Most sports for women don’t encourage physical contact – to “protect” them.
Turns out, that’s the opposite of what some ladies want.
“If you asked us what we enjoy most, I think there would be a resounding majority that would tell you the best part is getting to hit each other,” said Beth Mast, 36, aka “Teflon Donna,” a longtime skater for Philly’s roller derby team, the Liberty Belles, and the head of training for the league. “It's so physically challenging, and we just love it!”
Soon, all of Philly will get to take a closer look at how these ladies compete.
Philly Roller Derby will be hosting the 2017 International Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Championships on Nov. 3-5 at Temple’s Liacouras Center. The Liberty Belles are also in the playoffs, taking place all summer, to make it to the tournament.
They dropped in the rankings this year, falling out of the top 20 for the first time in history, so this tournament is especially important. The Belles will be taking the track against a team from Arizona on Friday as the Division 1 playoffs get underway in Dallas.
Zuri Pryor-Graves, 29, aka “ZipBlok," plays the role of blocker and is owner and designer of roller derby gender-free handmade clothing line TheF0LD and a sex therapist. She said while teammates are mostly women, some do not identify that way.
“We do not recruit ‘girls’ and we do not write ‘girl’ on any of our recruitment information or any official documents,” she said. “This sport is very inclusive and not only has an equally competitive division of men's roller derby, but openly recruits and holds space for gender nonconforming people and trans folks. We do not even use the gendered pronouns 'she' or 'her' when announcing. Announcers call everyone gender-neutral pronouns. It is the way of the roller derby world.”
Pryor-Graves has also endured her share of injuries on the track.
“I tore my ACL, PCL, LCL and meniscus,” she said. “The injury was not sustained from a legal or typical hit in derby, but it did happen on the track. Although we play a full-contact sport, usually when people play within the rules, it is less likely that we will get hurt.”
Philly Roller Derby is a skater-run and operated league, but participants bring a lot of dedication to the sport. It requires 14 hours of practice along with four required hours of committee volunteer hours to participate.
“A normal week for me is eight hours of work, come home, cook food, decompress for a little and then get in the practice carpool and go to practice for two and a half hours,” said Jillian Barrett, 27, aka JailBars, of Kensington, one of the co-heads of Champs planning and a skater for the Liberty Belles. “We practice three to four nights a week, which ranges from two to three hours, and focus on building our skills and developing our strategies. Conditioning is usually built in and we come a half-hour early on Thursdays to do off-skates strength building. I go to the gym one to two days a week for strength training.”
Sound like fun? Philly Roller Derby is recruiting now with the next Freshmeat training session beginning in November in Germantown – no experience necessary. And everyone can attend the championships in November. Follow @phillyrollerderby on Instagram and Facebook for more information.