Southern Delaware Roller Derby unleashes greatest hits

The Southern Delaware Rollergirls practice at the Dover Skating Center Wednesday in anticipation of their first contest Saturday in Pennsylvania. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — Sometimes people just need a chance to step outside of their regular roles and take on a different persona for the sake of their sanity.

Such appears to be the case with the nearly 25 members of the Southern Delaware Rollergirls, a Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association team that conducts its games and practices at the Dover Skating Center.

Some of the team members’ nicknames say it all about their attitude — Armajennon, Blaze O’Gory, Brute E. Licious, Gorelee Girl and Pussycat Mauls, among others.

Logan Hall, of Dover, works out muscle stiffness after a fall during practice. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

It’s an admittedly different sport than the wacky one that was televised weekly in the 1970s with scantily clad participants who often sported black eyes and dished out bloodied noses on high-banked tracks.

However, Jamie Doerfler, whose roller derby name is Betty ClockHer, said the intensity remains the same once those skating wheels hit the rink’s surface.

“The sport, the camaraderie, the excitement, the crowd … it gives us something to do other than being the ‘mom’ and the ‘wife’ and going to work,” said Ms. Doerfler, a Milton resident.

“It’s very much a sport. We have strategies, we have refs, it is legitimate. We fill this place up. We have inside pack refs and then we have refs on the outside and then there are penalty tackers and it’s a whole thing.”

The Southern Delaware Rollergirls get their “thing” going this season with a game on the road at Hatfield, Pennsylvania, against Buxmont on Saturday before hosting their first home game at Dover Skating Center on April 21 against Nova.

They will play nine sanctioned matches, as well as some unsanctioned ones, through October.

The Southern Delaware Rollergirls were organized by Jessica Farley in April 2011 and made the Milford Skating Center their home.

However, when the Milford rink closed its doors on July 30, 2016, the roller girls decided to come a little farther north to Dover, which they said has worked out well despite the added commute for many members.

“I like the new Dover rink,” Andrea Davis said. “I think it’s well placed to entice skaters that are still from Milford on south. But we’ve still seen an influx of skaters that live north of Dover in the Smyrna and Middletown areas.”

The team even became co-ed this year as it added a few guys to its roster, though they are not allowed to participate in sanctioned Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association events.

An action-packed affair

Ms. Doerfler said the games are very fast paced and pack a lot of action into a little bit of time.

“We do two 30-minute halves,” she said. “Each jam is two minutes and the goal is to get through and score as many points as you can before the girl from the other team scores. It’s very fast.”

Caitlyn Short (left) of Milford, advances from the outside lane. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

A roller derby “jam” begins with “the pack,” which consists of four blockers from each team and one “jammer” from each team taking off at the sound of a whistle.

The jammers, who have stars on their helmets, try to race through the pack, scoring points for each opposing team member they pass. Jams last two minutes and there are penalties that can be assessed during them.

Ms. Doerfler said when people go watch a roller derby contest for the first time they are often surprised.

“It’s more of a game. It’s a serious sport,” said Ms. Doerfler. “I think that’s what’s wrong with people. They think we go to the skating rink to figure skate or something, but it’s definitely a real sport with real rules and real regulations. You can get ejected, you can foul out.”

Bruises a badge of honor

Every member of the roller derby team has a story to tell about an injury they received during a game. They wear them like badges of honor.

Team members form a block during practice. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Elise Anderson, of Camden, was walking around with a cast on her left foot at the team’s practice on Monday night.

“I know almost everyone out there has gotten broken at some point,” Ms. Anderson said. “I was just practicing and doing some jumps and didn’t land right.”

She said it left her with a fracture of her left foot.

Ms. Doerfler suffered a fractured fibula two years ago.

“Don’t kid yourself. It can get physical out there,” she said.

All of the skaters are equipped with helmets and knee and elbow pads when they take to the track.

Not your everyday team

The Southern Delaware Rollergirls aren’t your typical sports team. They are made up of business owners, teachers and even civilian employees at Dover Air Force Base.

ROLLERGIRLS SCHEDULE
Saturday – at Buxmont
April 21 – vs. Nova*
May 19 – at Morgantown
June 2 – Home vs. Home game*
June 22-24 – at ECDX
July 14 – vs. River City B team*
Aug. 11 – vs. Charm B/C team*
Sept. 15 – at Southern Maryland
Oct. 20 – Home vs. home*
*at Dover Skating Center
Doors for home games at Dover Skating Center open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door and are $5 for kids,
Dover Skating Center is at 2201 S. DuPont Highway.

The club includes skaters in the 20- to 30-year-old range with varying skill levels. Not all members who join get to participate in the bouts and many of them serve as referees or Non-Skating Officials (NSO).

Despite their team name, the group’s members come from cities and towns up and down the state — and every single one of them plays with a chip on their shoulder.

When members initially join the team they are labeled “fresh meat.”

“It’s kind of like any contact sport,” said Ms. Davis, a teacher by day at Easton High School in Maryland before she transforms into “Double Treble” at the rink. “You kind of know what you’re getting into when you sign up, but I think what keeps people is the camaraderie and family atmosphere that we have here.

Jamie Doerfler, of Milton, put. on her skates and protective gear before Wednesday night’s practice in Dover. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“It’s really more than just a ‘Hey, we all skate together a couple of times a week, a couple of times a month.’ It’s definitely a family that if something happens we all come together and support everybody.”

Ms. Davis said it reaches beyond the walls of the skating rink.

“We’re out at each other’s events supporting, whether it’s a concert or a celebration or whatever,” she said. “We’re out supporting each other in our everyday lives, not just our derby lives.”

Ms. Davis said her students know about her dual personality and many of them support her endeavors.

“I actually have a whole tribe of students that come over and are loud supporters when we have games,” said Ms. Davis. “It’s a great family environment. They bring their little brothers and sisters and their parents and it’s a great afternoon for all of them.”

Jessica Pancake, of Smyrna, whose nickname is “Fall From Grace,” said this is the fifth roller derby team on which she has participated. She enjoys the team aspect.

“I like it because it’s a team sport,” Ms. Pancake said. “Before this it was like running or doing other things like that by yourself. I like being part of a team.”

Brittani Coleman, who works for Dogfish Head Brewery, laughed when she recalled joining the roller derby squad.

“I had a friend who played years and years ago and she said, ‘I think you’d be good at it,’ said Ms. Coleman, whose nickname is Bruisey Ricardo. “So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll sign up eventually,’ and never did.

“Some time later I came on a (team) recruitment night. They said, ‘Do you want to skate with us?,’ and I said, ‘I’d like to.’ And they said, ‘You’d like to?,’ and I said, ‘OK, fine, I will!’ That was that.

“I had never played a sport before so that was interesting. It was a completely new experience being on a team and being active like that. It was empowering.”

For the Southern Delaware Rollergirls, it’s the perfect way to step out of the normal routine.

Jessica Pancake (red helmet) of Smyrna, encourages team members during a warmup exercise Wednesday night. Special To The (Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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