Being at roller derby practice is a bit like spending Friday nights at the roller rink as a kid.
Take that memory, though, and mix in a good dose of athleticism, strong women you wouldn’t want to tussle with, pink tights, short shorts, helmets, kneepads and the like.
Yeah, and nix the 80s music.
“How do you like them apples!?” one team member said as she successfully broke through two teammates skating in front of her at practice recently.
The rules of roller derby are fairly simple:
Each team has five members, skating in the same direction around a track. The “jammer” on each team tries to score points by lapping members of the opposing team. Other team members attempt to help their jammer and hinder the other team’s jammer.
Lots of fast skating is involved, as is physical contact.
One Moab team member had such a deep bruise on her upper hamstring, she cried out in pain after falling at practice.
Moab’s Roller Derby team is fairly new – they formed last August after team organizer Jessica O’Leary, or “Evil Lucian” in the Roller Derby world, moved to Moab from Las Cruces, N.M.
She had skated there and didn’t want to stop.
Cue social media.
O’Leary, 39, started a Moab Roller Derby Facebook page to gauge interest. Two women quickly signed up, and now the team has seven members.
“It’s so fun that it becomes addictive,” O’Leary said. “A lot of us spend our free time skating.”
The team practices two nights a week, Thursdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Sundays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
They’ve had a couple competitions so far and are gearing up for a home meet in June.
They’re always looking for new members. And they’ll teach you everything you need to know.
Required for roller derby are roller skates and protective gear (helmet, kneepads and elbow, wrist and mouth guards). The women pay $10 a month.
For Maureen Clapper, roller derby is a chance to participate in a competitive sport again. She played soccer in high school.
It’s also an excuse to hang out with women she might never find herself socializing with otherwise, she said.
Most important, though? It’s fun.
“For the first three months, it’s all I thought about. When you get the fever, it’s in you. It, like, becomes you.”
The first hour of each practice is skating for endurance; the second hour is full contact drills. The team has loaner skates and gear for newbies to use until they know for sure roller derby is for them.
The team has taken several trips. A few of them went to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Championships in Denver last November, and the whole team is going to RollerCon in Las Vegas in July.
Team members range in age from 27 to 39. Many have families and children.
Carrie Alexander especially enjoys the camaraderie.
“I always was into skating,” she said. “And the hitting thing is growing on me.”