives, or the lives of their children. From them, we hear stories about body positivity, community and connection, and seeing one’s child grow with and through the sport.

All Shapes and Sizes: Roller Derby and Body Positivity

Robyn Liu is a medical doctor and who formerly skated with Rose City Rollers’ recreational league, the Wreckers, under the name Lioness. Now she cheers her daughter, who skates under the derby name of Square Not, on from the bleachers.

“Our society is such a treacherous place to raise daughters,” she says. “When Square Not was born, I promised myself that I would stock her life up with as many role models and cool aunties as I could.”

“A few months before we met roller derby, Square Not came to me distraught about her weight,” says Liu. “Understand, this is a child who had always been petite and slender—and she was only eight years old—but already she had gotten the message that weighing too much was something to be ashamed of. I didn’t have a clue about how to combat this. It kept me awake at night.”

Once Square Not started skating, though, things changed.

“Her coaches and her teammates were all different shapes and sizes, and they all praised and encouraged her for what she was learning to do with her body, and she in turn encouraged them right back,” says Liu. “You see other girls who look different from you who are also achieving, and you can develop this deep, intuitive appreciation for the fact that appearances are so much less important than determination and hard work.”

“Now, when she talks to me about her body, it’s to show off how much thigh muscle she has gained.”

Communication, Community, and Connection: Derby Opens Up The World

Leslie Pierce, who skates for the Rose City Rollers’ Wreckers under the name ManaTease, is mother to the now 12-year-old Screamsicle. For Leslie, roller derby has been as much a matter of personal growth as it has been watching her daughter continue to grow into a strong and adventurous kid.

Leslie Pierce and Screamsicle trackside at a recent roller derby bout.
(Permission to use photograph for this article granted by Leslie Pierce.)

“Two weeks in Screamsicle told me her coach, sLoLo, said I could play too,” says ManaTease. “My initial thought was that I wasn’t tough enough or young enough to tackle roller derby.  I knew that these weren’t reasons that sounded valid enough to share with an impressionable 9-year-old. So I put the skates on and it’s been a wild and fun ride ever since.”

Fast forward three years to today.

“Screamsicle is now a 6th grader and navigating all of the life changes that occur during this challenging period. Roller derby has also made the world a less small place: she doesn’t rely wholly on her school friends for social validation because she also has her teammates—girls from 12 to 18 with a myriad of body shapes and sizes and world experiences—to help her grow.”

This sense of community and closeness is not limited to Screamsicle and her teammates.

“Roller derby has also opened and connected our worlds by giving us a language that only comes with roller derby,” adds ManaTease. “At a time when it can feel hard to connect with things that are real versus what our smart phones are telling us, the bruises, frustrations, and highs that come with playing roller derby give us a solid way to connect. Being surrounded by strong, confident, and inclusive skaters has been a true inspiration for us both.”

Cultivating One’s Sense of Self: Moving Past Labels and Limitations

“I could talk for hours about how roller derby has changed my kid’s life and my own,” says Bettie Newell, mother to skater Alexander Slamilton. “Slamilton came out to us when they were nine. They were really struggling to find a place to fit in. There are great resources for trans- and non-binary kids in Portland, but Slam wanted to be out in the world, not tucked away with other gender non-conforming kids.”

“When derby was recommended to us, Slam’s initial response was a hard ‘no’ because it was perceived as women’s sport. We came to watch a bout a few months later. I’ll never forget the moment Slam turned to me and said, ‘I want to do this!’”

As a mother to a non-binary child, the community in and around roller derby impressed Newell.

“It was so refreshing to step into a community that represented so much more of the broad and beautiful gender spectrum. It was no small thing for Slam to come to a practice and see other skaters with their pronouns on their helmets, and to see that those pronouns were not limited to she/her. Slamilton has forged strong and authentic friendships with other kids, the kind of friendships that can only come from being able to show up fully as you are.”

Bettie Newell and Alexander Slamilton at the Skate Park.
(Permission to use photograph for this article granted by Bettie Newell.)

This sense of empowerment is not limited or felt by Slamilton alone: last summer, Newell, along with “some of [her] favorite derby mamas,” started Rose City Rollers’ Derby 101 program because it looked like fun. Nearly a year on, roller derby has had as much of an effect on her as it has had on Slamilton.

“I had no idea that I would fall in love with the sport. Playing roller derby has allowed me to examine my own self-limiting labels,” says Newell. “When I arrive for a practice, I can be fully in my body in a way that I’ve never been able to. I can take up space without apology. I am surrounded by—and have the support of—fierce, incredible athletes. We are taught to embrace and utilize the things about ourselves that maybe we’ve never seen as assets. There is no one right way to have a body, no one right way to identify in the world. My ideas of what it means to be a woman, a mother and an athlete have grown exponentially.” 

Coaching, Compliments, and Making It Better: A Coach’s Perspective

Sharon Ferrier, who is better known as Maye Daye with the Rose City Rollers community, has a slightly different perspective: in addition to playing roller derby since 2012 and skating with the High Rollers since 2014, she sits on the Rose City Rollers’ Board of Directors and coaches the Killer Bees, one of Rose City Roller’s four teams for skaters aged 7-12. Her daughter, T.N.T., was just drafted onto a Petals Team—the league for 7-12 year olds—after successfully completing the Butterflies Program, which prepares young skaters for increasingly competitive play.

“Throughout the past year, I have learned so much about them, myself, and how roller derby can be used at every level to guide discipline, self-confidence, and supportive communities,” says Ferrier.

No small part of Ferrier’s success and satisfaction comes from Rose City Rollers’ relationship with organizations like the Positive Coaching Alliance. Rose City Rollers, like every roller derby league, strives to ensure that its skaters’ experience on the track supports their physical and emotional growth.

“For our youngest skaters, roller derby is not about being perfect: it is about journey to learn and eventually master individual skills and team gameplay. I love to recognize the persistence it takes to keep getting better.”

As the mother of a young skater, Ferrier does not just see the power of this persistence in young skaters at the track; she also sees it in her daughter.

Sharon Ferrier and T.N.T. smile for the camera after a bout at The Hangar.
(Photography Credit: Steven L. Price)

“I see the reflection of what T.N.T. has learned on the track every day. Her growth mindset is at work, her persistence is constant, and her awareness of others is on point! I am so proud to be raising a child that I know will contribute to making it all better.”

“Keep making it better” is one of Rose City Rollers’ core values.

If you would like to know how you or someone you love might get involved roller derby, check out Rose City Rollers’ aptly-named Get Involved page. If you have never been to a roller derby game, you can see all of our upcoming bouts on our Events page. If you don’t live in the Portland-area, there are over 400 World Flat Track Derby Association-affiliated roller derby leagues around the world.

Gold Star Volunteer May 2018: Zeriosa

Zero

Zero

Rose City Rollers is pleased to announce May’s Gold Star Volunteer, the exceptional Zeriosa (Kate Finedaniels). Zero takes her love of the league to a whole new level with volunteering, showing her commitment to the league across many programs. She has mad coaching skills, officiating know-how, and takes care of Rockets draft coordination, on top of several other volunteer gigs. Zero’s commitment really shines and her love and dedication to our community helps our league be the best we can be.

Why have you stayed involved with RCR?
First of all, I barely left my house before joining the league and so all my friends are here! Also, volunteering gives me a way to meet people across the different programs in the league. This is my community and I want to help sustain it. When I see a need, I want to jump in and support the people and things I care about as a way of giving back the support that has been given to
me.

What was your favorite volunteer experience?
Being a captain of Rockets! It was my first experience of feeling like part of a team and it was fulfilling even when it was hard. I had to step outside my comfort zone and do things I’ve never done before —  I could go on and on about how much I learned about leadership and humans and teamwork, not just from the experience but from my co-cap and teammates. I still love all of those people and I’m rooting for them always, even though many of them are on different teams now.

What has being an RCR volunteer meant to you?
I’ve gotten to watch people across all the programs I’ve participated in and invested in (whether it’s Wreckers, Rockets or officials) develop as skaters and officials over the last four years. I see so many people around me who want to be excellent at whatever it is they do. It makes my heart happy to see hard work rewarded with success, whether it’s someone doing a hockey stop after they said they could never, trying out for travel team or getting to be a tournament head official for the first time.

Is there anything RCR could do better for its volunteers?
Recognition! Some volunteers may get overlooked because we’re such a huge league with lots and lots of diligent and capable volunteers. When you think in your head that you appreciate
someone or the work they do, remember to say it out loud to them too.

Gold Star Volunteer April 2018: Ill PresiDante

Rose City Rollers is happy to present the prestigious Gold Star Volunteer Award to Ill PresiDante (street name Dante Buccieri), an esteemed member of team Zebra. Dante has filled many roles within the league, willing to help where needed and contribute knowledge to all. He loves Rose City, roller derby, his league family, and all the amazing folks he has met along the way. Congratulations Dante, your recognition is well deserved and we here at Rose City Rollers greatly appreciate all your hard work and dedication.

Do you have a favorite team?

Officials aren’t allowed to choose favorites! But seriously, my favorite will always be Team Officials.  There’s an incredible camaraderie within officiating crews, and we regard each other as teammates.  We all are here to bring each other up, and support each other during great games and rough ones.  There is communication, strategy, and best practice sharing, just like any other sports team.  We work together, we train together, we grow together, & we succeed and fail together.  Everyone here has the crew’s best interests at mind.  If that’s not a team, I don’t know what is.  They’ve got my back, and I have theirs.  I wouldn’t trade Team Officials for anything.

 

Why have you stayed involved with RCR?

I’m no different than many folks who joined roller derby.  I never really found a group that I fit in until I found the sport.  When I moved to Portland in 2014, I knew no one but my parents.  RCR officiating and RCR at large took me in with open arms.  The officiating crew has become a surrogate family and that’s meant the world to me.  My derby husband Kill Nye has become one of my best friends within or without derby.  Keiran Duncan and Darth Bling became by mentors.  I’ve gotten to help grow some great officials in Knitty, Doesn’t Matter, Jersey, Xtra Chris P, and too many others to name.  We’re all in this together and we help make world-class roller derby happen.  Team Officials is why I stick around.

 

What has being a RCR volunteer meant to you?

I grew up in the Boy Scouts of America and it instilled me with an appreciation for being part of something bigger than myself.  Being part of Rose City Rollers gives me that same sense of pride and personal satisfaction that what I’m doing matters.  At its core, RCR provides a nurturing space for people to grow and empower themselves through this wonderful and weird game.  Being an official gives me a unique opportunity to watch skaters evolve from Bambi On Ice at their first scrimmage to competing for spots on Wheels of Justice.  I’ve seen people become leaders, teachers, mentors, organizers, and arbiters.  My involvement with RCR means the development of not just our skaters, but also the officiating crew, our announcers, our event staff, and our administrative staff.  This goes beyond teaching people to skate or helping someone understand how to construct a track.  This organization has helped people, myself included, become better versions of themselves.  I can’t ask for a greater sense of satisfaction than being part of an organization that changes lives.

 

Any suggestions for new volunteers or those considering volunteering with RCR?

Don’t get intimidated by the size of RCR.  I started my derby career with Connecticut Roller Derby (formerly CT Roller Girls) and we had about 50 people between skaters, officials, and administrative personnel.  I came to Rose City and was frankly overwhelmed that this league was literally ten times larger than CTRD.  We’re a big organization, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a place.  We want you here, and we want help you in.  Don’t be afraid to ask, and we’ll help you find where you need to be.  

 

Final Thoughts?

I think that sometimes it is difficult for some volunteers to remember that other folks have lives, hobbies, careers, and friends/family outside the Hangar.  Not everyone can volunteer an insane amount of hours, and that’s okay.  There’s a place in RCR for people who’ve organized their lives around roller derby and those who do it for fun.  I think we do a darn fine job of supporting our fellow volunteers, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect.  Find some time to love and appreciate your fellow volunteers more, and reinforce the positive culture we have here.  Things go haywire once we start to rest on our laurels.  Stay vigilant about honest and open communication, and assume good intent.  We’ve got a great thing going here, and it takes every last one of us to keep our culture positive and welcoming for new and old members alike.

Gold Star Volunteer March 2018: Tammy Lita Sanders

Roller derby is the type of community that draws everyone in – SOs, kids, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents. And that is exactly how Rose City Rollers met this month’s Gold Star Volunteer winner. Tammy Lita Sanders came to RCR to support her amazing grandkid & Rosebud All-Star Captain Raven Spencer, but discovered a home for herself in the process. Lita (or Loco Lita, if you ask Raven) has taken on the role of Junior Program Merchandiser for all levels at both home and away games. It’s a job that has given her a sense of purpose and she tells us that she can’t imagine not ever being a part of Rose City Rollers and the Rose City Rollers Juniors Program. We’re proud to present Lita with our March Gold Star Volunteer Award – Congratulations, and please don’t ever leave us!

Gold Star Volunteer February 2018: Jasberry

Jasberry (Jasmine Crandall) is the Rose City Rollers Gold Star Volunteer for February. In her time at Rose City, she has taken all the volunteer opportunities thrown at her. Some have fit and some haven’t – She is not shy to tell us what she excels at and what she sucks at (her words, not ours)! Reffing, coaching, NSOing, MSR coordinator and team captain of the Rockets, derby is her jam and she wants to know it on all levels. Jasberry came to roller derby like a lot of us – By accident, coincidence and good fortune. We at Rose City Rollers are so glad she did. Congratulations Jasberry!

Why have you stayed involved with RCR?

What else would I do? When I started I had no idea I would become as involved as I have. I never felt like I had a place before I came to Rose City, but I really feel like I belong here.

What was your favorite volunteer experience?

 

Reffing the WOJ vs Rat game in August of 2017. It was my first D1 game as a ref and it was incredible- I’m really glad it was in The Hangar. I felt like all of the training I’ve received set me up for success and that I made my mentors really proud.

Any suggestions for new volunteers or those considering volunteering with RCR?

Try everything! I worked a bunch of weird positions before I found the ones I do now. Reach out to HV and tell her what your strengths and weakness are- and be honest. If you don’t like leadership positions in real life, you aren’t going to like them in volunteer world. I really thought I would coach more when I tried that, but it turns out I’m just not that great at it and that’s okay! You will find the place you fit in, whether it’s behind the scenes or in the spotlight. There really is a place for everyone here if you’re willing to be part of a community.

Want Exclusive Access to Wednesday Night Bouts? Get a Season Pass Today!

Coming up this Wednesday, the two winners of the 2018 season opener will face off in a private bout at the Hangar. Want to see the two teams battle it out for the top spot in the standings? Make sure you have your season pass, because this bout is only open to season passholders. In addition to admission to all 2018 season Hangar bouts, season passholders get to attend the following private bouts:

01.31 Break Neck Betties vs. Guns N Rollers – Season passholder exclusive!
04.25 High Rollers vs. Heartless Heathers – Season passholder exclusive!

PLUS, RCR 2018 Season Passes have no ticketing fees and include:

  • Early entry to all 2018 season Hangar bouts!
  • Framed 2018 Season Poster!
  • Invites to private league events, including 2 Wednesday night bouts!
  • 15% merchandise discount on RCR branded merchandise.
  • A invite to the RCR league wide year-end picnic.
  • Passes are fully transferable! If you can’t make a bout, you can send a friend!

Reserved Seats Season Pass: $399 ($798 value, a 50% discount)

General Admission Seats Season Pass: $299 ($598 value, a 50% discount)

Both General Admission and Reserved Seating Season Passes allow access to these exclusive Wednesday bouts. Don’t miss a hit – Get your season pass today in the RCR Web Shop.

Rose City Rollers Represent at 2018 Roller Derby World Cup

Portland, OR – The Roller Derby World Cup will be held in Manchester, UK, from February 1st through the 4th, with skaters from Rose City Rollers — the number one ranked roller derby league in North America and the number two ranked roller derby league in the world—contributing skaters to five teams.

Team USA and Team Canada pose for a photograph after a bout at The Hangar in Portland, OR, last summer. (Photography Credit: Regularman Photography)

Bonnie Thunders (Nicole Williams), Jes Rivas, Loren Mutch, Licker-n-Split, and Jessica Chestnut will be skating for Team USA, which will be coached by Drew Flowers, another member of Rose City Rollers. This is the single largest contingent of Rose City Rollers’ skaters playing for a single team at the Roller Derby World Cup. What is more remarkable is the fact that Rose City skaters make up one fifth of Team USA’s 20-person roster.

“Representing USA roller derby at the World Cup is an honor and one of the athletic achievements of my lifetime,” says Jes Rivas. “When I take the track with my teammates in Manchester, I want to skate with the relentless determination, dogged work ethic, and insane talent shared by the giant pool of people who play and make this sport possible.”

Rose City Rollers also will be represented on Team Brazil, Team Russia, Team West Indies, and Team Spain. “Representing Trinidad and Tobago at the Roller Derby World Cup, has brought me closer to my roots, and my entire family,” says Visakha Seon, who normally skates for the Wheels of Justice and the Guns N Rollers. “I am humbled and honored to be a part of this world stage for our sport.”

In addition to the adult skaters, Portland will be sending one of its junior skaters—Square Not (Ridley Liu)—to the International Derby Exhibition at the World Cup. Square Not, who is 14, was invited after submitting a tape of her skating to a selection board. When asked what she wished more people knew about roller derby, she had this to say:

“The movie Whip It! is not what flat-track roller derby is like these days. I wish more people knew about the sport in general.”

Square Not (Ridley Liu), who skates in Rose City Rollers’ Junior Program, will be traveling to England to compete in the International Derby Exhibition. (Photography Credit: Regularman Photography)

BBC Sport will be broadcasting the Roller Derby World Cup finals from Manchester. If you would like to see these athletes skate closer to home, Rose City Rollers’ next home team bouts will take place on February 16 & 17, and its junior programs will play a double header on February 18. For tickets, please visit the Events page.

Lifer Award Winners 2018: Effy and Minstrel Psycho

Rose City Rollers is excited to be able to award two amazing volunteers with the Life Award again this year. Congratulations to Effy and Minstrel Psycho for dedicating so much time, love and energy to this league. We would not be who we are today without you!

Name: Effy
Years in roller derby: 8
Roles in the league: A little bit of everything… most recently WoJ team manager and NSO!
What brought you to Rose City Rollers? I had just turned 19 and was looking for a community to call my own
What does volunteering with RCR mean to you? I like that it feels like I’m part of something kind of secret but that also has a big impact within the derby community in general. It’s really amazing to see how derby had changed so many peoples lives.

Photo by Upswept Creative

Name: Minstrel Psycho/Cindy Young
Years in roller derby: 10 yrs
Roles in the league: Banner girl, Ex-Travel Team skater, Current Home team skater, Training Committee, Co-Chair Accountability Committee, Rose Bud coach, Voice of reason and of course Grandmotherly duties.
What brought you to Rose City Rollers? My love for Roller Derby! Hitting and getting hit! Nothing better!
What does volunteering with RCR mean to you? It’s so important to me. To lift, empower and support women and young girls to thrive in all they do. To watch the growth of a new skater is so exciting! These women and young girls inspire me everyday.

Derby as a global community

Want a free Rose City Rollers T-Shirt?

Who doesn’t want a (another) derby t-shirt?

And a free one at that?

Get out of here, right?

One of the discussions that we have been having here in The Hangar is about the scope of our audience: who you are, where you are, what you’re like, etc. Sure, we could run Google Analytics or Twitter Analytics but, hey, let’s be honest, those things don’t say much about you as a person. If there’s one thing that we know about the people who play and watch derby, it’s that they—you— are more than a “unique visitor per month.”

Derby is a global community. We all know this. Everyone says it all the time. For once, though, it would be great to see that idea be demonstrated as a reality. Let’s use the Intertubes to hammer the point home.

We hosted the London Rollergirls at our Hometown Throwdown this past year, we skated against Argentina’s 2×4 Roller Derby and Montreal’s New Skids on the Block in Seattle; and we enjoyed watching Malmö and skating against Melbourne at the Championships in Philadelphia. Do we have anyone from Japan following us? South Africa? Ireland? Finland?

With that in mind, we thought that we would start off 2018 with a little fun: take a photo of yourself holding a sign that mentions the Rose City Rollers in a friendly and fun way along with where you are taking the photo and, if you happen to be the person furthest away from The Hangar (45.4719, -122.6616), we will send you a t-shirt.

The rules (such as they are):

  • Post your photo on either Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram;
  • Be sure to tag us (i.e., post to our Facebook page, “at” us on our Twitter account, etc.);
  • If you use Twitter, let’s try something else: tag the photo with #wearederby to see if we can’t maybe get this to trend;
  • As many people can be in the photo as you want (i.e., your team, your league, your friends) but only one shirt is going out (like every roller derby league, we are, at the end of the day, a non-profit);
  • Be awesome. If you are involved in or follow derby, you are awesome; we want to see that awesomeness in how you approach the photo (read: we don’t get out as much as we’d like so your photos give us a chance to live vicariously through you); and
  • The contest will close on 12 January 2018 at 5:00 p.m. PST (the day before our 2018 season kicks off!).

Oh, while the person who submits the photo (or their designated recipient) wins the t-shirt, we will have two “honorable mentions.” This will be our (completely arbitrary and non-quantifiable) way of recognizing a great submission (same basic rules apply though).

We look forward to seeing, and getting to know, more of you!

Gold Star Volunteer December 2017: Andy Oakley

Rose City Rollers is pleased to present the Gold Star Volunteer Award for December to Andy Oakley. Andy consistently goes above and beyond for the league and promotes the mission of the league through service and dedication. As a coach, NSO, bout coordinator and home team skater, Andy has put her stamp just about everywhere in the league. She truly exemplifies what roller derby, community, and giving means to us here in the Rose City.

Andy Oakley #22

Why have you stayed involved with RCR?
I was never really athletic growing up, but being a part of roller derby has taught me that my body can do so many things!  I also have teammates that are very supportive of me, which helps when I’m having a hard time (in skating or in life!).  I also really like working with the Rockets, and seeing how much better they get at skating in just a short time.  This is also true of the juniors – I’ve coached some of them since they started skating, and now some of the same skaters are part of our Rosebuds Travel Team.

What has being a RCR volunteer meant to you?
I get to spend my time doing what I love!  I think getting to travel to other leagues when officiating or even skating has shown me that RCR has really great officials and volunteers.  We run top-notch bouts, we train officials and volunteers really well, and although sometimes we may think things are not running completely smoothly, we really do have organization to all the chaos.  Rose City is a really big league and I meet new volunteers almost every time I show up to the hangar!

Do you have a favorite team?
My team, of course, the High Rollers!  (The High Rollers were always my favorite home team even when they lost every game in one season)  But I am also a fan of the Wreckers, the Rockets, the Rosebuds, and the Wheels of Justice.  We have some pretty sweet teams at Rose City.

Do you have a favorite skater/official/volunteer?
I really look up to Hannah Jennings on Wheels of Justice.  She is smart, hard working and confident – I’d like to be like her as a skater.   I think my favorite official would have to be Darth Bling – he puts so much time and effort into getting better and making the whole league better, from officials to skaters.