EUGENE– The Emerald City Roller Girls are selling out… Crowds that is. As their 6th season kicks into high gear, I thought it would only be fitting to take a look at how this rough n tough, rock n roll, and grass-roots sport is fairing
How to describe Roller Derby…? Well, it’s less roller skating and more hockey with flair, think Tank Girl on skates. Tara Gilbert, aka Alluya R. Doomed (#79), never could have imagined donning a skin-tight silver uniform, strapping on skates, and winning two roller derby championships in a row. “[At first] I thought, “Oh No! What have I agreed to do? I could never do what those strong hot women are doing.” she told me in an exclusive interview. Nevertheless, Alluya R. Doomed and her team, the Andromedolls, have now seen two undefeated seasons in a row.
When this petite brunette and a friend first agreed to try out for derby, after a match in 2007, she dragged her feet through try-outs, thinking she’d never make it. “After all, I only went to Skate World seven times to prepare.” Gilbert said with a wink, “I thought, ‘I surely won’t like it or have time for it since I am in graduate school’… however, I started to love it. I love the feeling of getting stronger, love the feeling of believing in myself, love the community of women supporting each other.”
The Emerald City Roller Girls started in 2006, when a national revival of women’s roller derby was spreading like wildfire. In every corner of the country, women are finding a new sense of empowerment, teamwork, and ass-kicking pride in roller derby. The sport that was formed during the Great Depression has returned and is going strong in what’s been dubbed the Great Recession. Contemporary roller derby is now tearing up tracks in over 20 countries, with over 600 leagues. Here in Eugene, the ERCG is in it’s 5th year and attendance and support is growing… selling out both of the home matches this year so far.
Roller Derby takes place on a flat circle track. Two opposing teams have players that can score (jammers) and players that try to keep jammers from scoring. Jammers only have to lap the pack of blockers to score, and blockers only have to kill the jammer. Can you picture your grandma doing this in the 30s?
Well you should. Derby in it’s modern form started during the 20s, when former endurance-based roller sports morphed into a point-based game with offense and defense. Locally, the ERCG website says most of it’s early success was due to guidance and experience from older leagues, “who lent us their coaches and provided invaluable advice. In this way, roller derby provides both a local and nation-wide network of grassroots athletes who have made their leagues successful with very few resources other than hard work and creativity.”
After Tara had been through 10 months of intensive training, she was drafted into the Andromedolls, a team that had been struggling the year before she’d joined. “When I arrived there was a new attitude in the team. That first year we were undefeated, winning the Season Championship by 1 point!” Gilbert told me, “the second season I skated with them, we were also undefeated & Season Champions.”
“Derby is a team sport,” said Gilbert. “The Andromedolls are successful because they play well as team. We set goals and work hard to achieve them. We celebrate each others victories and win together. The individual confidence that you get from playing derby is unmeasurable.”
Tara dislocated her kneecap during a scrimmage in December, and hates to admit that she thinks her derby days are over. “I am still recuperating so I haven’t returned to derby action since then. It is likely that I have seen the last of my derby career, and I intend on retiring at the end of May.”
While Alluya might be out for the season, the rest of the Emerald City Roller Girls are thundering back to town on March 19th. Come out and support your local jammer… you never know… it might be your next door neighbor, or the girl who gets your coffee, or your mom.