Spinning her wheelsAlexandria woman joins roller derby team.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Amity Schneider has never been much of an athlete. She’s not a competitive person. She’s not aggressive by nature. But when she puts on a pair of roller skates, she becomes a new woman – Emma D. Ville – empowered, edgy, entertaining and in her element.
Schneider has become involved in the recent resurgence of a sport many thought was punched and kicked off the track – the roller derby. But it’s back. And it’s better than ever.
“Roller derby popularity grew about eight years ago or so,” said the Alexandria resident. “It was big in the 60s and 70s.”
The derbies of yesteryear bring to mind rough, tough women in skimpy outfits, shoving, kicking and fighting each other around the track.
“The current roller derby is nothing like that,” Schneider insisted. “There are actual rules. There is not so much theatrics as it used to be.”
Schneider had always been interested in the roller derby. Five years ago she saw the Minnesota Roller Girls compete in a game (bout) and “fell in love with it.”
“It seemed so empowering for women to be in a sport like that,” Schneider said of why she was enthralled. “I thought for a female full contact sport it was really intense and involved.”
A few conversations with some of the players from that team further sparked her interest, and she learned more about the growing sport. This past winter she skated a couple times with the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls.
“I hadn’t been on skates in 15 years! First time I got up on skates I was holding the rail,” she said with a laugh. “After a half hour it was like riding a bike. It came right back.”
With a vengeance.
“I loved it! Oh, it was a blast!” she continued. “Once I got out there on those skates it was fun.”
Unfortunately, Schneider knew that because of distance, joining that team was not possible. But a recent surfing trip through the Internet alerted her of a newly-forming team in Fergus Falls.
“I was so excited I could have died,” she said.
Dubbing themselves the Fergus Falls Roller Girls, Schneider and her teammates started organizational meetings a month ago and had their first practice last night, Thursday. As of now, 10 women are on the team, and they are welcoming new members (for information, contact Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org).
“It’s people of all shapes and sizes, people of all ages,” she said of another reason she loves roller derby. “This sport is so encompassing and so accepting of so many individuals.”
Schneider explained the basics of the sport: There are two teams of five players (they must wear roller skates, not inline skates). Each team has a jammer, a pivot and three blockers. On the first whistle, the blockers and the pivots start. On the second whistle, the jammer takes off. The jammers earn points for how many people on the opposite team they pass. The rest of the team tries to stop the opposing jammer from passing them and scoring.
Each “jam” lasts a maximum of two minutes, with the entire bout (playing time) lasting 60 minutes.
Schneider and her team plan to practice “heavily” this summer and to recruit new members. Then by fall, they hope to have enough members to not only hold intraleague bouts, but to compete against other roller derby teams in Minnesota. Ultimately, they would like to travel to other states to compete.
She would also like to see the sport of roller derby make an even bigger comeback, regain its sense of athleticism and lose its reputation of a rough and tumble sexualized brawl.
“This is a real sport that should be taken seriously,” Schneider, aka Emma D. Ville, concluded. “The people involved are some of the greatest people I have ever met. And it’s a lot of fun!”