Roller Derby Jams the Cape

Most of the members to The Cape Cod Salty Dolls, the Cape's new all-female roller derby team

Lindsey Crane - Most of the members to The Cape Cod Salty Dolls, the Cape's new all-female roller derby team

The mention of roller derby is almost certain to evoke nostalgic images of choreographed plays and scripted brawls amongst feather-coiffed broads—with risqué aliases—blazing around banked tracks.

The recent incarnation of the contact sport has drastically evolved from this brief dark phase in its extensive history, although the tradition of scandalous nicknames has remained intact. 

Steeped in a fierce Do-It-Yourself mentality that often incorporates elements of punk and feminist ideologies, the renegade sport (dominated almost exclusively by women) has been spreading worldwide with an epidemic proportion since the early 2000s. Cape Cod Roller Derby league has recently brought the revival that has literally mobilized thousands of women across the country to the Cape. 

“I have always had a secret roller derby obsession,” explains Lynne Duquette Perera, 34, who, along with friend Talia Arone, 33, founded the league this winter. “I watched roller derby with my family (it was in black and white) back when I was a little girl. I was so intrigued with it and always wondered if it was staged or real,” she says. 

Arone, or “T Wrexx,” of Harwich, says she wasn’t aware of the sport until about the late 1990s. “I only knew the image of derby, not the actual sport,” says the mother of an 11-year-old and an 18-month-old. “I always thought that it looked just straight up cool.” 

Not only are today’s bouts real, but roller derby is finally gaining recognition as a legitimate sport worldwide thanks to the efforts of countless amateur leagues and official governing organizations of the sport, such as The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, developed in 2004. According to WFTDA’s website, in 2012 there were 1,100 flat track derby teams on record worldwide. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed posuere cursus lacus, in mollis erat auctor sed. Aliquam volutpat venenatis pulvinar. Nullam sed velit lorem. Maecenas felis arcu, pharetra eget pharetra at, dictum id lectus. Sed et diam velit, at rutrum ante. Integer sapien odio, hendrerit elementum accumsan ut, feugiat non turpis. Nulla odio quam, malesuada eget laoreet et, volutpat vel nulla. Duis ac mauris velit, dignissim mollis elit. Proin ornare tellus quis enim vulputate hendrerit.

Cape Cod Roller Derby Info:

Co-founders and team leaders: Lynne Duquette Perera and Talia Arone
Website: www.capecodrollerderby.com and Cape Cod Roller Derby on Facebook


Email: capecodrollerderby@yahoo.com


Open Skate: Hyannis Youth and Community Center, 141 Bassett Lane, Hyannis; Fridays until July; 7 to 8:30; $10; ages 18 +. Contact CCRD for info on equipment. 


Fund raiser: Saturday, June 22, 12 to 5 p.m. (silent auction ends at 4:30) at the Yarmouth Port New Church, Route 6A. Silent auction, art/craft sale, music, face painting, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Contact CCRD about buying a table for $25.


Websites for more information on roller derby:
Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby: www.wftda.com
USA Roller Sports (USARS): www.teamusa.org/USA-Roller-Sports.aspx

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Duqette Perera, who co-manages CCRD and its sole team, Cape Cod Salty Dolls, with Arone, says she had joked with friends for a while about forming the Cape’s debut league, despite the fact that she and her co-founder had no prior experience playing the sport. When the Yarmouth Port resident posted a Facebook status in February about finally starting the process, the feedback she received was “amazing and motivating.” “My friend Talia and I started really talking about it all the time after that. It just struck a chord between us,” explains the mother of almost 10-month-old twins. “We did things backwards: formed a team, then a league…,” she says. “Our goals are to have a few more teams in our league and offer a place for Cape Cod ladies from 21 to 61 to be active and be a part of a team which has already become a family.” 

What began as somewhat of a joke on Facebook quickly developed to a league that currently boasts an all-female team of sixteen full members, who span the ages of 23 to 54.  (The eldest member, Eileen “Wrecking Ball” Varner, is the mother of the league’s youngest, Raya “Rayzah Burn” Varner.) The league aims to have about twenty-one members. “I think just getting out and doing something other than…what most people our age do, like go to the bar," explains Duquette Perera. “We’re all family now, these people that I had no idea even existed on the Cape,” says Duquette Perera. “Now, I talk to them every single day. It’s pretty amazing.” 

Although no men have yet to inquire about joining the ranks, Duqette Perera, or “Lulu Larceny,” says CCRD would not be opposed to the idea and would consider adding a men’s team if there was enough interest. 

The league plans to eventually compete with other teams in the state, as well as in Rhode Island and Maine when they “are all ready for the contact aspect,” explains Duquette Perera. “It’s definitely intense,” she says when asked about the intricacies of the sport. “It’s a learning process: Learning the game and then learning the rules. It’s coming together slowly.”

Even though an official bout may be some time away (Duqette Perera estimates about a year), CCRD is serious about reaching its goal. The league is currently searching for a coach, although Duquette Perera notes that member Amanda McGerigle, 33, “Panda Commanda,” helps considerably with organizing the drills. Referees and team captains will be added in the future, she says.  

The Salty Dolls began their regimen this winter at CrossFit Phase II Fitness in South Dennis with a program specifically tailored for their group. The league also attended a skills clinic in Providence, R.I., led by Providence Roller Derby. Duquette Perera says the latter league, the main group CCRD has been networking with, has been very supportive of her burgeoning league’s efforts. Additionally, friend Alyson Pitts, co-founder of the Maine Roller Derby league, who is originally from the Cape, has offered CCRD advice, according to Duquette Perera. “It all kind of starts the same way. I mean, grassroots from the ground up,” she explains of support amongst fellow leagues. 

“We’ve all improved by leaps and bounds in the short time we’ve been practicing together,” says Amber Telford, 34, of Plymouth, a lifelong friend of Duquette Perera. Telford, “AK-47,” explains that she too had no previous experience with the sport before joining CCRD, but the fact that she has been a serious skateboarder for about 15 years made attempting derby more comfortable.

“It felt like almost a natural transition for me to be moving on wheels,” Telford says at a recent open skate, joking that it’s also convenient that she is able to use much of the same equipment for her new endeavor as she does for skateboarding. “I like the community of it…meeting up with the same people every week and having a whole isolated network of people who are all focused on one thing. It’s positive,” she explains.

One of the league’s ultimate goals, says Duquette Perera, is to become first an apprentice and then a full member league of the WFTDA, which, according to the organization’s website, is a sanctioning body for the women’s flat track version of the sport that “develops and maintains the standardized rules for roller derby.” The association mandates that leagues first begin membership with the group through an apprentice program before full membership and participation in WFTD-organized activities. In the meantime, CCRD just recently applied for membership with USA Roller Sports (USARS), a national governing body for the amateur practice of various roller sports, including roller derby.

The league has been honing its skating techniques since April at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, which houses a polished concrete rink. The Salty Dolls also recently began an open skate night every Friday at the rink. Duqette Perera points out that anyone who is interested in learning the sport is welcome to participate, even if one doesn’t express a desire to join the league in the future. “It’s amazing how many people come and want to either be involved in roller derby, or learn more about it, or even just put on skates and come skate,” the leader says about the increasingly large response to the open skate. “All these people just come out of the woodworks…It’s pretty amazing.”

Members of other derby leagues have even come to this weekly event to practice, since Hyannis may be closer to where their team is based, says Duquette Perera. According to WFTDA’s website, the closest team to CCRD registered by this organization (as an apprentice league) is Mass Attack Roller Derby (MARD) in Taunton.

The co-founder explains the league’s monthly dues cover a little over half the rent for the rink and the open skate fees help with another 10 percent. Duqette Perera says she hopes that eventually some local businesses will offer to sponsor the team. 

In addition to the camaraderie the Salty Dolls have developed with one another, members have relished the contrast roller derby offers from their everyday lives.

Duquette Perera, who is the wedding coordinator for the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth and also an independent photographer, notes that about 80 percent of the league’s members are mothers.

“It’s kinda something that is totally different from everything else that we have to do every day as women, as moms, as people…who are part of the day-to-day grind,” says member Kristy Maguire, 34, after a CrossFit practice earlier in CCRD’s career. “You know, this is like a little fantasy land,” she says. Duquette Perera echoes Maguire’s sentiments on the sport’s escapist element. “I think that’s probably key: Going out and doing something different and getting out of my life a little bit, even though I love them,” she says. “It’s fun to just…tune out and roller skate.” 

History of Roller Derby:
The roots of the modern sport now known as roller derby, according to the website of USA Roller Sports, USARS, originally formed in the 1920s with the conception of roller skate races. In the 1930s, trainer Leo Seltzer developed the races that began on banked (or raised) tracks with curves that facilitated skater speed into a sport involving more physical contact amongst opponents. (Sportswriter Damon Runyon observed early in roller derby’s history that the accidental collisions that often occurred amongst skaters were the most entertaining aspect of the races and convinced Seltzer to incorporate more of the contact element into the sport.)
Throughout the decades, roller derby has transgressed various stages, primarily utilizing banked tracks until the early 2000s. The usage of raised tracks for roller derby sharply diminished over time due to the expense of building and storing such a track, in addition to the inconvenience of transporting this type of structure to games, etc. According to the WFTDA’s website, the modern version of the sport highly favors the usage of flat track surfaces, which can be anything from skating rinks to basketball courts. However, banked tracks are still frequently used today mainly for speed skating and in some cases, roller derby.

The Game:
The modern game of roller derby, according to the website of USA Roller Sports (USARS), the national governing body of various amateur roller sports, is “played by two teams on roller skates, on an elliptical track, in contests called “jams” that last up to two minutes each.”
Each team may have up to five players on the track at once: one “jammer,” who is the designated scoring player, and four “blockers.” One blocker per team may be designated as a “pivot,” which is a blocker who upgrades to a jammer throughout the game. The jammer is identified by a helmet with two stars and the pivot by a helmet with stripes. The other team members wear unmarked helmets. During the bouts (games), which consist of two periods of 30 minutes, blockers skate together counterclockwise, in what is known as a pack, simultaneously helping their team’s jammer navigate the opposing pack while preventing the other team’s scorer from intercepting their own pack.
According to the WFTDA’s website, points are scored during the jams when a jammer who has earning scoring rights (by making it through the opposing pack of blockers once) legally laps opponents. The winner of the bout is determined by which team has scored the most points. 

 

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