SUMMERSIDE — Being able to fall correctly on roller skates is a must.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Sarah Shred aka Suzie Shank (left), Venus Hughes aka Hook Er Wheels, Jana Selby-Rogers aka eMMa mAe and Didi Kenny aka Di Sciple, Prince County members of Red Rock N Roller Derby, after a recent practice in Summerside.
It’s a lesson Di Di ‘Di Sciple’ Kenny learned the hard way.
The 35-year-old mother of two played ringette in her younger days but had never been on roller skates. That all changed when she signed up to be part of what has become a nation-wide movement — roller derby.
“The biggest adjustment is finding your balance, finding your centre of gravity, learning how to fall properly and getting back up after you fall,” said Kenny. “You have to have no pride in the beginning when you fall. You have to fall a bunch of times to get your courage.”
Falling is rehearsed during Monday night practices at Centre Belle-Alliance.
It’s there that the Prince County members of Red Rock N Roller Derby run through weekly drills in preparation for bouts against teams from across the Maritimes.
Lessening the impact of a fall is a must since injuries are all part of the game.
“The first time I really went down hard was probably during the first few weeks I joined roller derby,” said Kenny, who joined almost two years. “I got a little overconfident. I was still learning my centre of gravity, my balance, and I was skating pretty quickly when my feet came out from under me and I fell backwards, which is very common in the beginning.”
On the floor, on her butt, the pain was intense.
“I slammed down and remember just feeling electrical twinges up my spine.”
But Kenny didn’t give in to the pain.
“It didn’t keep me off my skates. I was injured for quite a while. I still kept skating.”
Jannett ‘Mantracker’ Jones sits on the sidelines, watching her teammates run through drills. It’s been four months since she’s been on skates.
She’s counting down the weeks until her child is born, an arrival expected sometime in April, and when she can once again lace up the skates.
“I had never been a skater. A lot of the girls that come in have background experience figure skating, hockey skating or that such thing,” Jones said of her experience on wheels before joining Red Rock N Roller Derby in January 2011.
She was wobbly at first and had a few good spills, one that resulted in a trip to the chiropractor to have her back adjusted.
“Once you’ve had one real good fall you kind of learn your lesson.”
But Jones, like Kenny, couldn’t hang up her skates.
“It’s empowering,” said Jones. “The comradry, the friendships you’ll make are amazing. It’s a new exciting sport. It’s just something different and it’s fun and it’s exercise and you get it great shape doing it.’
Red Rock Roller Derby has grown in its two years, to include about 20 members from across P.E.I.
In Summerside, an open house is set for Nov. 19 at Centre Belle-Alliance for those interested in putting on gear and trying out the sport.
“I had a best friend who played roller derby in Ontario. I kind of followed her derby career. When I heard there was derby coming here I was totally stoked to try it out,” Kenny said about how she got her start. “It’s unique. I’ve never done anything like it. It’s empowering beyond anything. I feel more confident. It keeps me fit. I’ve met some of my best friends in roller derby.”
Bouts are where the Red Rock N Roller Derby girls shine.
Dressed in bright tights, flashy shorts and with their game faces on, the girls, each with a unique skater name, always compete to win.
Bouts are aggressive.
“People do get hurt,” said Jones. “You can get some serious penalties or even get kicked out of a game if you intentionally throw a fist or an elbow.”
Only women are allowed to compete although men can join as referees and coaches.
Certain body parts can’t be used against others and each skater has a job to do.
“A bout is two halves, a half an hour a period. Periods consist of up to two-minute jams or less than that. A jam would be the two-minute time period or less that the blockers or the majority of the pack — four from one team and four from the opposing team,” explained Kenny. “The blockers start off and there are two jammers that start off a little bit behind the pack. They are the ones who are the point scorers. Each time the whistle blows at a new jam, the pack starts and have to pass a line. Once they get past the line the jammers come through and have to fight their way through. Each time they get through… they get points based on how many opposing team members they pass.”
That, she added, is where people get hurt.
Bringing someone down can be exhilarating, admitted Jones.
“But as soon as you do it you pretty much know, if there is time left in that jam, they are going to come back for you,” she added. “You definitely have to keep your eye on that person you took out.”
Even with the prospect of injury, roller derby is about much more than competing.
“If you win or lose, it doesn’t matter,” said Jones. “Everybody’s going out to have fun.”
During the open house, skaters will show ‘fresh meat’ how it’s done, loan out their gear and, hopefully, sign up some new players.
“I don’t want to go away from it,” said Jones. “I want to continue learning with the rest of the group. I want to be ready for next season whenever I am available to come back on skates.”
Kenny added, “Throw caution to the wind and put the skates on. Give it a month or two and you will never look back.”
To learn more, visit www.redrocknrollerderby.com.