Blockers practice blocking the jammer

Blockers practice blocking the jammer

Derby girls looking for new skaters

Stettler's Pummel Marys are looking for some fresh meat, at least fresh meat over the age of 18.

The term refers to new skaters in roller derby, a sport popular in the ’60s that surged to a new popularity after a rebirth in the southern United States.

The Stettler team plays as part of the Heartland Rollergirls Association, but needs more skaters to keep the local team going.

“We have had age ranges from early 20s to late 40s and early 50s,” Judy-Lyn Sylvester, association president, said.

The sport is relatively inexpensive to play – a one-time $50 payment to cover insurance and then $45 per month to help cover the cost of renting the arena space.

The league begins in the spring, as soon as the ice is off, and goes until the ice is ready to go back on. Practices happen at the Stettler Recreation Centre, but games happen all over central Alberta.

“We do offer a free one-time waiver for those who want to try out the skates and see if this is something they want to do,” Sylvester said. “For skating officials (referees) there is a yearly membership fee of $50 plus the insurance fee.”

The team meets for practice on Thursdays, 7-9 p.m. Being part of the Central Roller Derby Association (CARDA) also means the girls have access to additional practices in Springbrook and Wetaskiwin. Those are optional but are encouraged.

When people think of roller derby they often think of mean girls in fishnets and torn clothing and booty shorts, but that’s not a required element of the sport in any way, Sylvester said.

“There is no mandatory rule to wear fishnets or booty shorts to practices or bouts, though a lot of people do wear them because it’s fun,” Sylvester said. “It’s a nod to the Texas revival of roller derby. But people can wear what’s comfortable to them.”

The sport sees girls skating in a ring, with blockers and jammers. The jammer, who wears a star on her helmet, is the one who scores by lapping the group of blockers. Blockers, as the name suggests, try to stop the jammer from getting through.

It’s a rough and physical sport, and it requires a certain level of fitness and endurance, something that’s built up over time, Sylvester said.

“It doesn’t matter your size,” she said. “Some girls are skinny and some aren’t. After a few weeks skating you won’t even feel that anymore.”

The gear is relatively simple – a multi-impact helmet, like a hockey helmet or a skateboard helmet – a well-fitted mouthguard, elbow and knee pads, wrist guards and roller skates.

That’s skates, not blades – roller blades aren’t part of derby.

“A freshmeat starter package can range from $350-$500,” Sylvester noted. “(It’s) depending on brand and quality. The more high-end a person goes with gear, the more it will cost.”

Sylvester said people should head into a store for a skate fitting, as getting the rollerskates just right can be hard to do without actually trying them on first.

“There are two awesome stores in Alberta that are able to accommodate this – Bad Girlfriends Skates in Sherwood Park and Nerd Roller Skates in Calgary,” Sylvester said.

People who sign up are signing up to a two-hour practice on Thursdays, plus the bouts around Alberta.

Since Stettler isn’t large enough to have its own team, there’s rarely bouts here in town.

Practices start and end with warm-ups and cool-downs, Sylvester explained. Fresh meat start out learning the basics of skating – posture, starting and stopping, and how to fall. As they progress, they learn blocking skills and take part in drills to help them learn to take the occasional hit and hip-check. Finally, the groups take part in scrimmages to help them practice what they’ve learned in an actual derby environment.

If you’re interested in taking a gander at roller derby, Sylvester said people can contact Sylvester at 403-742-5561. The group is also having their AGM on Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m., with location to be announced on the association’s Facebook page.