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Women get rough in Roller Derby

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A local group of women battle through roller derby.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Paul Cardoza

Clad in gear from head to toe, women are proving their strength and finding empowerment through an unusual sport.

Last year, Roller Derby made its debut in San Marcos when Texas State alumna Rebecca Hudson, “Strawberry Stomp Cake,” created the nonprofit organization, San Marcos River Rollers. From the organization came its first team: the Merciless Mermaids.

Their first game was played in June against the New Braunfels Wurst Girls, where the Merciless Mermaids won.

The team gained members and developed their skills to start a successful season over the course of about a year before their first game.

Roller Derby is played with up to 14 players on each of the two teams. Five players from each team begin on an oval flat track. One player from each side serves as the jammer, and they must get through the four other players on the opposing team to gain points. The blockers can group together and use their shoulders and hips to keep the opposing jammer from proceeding while simultaneously trying to get their own jammer in the lead. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association has set rules for leagues worldwide.

All participants must have complete safety gear, including a helmet and mouth guard. Roller derby can be an aggressive contact sport.

Denny Espino, “Tejas Terror,” and San Marcos resident, received MVP Blocker at the first bout. She said joining the league is a big commitment, but she enjoys playing.

“There’s this view that women are these petite little things but with roller derby, we can be strong and show we’re these awesome athletic women,” Espino said. “Roller derby gives me confidence I believe every woman should have.”

Roller derby is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, according to Business Insider. Women across the globe are gaining confidence through an endurance-driven and dynamic sport.

Megan Lois, “Mega Mad,” San Marcos River Rollers safety officer, has been interested in roller derby her whole life. When the opportunity presented itself through Facebook, she took it without thinking twice.

“The community we have is so special to me; everyone is really respective, encouraging and supportive of one another,” Lois said. “It is a really unexpected addition to the fun.”

The initial team was recruited through Facebook. It sparked the interest of ladies of all ages. Many had no experience, and the few who did had been instructed to get the team ready for play. There are now 11 players on Merciless Mermaids.

The San Marcos River Rollers members are not required to join Merciless Mermaids. Joining the team requires regular practice attendance, payment of monthly dues and a minimum skill assessment. The minimum skill requirement sometimes trips players up because it includes skating 27 laps in five minutes.

No experience is needed if interested. Practices are open to potential players with the proper paperwork and online registration.

The San Marcos River Rollers is hosting their first ever Beginner Boot Camp July 8 at $50 for a 12-week course. Practices are Sunday’s and Tuesday’s at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., lasting two hours.

Rita Flores, “Frida Loca,” team captain, has about ten years of roller derby experience under her belt, and shares her knowledge with the young team.

“It’s a space where women can tap into their inner bada–,” Flores said. “Sometimes, because of social constructs, we don’t really get to express that. Roller derby is a chance to do that.”

Because the organization is a nonprofit, volunteers are important to the team. Community service jobs for the San Marcos River Rollers include running concessions, box offices and refereeing.

The women on the team are elbowing their way through stereotypes, only gaining speed and momentum as they roll. To keep up-to-date with the organization, check out their website.

Their next game is September 22 in Corpus Christi against Hurricane Alley Roller Derby.

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