More to local derby than meets the black eye

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First Posted: 5/28/2013

Yes, there are fishnets, and sometimes tutus and full-on face paint. There are scary names and silly ones, fast skating and people getting hit – hard.

Yet, despite these hallmarks of roller derby, the sport still manages to surprise those who take the chance to look into it. It’s not all theatrics like it once was, but a game full of dedicated athletes who stand for much more than what people see as they race around the track on quads.

I know this because, as of late March, I’ve been a member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals flat track roller derby team, leaving me to not only witness but be a part of all derby has to offer.

The first thing people say to me when I tell them I play derby is, “I didn’t even know there was a team around here!”

Well, there is, and we’d love your support.

On June 2, the Roller Radicals will host its home opener at Skateaway (610 Blackman St., Wilkes-Barre), and we invite fans of all ages to come out, have a good time, and see what derby is all about as the team takes on the Black Rose Rollers Rotten Cherries.

In the area since 2009, the Roller Radicals is a team of about 25 that includes players, bench coaches, referees, support staff, and those in training, such as myself, that are so lovingly referred to as fresh meat.

The team is one of utmost structure, following Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (or WFTDA) rules. There are green ducks and purple ducks (the new recruits that are learning the basics), then bout eligible rookies and vets, who have been required to pass a written WFTDA rule test.

Perhaps the littlest known fact is that derby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. The International Olympic Committee is considering it for inclusion into the 2020 Olympic Games.

Still don’t have your attention? Consider this, a facet that has kept me so enthralled by the sport: the girls on the skates.

We have women on our team who range in age from 19 to their mid-40s, of all body types and athletic levels. We come from the Poconos and Binghamton, N.Y., in addition to local areas.

Sure, the players have names like Pussycat Mauls, Breaking Back Sunday, and Jackie Kenne-die, but behind those monikers, you’ll find moms, a social worker, a lawyer, and a hairstylist, among so many other occupations.

And not only that, the Radicals as a whole seek to give back to their community. The team gets in on as many fundraisers as possible while holding their own at local venues in order to support local business and talents.

If that’s not enough of a game changer to grab a sports enthusiast’s attention, I’m not sure what is.

But, if you still have questions, go ahead and grab Sally Sadist, number 13, on bout day for an in-person rundown on an opportunity you can’t skate by.