Sports

Ready to Roll

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An old sport is finding a new face on the peninsula.

Roller derby, a fast-paced, full-contact, roller skating sport, is gaining momentum locally with women playing on the Port Scandalous Derby Dolls.

The Port Angeles team has 17 members, nine "fresh meat" (new members), eight referees and three volunteers.

The Derby Dolls - moms, professionals, students - are in their 20s to 40s. In the rink, these women say they become someone else.

Team founder Julie "Rowdy Couture" Jones said she saw the sport in April while in Seattle and was spellbound.

"That's something I have to do," Jones said.

She feels the sport is a perfect fit for many on the team who are discovering new sides of themselves.

"Most of us have an aggressive nature and this is a great outlet," Jones said.

Player Kelly "Bette Mutilate Her" Mann grew up watching roller derby on TV with her mother.

"My mom always wanted to do it, so I'm doing it for her," Mann said.

Serena "Scarlet O'tear ya" Staples said she loved skating as a child and being a Derby Doll is something her family gets behind even though it's just for her.

Opening up the rink

Jones first thought about getting a few women interested in roller derby as exercise. Forming a competitive team was an afterthought.

"I didn't think it would get this much interest," Jones said.

Some women skated competitively or for recreation as children and/or haven't put on skates for 20 years. To promote inclusiveness, Monday night practices at Olympic Skate Center in Port Angeles are for newcomers. Without coaches or formal derby training, team members watched Internet videos and read up online.

"We were mimicking what we were seeing," Jones said.

Players began recruiting skating coaches and experienced derby players to get down the basics.

They watched other teams, too, which led to recruiting coach Perry Olander, a player for the Puget Sound Outcast, a male roller derby team.

Skate fast and skate for fun

Olander got involved with the sport three years ago and has coached since May.

His team goals are three-fold: to laugh, dance and conquer.

"Even if we don't win, we still get two out of three," Olander said.

Along with skating skills, those uninformed of roller derby's rules but intrigued by its fast-pace are drilled by Olander during pacing lines, when players race back-and-forth or around the rink.

With his coaching, players say they've improved in skills, are more prepared and got the chance to scrimmage against the Oly Rollers, the 2009 Women's Flat Track Derby Association national champions.

Olander says his players have improved tremendously across the board.

"They can take hits and get right back up," he said.

"Some of them really surprise themselves."

Injuries are minor due to required equipment and prepractice stretching.

"He's doing a good job of making sure they are conditioned," Jones said.

Olander says most injuries aren't anything an ice pack won't fix.

When bouts, or competitions, become more common, Derby Dolls say they gladly will add injury photos to their "Badges of Honor" page on their Facebook webpage.

Tough heroes

Roller derby can be a tough sport, with scrapes, tumbles and such, but Derby Dolls don't want just to emphasize the tough on-rink attitude.

Jones said a few of the team's goals are to become role models for young women, empower women in general and give back to the community.

They've scheduled several events, including a concert, haunted house, sock drive and movie night, to benefit different groups while promoting the sport.

If there is enough interest, they hope to start a team for young women, ages 14-18.

Becoming a nonprofit is on their to-do list, as well.

Fast talk

Players say anticipation for local games is high and they often hear talk of the team around the area.

They attribute public knowledge to word-of-mouth and Facebook.

Jones said they are optimistic that interest could grow to a point of having two or more local teams.

They scrimmaged on Aug. 29 against Whidbey Island, that started only a few months before the Derby Dolls.

“Our skaters demonstrated good use of some basic derby strategies,” Olander said.

“The also found out they could take a lot of big hits and bounce back quickly to refocus on the game. Port Scandalous Derby Dolls are off to a great start, but we still have a long way to go.”

Two scrimmages are planned for September with teams in Bremerton and Tacoma.

“We are training and organizing to start our first official bout season in January,” Olander said. 

“This is a great time to join derby because the funnest part is just around the corner.”

The team practices three times a week: 6-8 p.m. Mondays for "fresh meat" night, and 5-7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays. Cost is $30 a month or $10 for the first three skate nights.

If being on the rink isn't your thing, the Derby Dolls are looking for volunteers to fill different roles including referees, set-up crew and security.

Simmons: Sequim’s lone gunwoman

Peggy “Relentless” Simmons is the Port Scandalous Derby Doll’s lone Sequim player.

The hair stylist, owner of Salon 13 and lifelong Sequim resident, joined the team about a month ago.

Simmons and a Port Townsend player are the only two not living in Port Angeles.

She still is considered “fresh meat” but is only seconds away from the next level, reached by making a certain time for 25 laps.

Simmons, a single mother of two, discovered the sport through a friend and had no skating experience.

“I’m proof other people can do it,” Simmons said.

Before joining, Simmons had seen a few bouts between other teams and thought it always looked cool but she was a little intimidated.

When she joined, she thought, “Why not?”

“That’s what insurance is for,” Simmons said.

Since joining, she’s lost 30 pounds and quit smoking and attributes part of that to the Derby Dolls creating a friendly environment.

“My first time here, I walked in wearing flip-flops and they invited me right in,” she said.

“It was instant inclusiveness.”

Simmons said roller derby is her time to cut loose.

“This is my time,” she said.

More photos available here.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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