Roller Girls

Colby Williams

“Before I knew which direction to skate one of the girls sent me sprawling with a quick shoulder to the ribs.”

When I think of women’s roller derby, I remember Rollerjam, the show everyone watched when satellite television first made it to the rural Midwest. The show portrayed the athletes as muscular and angry with enough tattoos and leather to make Sturgis look like a Baptist tent revival. But when does TV ever accurately depict anything? As it turns out, they nailed this one.

Last week I had the opportunity to skate with the Mo-Kan Roller Girls, Baxter Springs’s own women’s roller derby team. Not only did they say, “Yes, you may skate with us,” but they were actually excited at the thought. At that point, I’ll admit, my mind filled with red flags and images of large, pierced women knocking me through a wall. In the name of good journalism, however, I assumed a bold stature and said something like:

“I’m a big dude with a tough beard. What are they going to do to me?”

Oh the naivety of youth.

It wasn’t until I stepped into the retrofitted roller rink that I realized I haven’t skated in years. I might not even know how anymore. Plus, even when I used to know how, if anyone even attempted a high-five I lost my balance and bruised my knees.

“It’s just like riding a bike,” someone offered, but I never learned how to ride a bike, so the analogy is completely lost on me.

Then, when I saw the skaters, all thoughts of my inadequate balance were overcome by cold, hard terror. Piercings, muscles, tank tops, tattoos – the whole bit.

These girls are for real.

They glide around on skates like fish in a pond. They knock each other down.

Right when I almost finished planning out my excuse to go home and cry, one of them taunted me. Then, I remembered how many people already knew about my promise to skate with the Roller Girls. A big man like me couldn’t let a bunch of girls scare him.

So I did it. I put on all my already smelly pads, freshly purchased mouth guard and helmet and hobbled into the middle of the jeering pack. I think pure pride kept me on my skates, because after about a second my whole body ached.

They explained the rules, split up teams, and before I knew it, we were skating in a bout simulation. I was a blocker, trying to stop the other team’s jammer from getting past me, while the other blockers tried to knock me down. Let’s just say it looks like a promising season for the Roller Girls this year.

The basic field of play is a group of skaters from each team called “blockers.” They skate around the oval knocking each other around. When the pack is away from the starting line, the two teams’ “jammers” race each other to get through the pack without getting knocked out.

Before I knew which direction to skate, one of the girls sent me sprawling with a quick shoulder to the ribs. I had a difficult time even keeping up with the pack, but when I did, they took it easy on me. I only got knocked down a handful of times.

After rounds of humiliation and defeat, I eagerly devised a plan to remove my pads and conduct interviews, with journalistic intent, of course. In sweat soaked clothes, I managed to escape the fray with only a few bruises.

So, I did it. I skated with the toughest ladies this side of the Mississippi. I survived the Roller Girls.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Take my word on video. Please check out more about the Roller Girls, including video footage of me falling down, at thechartonline.com.