Talk Derby To Me

Roller derby, Green Mountain style


Story, photos, and videos by Priscila Ortiz

What do an engineer for IBM, a hairdresser, an accountant, and an appliance store employee all have in common? They’re members of the Green Mountain Derby Dames, Vermont’s first roller derby team.

GMDD is comprised of 40 strong, kick-ass women, and with names like Blitzkrieg Blondie and Bruise Control, why would you think otherwise?

what's this pic about?

GMDD get ready to battle Maine's Calamity Janes.

GMDD’s mission statement states that the Dames seek to“empower women personally and athletically through the sport of roller derby. As a “skater-owned and –operated organization”, they intend to hold themselves “to the highest standards of respect and sportswomanship on and off the track and to be a positive force” in their community.

The Dames first formed in the winter of 2007, having their first bout in February 2009. They like to call themselves a “do-it-yourself” league as they run their own organization. An example would be of skater Annie Cockledoux. She is not only GMDD’s team captain, but she is also the team’s Public Relations official.

You might be wondering how these women come up with such creative names for themselves. Queen Defeat-YAH came up with her name in the shower. "A roller derby name is a very serious decision. This is what half of the people I know call me. I wanted a name that was fun, and represented someone or something that I respected, and you can't go wrong with Queen in your name. So Queen, mixed with a play on Latifah....my name was born."

Cockledoux was with a co-worker one day, and they were thinking up funny drag names when her co-worker yelled out “Cockledoux!” “How could I not use that name?” she said.

Her eyes lit up with pride while talking about her team. “I have a job outside of the derby, but this is a lifestyle. This is what I do.”

According to Cockledoux, the team didn't face too much opposition when they were getting started, “considering Vermont’s so liberal and diverse.”

“Since we started in the winter, people must have had cabin fever; we sold out our first bout, and we’ve been selling out every month.

People came to shows expecting to see women pulling each other’s hair and throwing chairs.

what's this pic about?

GMDD and the Calamity Janes wait for the whistle to blow.

But what they got was a completely different experience.  Roller derby is a full-contact sport played on quad roller skates. Games, known as bouts, are played on an oval track and consist of two 30-minute halves, which are divided into two-minute-long jams. A jam is when five women from each team are on the track with each team having one pivot, one jammer, and three blockers. The pivots are placed in the front, setting the pace. The jammers’ job is to make their way from the back of the pack to the front. They score points by passing members of the opposing team. The blockers are the body of the formation. Their job is to make a safe pathway for their jammer, while blocking the opposing team’s jammer.

When the referee blows the whistle, the skaters move forward. At the second whistle, the jammers begin to fight their way through the pack in order to be the “lead jammer.” The jammers receive one point for every member of the opposing team they pass.

A roller derby team in California, the Bay City Bomber’s Web site states that roller derby was invented in Chicago in 1935. “Men and women skaters simulated a cross-country marathon race by circling thousands of times on a banked surface.” After two years, the marathon turned into a team sport. There were two co-ed teams consisting of five skaters circling the track in a pack, with a jammer rounding the track, trying to pass the opponents.

“Roller derby was proclaimed the first team sport where women played to the same rules as men.”

But back to those Green Mountain gals.

 

As stated in their mission statement, GMDD intend to be a positive force in their community. After every bout, they donate 10% of the ticket sales to different non-profit organizations in the area. As of April 2010, GMDD have given away over $12,000 to organizations such as the American Heart Association, Vermont’s Children’s Hospital, VT Cares, H.A.N.D.S, and Kid on the Block VT, among others.

Kick-ass women, roller skates, and generous hearts...what more could you ask for?

Do you know how to roller skate?

Top of Page