A contact sport involving women skaters, first developed in the 1930s, is making a comeback across the country and here in Iowa. There are now more than 500 organized roller derby teams in the U.S., including eight in Iowa. Women who join the teams say they enjoy the competition and entertaining the audience with outrageous outfits and nicknames like Elbow MacFearson and Hot Whips Houlihan.
They also take pride in the physicality of the sport. Lacy Brunnette, who is part of the Des Moines Derby Dames, was knocked to the floor during a recent practice session inside Des Moines’ Val-Air Ballroom. “I was skating around this corner here and I went airborne and apparently my head went back, I arched my back, then I belly-flopped into the floor and blacked out for like three seconds,” Brunnette explained. “I’m fine, but no more scrimmaging for the rest of the week ’til the bout.”
That first bout for the Des Moines Derby Dames came last Saturday in Iowa City. Lisa Edwards watched as the Derby Dames warmed up to play her team – the Old Capitol City Roller Girls. “The only way they can learn is if they get knocked down,” Edwards said. “They look good, their jerseys…they look nice. I haven’t watched them skate too much yet.”
The sport is dangerous and looks something like a football game on wheels. During the bout, the coach of the Derby Dames was carted off with a serious knee injury. The Old Capitol City Roller Girls dominated the bout, winning 192 to 81. Points are scored when a team’s “jammer” – skating around the circular rink – laps one of four opposing team members. Despite the loss, Lacy Brunnette said the punching, shoving and name-calling’s all in good fun.
“You know, you’re hitting these girls and competing against them, but I wouldn’t say there wasn’t any (joking) around,” Brunnette said. “I know the batter-up taunted me in the middle of the pack with a smile and said ‘are you going to hit me?’ I gave it a good attempt.” The Des Moines Derby Dames make their home debut tonight (Saturday) when they host a team from Wisconsin at the Val-Air Ballroom. Some of their future opponents include the Quad City Rollers, the Omaha Rollers and the Muddy River Nightmares from Clinton.