Region Rat Rollers looking to help revive roller derby sport in NWI
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent June 5, 2013 11:04PM
The visiting Midwest Derby Divas of Chicago prepare for a first period jam on the sidelines at their bout versus the Region Rat Rollers on May 18 at Hammond's Jean Shepherd Center.
Updated: July 7, 2013 1:03PM
Ask a sports fan about roller derby and the response might be “it was good while it lasted.” That’s if the athletics aficionado was older than 40.
As far as the Region Rat Rollers are concerned, talk is cheap; they want to show today’s fans what they’re made of on the track.
The Rollers, the “only roller derby happening between Indianapolis and Chicago” is a league of 66 women who seek to play the only way they know how. They wish to represent Northwest Indiana in a sport that’s experiencing a comeback.
“I’ve played all sorts of sports,” said player Mallory “Maltreatment” Martin, of the team that was founded in December 2011. “I’ve never got that fulfillment of being able to play so competitively, yet walk away and shake the other girls’ hands, as I do in roller derby.”
By including “Region Rat”, in the name of their club, Martin and other Rollers seek to “take ownership” of that title — the good, the bad and the ugly of it.
RRR participants like “Trauma Cass” and “Twisted Sister” discard polite titles and call each other “girls” and refer to new recruits as “fresh meat.” They’ve only had two seasons to prove their toughness, and they haven’t won a “bout”, or game, yet, but players and coaches believe they’ve hit their stride.
“They’re really devoted to the sport,” coach Wes Wiegand said of the Rollers players. “We want to be able to become better at the sport — including the coaches, too. But there’s a lot to learn in this sport, a lot of rules. The more we learn the better off we are on the field.”
In roller derby, two teams of five players compete in two 30-minute periods, each seeking to accrue the most points. Not all players are equal: as they skate around a flat track (as taped off in their home gym, the Jean Shepherd Center in Hammond), “jammers” look to lap the opposition, while “blockers” seek to prevent that. Jammers wear a star on their helmets. The versatile “pivots” don a stripe.
Though bloody noses, bruised ribs and other injuries are not uncommon collateral damage, blocking is regulated by officials who monitor each jam. For example, contact by the hands and feet and above the shoulders would result in a penalty.
At their May 18 home bout against the Midwest Derby Divas of Chicago, the Rollers point total was nearly doubled by their opponents halfway through the first period. Plagued by penalties early, the region team closed the gap a bit, to finish with a 226-173 loss to their larger, more experienced rivals. On June 1, RRR fell harder to the Lake City Roller Dolls at Warsaw, 209-57.
Rollers pool their talents, resources and intangible support like a family, according to Martin. They are students, homemakers and office managers. As a non-profit group that is 100 percent volunteer owned and operated, members pitch in toward facility rent.
“We work hard at what we do and we practice three days a week,” said Hebron resident Gwen Brous, RRR skater and treasurer. “When we first started out we only had 22 (players). In this area, it’s catching on.”
Just as longtime region native April Beres helped to found RRR for other skaters, the organization often lends its support to other groups. Beres and the crew sponsored Warriors First Foundation at the May 18 bout. Besides their charitable contributions they offered all service people with active duty or veteran’s IDs free admission.
Brous said prospective skaters should look for a “cattle call” for new, ah, talent to happen with the next two months.
For more information about the Region Rat Rollers, visit regionratrollers.com.