Hit ‘em with your best shot ROCK TOWN ROLLER DERBY
June 3-9, 2019
By Cait Smith
Skate on into a life many don’t know about, roller derby. This offbeat sport is tough, can lead to falls, and involves a lot of blocking. But what is it about roller derby that has more and more women joining? It’s not just because players can push their opponent, it’s that initial rush – the feeling of scoring the first point as a team. It’s a group of women empowering one another to play harder and win.
There’s a bundle of rules when it comes to roller derby. First, the game is played on a flat, oval track – which makes skating more suitable for small groups of people.
The game is broken up into two, 30-minute periods. Within each of those periods are units of play called jams – which lasts up to two minutes, with 30 seconds in-between.
There are five skaters from each team. Four of the skaters are called blockers (together they’re the “pack”). Blockers aim to impede their opponent’s movements or to force them out of bounds. As a safety precaution, they are only allowed to use their torso, arms above the elbow, and legs above mid-thigh when initiating a block.
The last skater is the jammer – who wears a helmet cover with a star on it. They are the only ones who can score points for their team.
Once the whistle blows, the two jammers start each jam behind the pack and attempt to score a point for every opposing blocker they lap. To be eligible to score points, jammers must get through the pack and go all the way around the track first.
As the game goes on, referees watch out for plays that are unsafe or illegal. Skaters that don’t abide by the rules could assess a 30-second penalty during jams. The team with the most points wins.
Armed with the rules, it’s time to meet some hardcore women.
Rock Town Roller Derby
What started as two separate leagues – Central Arkansas Roller Derby and Girls Rollin’ In the South Roller Derby – merged as one in 2017. Together they divided the team in two: the A-team, aka, “the Queens,” and the B-team, aka, “the Breakneck Brawlers.”
Tracy explained why it’s good to have two teams, “The Queens compete against other ranked teams. The Breakneck Brawlers don’t play for ranking but for experience. Some girls don’t ever want to be on the Queens because they know they don’t have the commitment for it – they just want to play derby.”
This works in the team’s favor, as most of their recruits come from curious Facebookers and through friends’ word-of-mouth. “We do meet-and-greets twice a year. We’ll get all the people that are interested, let them know the basics and cover the fears that they might have. Mainly, get them pumped to join,” stated Tracy. (And no, you don’t have to know how to skate to join.) For those who make the team, there’s a try-out period to determine whether they’ll be on the A or B-team.
A season for Rock Town Roller Derby consists of solid training and endurance. In December, January, and February participants get in shape, practice, and hash out issues. The real fun begins in March. They will generally play a game once a month up to October.
Both the Queens and Breakneck Brawlers compete against other teams around central and northwest Arkansas. But it doesn’t stop there, “We play Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi – all the surrounding states,” explained Tracy.
For these women, roller derby has deeper meaning. Tracy explained the importance of being positive while on the track, “When we’re on the track we’re not saying negative or hurtful things to each other – it’s about strengthening one another.” They train themselves to find balance and energy as one, cohesive team. As Tracy puts it, “Everyone plays a vital role on the track which serves a good function.”
With new members coming in, Rock Town is hoping to increase their rankings but more importantly, be a positive image in Arkansas. “Central Arkansas needs to know there is Roller Derby. That it’s a strong, athletic sport for women. [...]. We’re getting our name out there and making it known who we are,” said Tracy.
Racing on and off the track, it’s Rachelle Tracy
To her students she’s known as Mrs. Tracy, however, on the track she’s Violet Streak. “As I’m racing round [the track], I can hear my family cheer me on to victory. It’s awesome,” described Tracy. She had no idea roller derby would change her life for the better.
As an art teacher and a mom, life got a little hectic in Tracy’s world. She needed something to cheer her up. “My husband encouraged me to do something different. He said, ‘Don’t you remember the roller derby girls?’ He contacted them [Rock Town] and told me ‘Alright, you’re going to practice in two days, so get ready,’” said Tracy.
Within six months, Tracy was playing games with the Queens. She’s committed to her team as she served as a skater representative too. “The girls would always come to me because I knew how to handle any situation,” she explained. Tracy has held positions as secretary, vice president, and now president of Rock Town.
Nowadays Tracy’s schedule can get a little crazy – however, she has no intention of stopping. “I can’t see myself not doing derby. I love the people I skate with. I love the challenge and feeling powerful,” she proudly said.
To find out more about Rock Town Roller Derby, you can visit https://www.rocktownrollerderby.com/prod/ or https://www.facebook.com/RockTownRollerDerby/.
1. Meet Little Rock’s racing machines, Rock Town Roller Derby. These women have a knack for winning and lifting each other up – “We’re all about encouraging and supporting each other. We all have different personalities, and we’re all different shapes and sizes but that’s okay; that’s what makes us a family,” says the recently elected president of Rock Town Roller Derby Rachelle Tracy. (Photo courtesy of Steven Davis)
2. Rachelle Tracy aka Violet Streak says her love for roller derby has extended to her entire family, “When my husband and kids come to my games, everyone wears their Rock Town shirt. He’s Mr. Violet, and my kids are little Violet and baby Violet.”
3. In roller derby, the hits are hard and they’re real – but skaters must abide by the rules of the game when hitting and blocking. To enforce these rules, there are up to seven referees on skates during the game, plus a number of non-skating officials to track time, penalties and the score.