Women of all shapes and sizes sit at Nothing Fancy Rink in Union, lacing skates, switching out their wheels, stretching and chatting with others.
The ladies, and one lone male, are the members of a newly formed “Derby 101” class, which has a goal of creating a roller derby league in the next several months.
The class is taught by derby fanatics Yvonne Haddox, known as “Zisa Spires,” of Washington, and Ricole Schultz, or “Cherry Scarcia,” of Bourbon.
Haddox became interested in roller derby several years ago when she met a girl at her church who was involved with the Arch Rival Roller Girls, a St. Louis league. Haddox had her second son and spent some time watching derby competitions online and learning about the sport.
About 2 1/2 years ago, she became a nonskating official (NSO) for the league. NSOs track penalties, keep score, keep time and other tasks.
“I just wanted to get my feet wet,” she said.
In September 2011, Haddox started skating for Confluence Crush, a recreational league in Collinsville, Ill. Confluence Crush also has a competitive team. Requirements on a recreational league are different than a competitive league, she said.
While a recreational league is more for fun, a competitive league has a goal of high stats to be listed in the national rating.
In January of 2013, she retired from the league to try to form a league in the Franklin County area.
“Derby is a sisterhood. There’s just a feeling of empowerment because you push yourself past your normal of what you think you can do versus what you actually can do,” Haddox said. “I enjoy doing something other people don’t think I can do.”
Schultz, who had skated with the McClain County Misfits league, Bloomington, Ill., also wanted a league closer to home. St. Charles and St. Louis are the closest derby leagues.
Schultz has about three years of experience in the rink.
The duo began working on forming a league in January.
Only eight skaters are needed to charter a group, but ideally, 20 skaters are needed.
Leading up to the first practice in March, Haddox and Schultz skated in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Washington and tried to gain the interest of other potential derby members.
“We just wanted to see if we could get the interest built up in the area before we did all the paperwork,” she said.
The first meeting consisted of only four people, but just a few weeks in, about a dozen people were in attendance.
Haddox and Schultz are in the process of forming the league. Several more skaters are needed. Once the league has formed, Derby 101 will be offered for new skaters.
The ladies plan to be chartered through USA Roller Sports (USARS) and hope to eventually have a youth league, men’s league, women’s league and a co-ed league.
The course is made so that everyone can participate, Haddox stressed.
“Anyone can do roller derby. It does not matter what age you are. It does not matter if you’re male or female in our league and it does not matter what health concerns you have. Everybody can play roller derby,” she said, adding that as long as participants are healthy, there isn’t anything to stop them from playing.
Other benefits of derby include building the core muscles, learning balance, agility, endurance and toning participant’s upper body, she said.
Derby was started in the 1930s as a “filler,” at other sporting events, Haddox said. It went out of public eye for several years and eventually made its way back into the public eye.
“A lot of people remember it from the ’70s as rough and tough, with women throwing punches and beating the living daylights out of other women,” Haddox said.
In fact, the days of throwing punches are long gone, Haddox stressed.
“There are better rules. It’s safer. Everybody should try it and not stereotype it,” she said.
Even since the ’70s, derby again phased out and regained momentum early in the new millennium.
Modern day derby started back up in about 2004 with the Texas Roller Girls in Austin, Texas.
“The group was lawyers, moms, doctors — they just needed a moment where they could get together as a group of women and spend time together outside of their normal social atmosphere,” Haddox said.
It has evolved from just a handful of leagues in 2004 to more than 1,400 leagues in 2010.
The game consists of one “jammer” and three “blockers,” and a “pivot,” which controls the speed of the pack. Whichever team’s jammer gets through the other team’s blockers first gets “lead jam.”
The lead jammer controls when the jam ends. After the first pass, every opponent the jammer skates past, she earns a point. The jam lasts two minutes or until the lead jammer calls it off. The match lasts one hour with a halftime break in the middle.
Penalties are tracked for elbows, fists, pushing, shoving, tripping, etc.
“The 1970s, it’s not that any more,” Haddox said. “It’s all about safety.”
To participate, skaters need a helmet, mouth guard, wrist guard, elbow and knee pads.
Skaters must have the required gear to participate in the drills.
Because of its rough past, and the movie “Whip It,” roller derby has a lot of stereotypes, Haddox said. The movie, though good, is far from the true sport of derby, she said.
“Tattoos are not required. You did not have to be on the women’s football team to play,” she said.
Fishnets or booty shorts are not required, she said, though they are popular with many of the sport’s athletes.
“The persona (derby name and outfit) is totally created to continue the spectator part of the sport,” Schultz said. “We are trying to get people in the door so we can foot the bill for that bout.”
The more people you can get in the door, the better, she said.
“There’s an inner derby girl in everyone,” Haddox added. “They just might not want to show it in public.”
Derby practice is held each Thursday, during open session at Nothing Fancy Rink, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Those interested can simply show up.
“All you have to do is walk through the door, and we’ll get you through the rest,” Haddox said.
In May, additional classes will be offered. Haddox noted that league members will eventually have to commit to three nights of practice per week, once the league has formed.
Those interested may email email@example.com, or visit the facebook page or group by searching Franklin County Roller Derby.