If you invited Joan Jett to your amateur roller derby, would she come?

I’m not even sure where the idea originated from.  I remember watching Roller Derby when I was in elementary school.  It was right around that time that Charlie’s Angels was extremely popular.  Many girls in the late 1970’s tuned into the series.  Most thought these women detectives were ultra-cool. We collected the Angels baseball cards and each identified with our favorite angel.  I loved the way Kelly looked but I always wanted to be Sabrina.  In fact, it was the best of all possible worlds when I watched the Charlie Angels episode when they were undercover as Roller Derby stars. It was far from a thuggish sport.  Roller Derby was kind of glamorous, empowering, and exciting from my  9-year-old eyes.

Flash forward. We’ve had kids. We have jobs inside and outside the home. We are well beyond our hand-holding couple skate days.  The idea came to me. What a hoot it would be for us to try Roller Derby!  I socialized the idea. Not surprisingly, this was an idea that not everyone gravitated to.  It took some time, a lot of time.  I started researching.  What was modern day Roller Derby like?  There is a local team called the “Charm City Roller Girls” out of Baltimore, MD.  Similar to real life Roller Girl Slampagne’s Super Nova story,[1] I was curious about Roller Derby girl tryouts.  What did you need to know?  I could skate extremely well as a kid. I could skate fast and do all the tricks. Could I pass the muster with (gulp) the professionals?  Mind you, I didn’t want to join the team permanently, but I was curious to know if I could at least make the team.

The investigation began.  We went to see an authentic Roller Derby bout. It was awesome.  The Charm City Roller Girl Roller Derby scene has a bit of a hipster vibe.  The food was all local and they served craft beers. When I say they, it was the Roller Derby team members waiting on derby attendees.  These girls were bootstrapping the rink and their skate time by working the concessions in advance of the event starting. It was great to get to know their stories about why they joined the Derby and what they got out being part of the team.  It made the experience very personal. You were rooting for them more because you got to know them. The match starts.   As me and my girlfriends watched, I thought to myself, “Hey that girl looks like Amy and that one looks like Teri.  We can totally do this!”  Maybe not with them, but certainly we can pull this off against each other in a friendly bout. Learning the game, I began to take mental notes of the role of jammer, the blocker, and the pivot. I thought with some encouragement, this just might happen.

Then came the opportunity.  The idea was still in my head and for whatever reason, Joan Jett was the focal point of the soundtrack to what I envisioned.  I loved the songs “Bad Reputation” and “Do You Want to Touch Me?”  Both seemed like the ultimate Roller Derby Songs.  After a lot of coaxing, we had sixteen willing participants and two volunteer referees.  We invited Joan Jett to attend.  She didn’t come but we still had fun.  Here are a few tips if you wanted to get your own, Amateur Roller Derby going.

Hip and Fabulous Tips for an Amateur Roller Derby Exhibition

  1. Everyone needs a Roller Derby name. My Roller Derby name is Luscious Take Down.  It’s awesome and hilarious at the same time.  There is a Roller Derby Name Generator if you need inspiration but many of our Roller Derby names were self-generated or were the ultimate gift of a close friend.   If you are picking your own, here is a great poston guidelines and best practices to follow.
  2. You need jerseys and a team name. I chose the name “St Cecilia’s Home for Wayward Girls” as our team name. St Cecilia is the patron saint of music and being on a team from a juvenile home sounded funny to me.  I used Zazzle.com to design the shirts.  I sent the link out so everyone could order their own gear.
  3. Find a place to host the skate. I was surprised and a little saddened to learn that not many skating rinks exist anymore.  I was able to find two that were within 30 miles of my home.  The good news is that both were more than willing to rent the venue out privately.  We paid $300.00 an hour for the event so the space essentially cost us $600.00.
  4. Bring your own music. I am very connected to music in nearly everything I do. It was important for me to have the perfect Roller Derby Mix. I brought a playlist to the rink to kick off the event and also made enough copies for everyone who participated.  When the song, “Do You Want to Touch Me?” by Joan Jett came on during the warm-up, I was a little stunned.  Everything that I imagined was actually happening.  The whole vision came to be with my girls, the roller derby, and the music.  They say you should live life big while you can. That is a memory I will never ever forget.
  5. Invite Joan Jett. I found out that Joan Jett was originally from Maryland.  I had her songs playing in my mind as the backdrop of the event.  Why not invite her to the Roller Derby? If she attended, that would be epic.  Hopeful, I created this press release and sent to her agent.
  6. Instruct your participants to wear protective gear – We had helmets, protective knee and wrist guards that came in handy. I was overly confident on skates after a while.  Showing off doing a spin, my skate kicked up.  I caught myself on the ground with my right hand.  I had a pretty good bruise that would have been a lot worse without a wrist brace.
  7. Establish the Rules – We were well into our forties when we put this event on. We had a friendly bout with the aim to walk away injury free.  Each team designated a jammer. We limited the exhibition to 3 rounds.  We counted points for each time the jammer passed the line before the other jammer did. We played with modified rules and it served us well.  We had one of our girls fall on the last round.  Remember, “they aren’t bruises they are badges of honor.”  In fact, the gal who took a fall in the rink, took a more real serious tumble down the stairs about a year later.  This had her in the emergency room with a broken foot.  Out of concern for her safety, the ER nurse asked when was the last time she was injured.  My friend, smiled proudly, “The last time I fell was when I was in the Roller Derby.”  Not many soccer moms can say that.
  8. Get a couple of refs – My heart is still full thinking of the sacrifice that one of our refs gave for the cause. Our friend Ket is 6 ft 4. It’s a lot farther to fall when you are that tall. He, like the rest of us, had not been on skates for a very a long time.  He suited up in a black and white ref shirt, learned the rules, and set to work.   All courage and all in to support the dream.

Take pictures. We have great pictures from that night. The picture I didn’t get, and wish I had was one of my Mom, Helen.  My Mom at the time of the derby was 65 years old.  I think she was the second-best skater that night. Her competition was a good twenty years younger.  It was mind-blowing.  She hadn’t been on skates for probably 45+ years.  She had a roller derby name also.  She called herself “Hel on Wheels” one “L” because she didn’t want to curse and leave a bad impression.  All together this was a hysterical and memorable evening.  Hope this inspires you to be a little silly, try new things, and bring your best girlfriends along for the ride.

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About the Author:

Christine Zmuda

As a full-time technology executive, Christine strives to get the most out of life whether at work or play.  By sharing a collection of offbeat adventures and unique ideas for girl’s nights featured in “The Misadventures of the Hip and Fabulous”, Christine hopes to start a movement where women all over the world would support each other and build lifelong memories with their friend groups. Those interested can either post photos to Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #hipandfab or share about your Hip and Fabulous stories directly with Christine at czmuda@hipandfabulous.com.

Christine is also a founding Director of the Ted Rullo Foundation (www.tedrullofoundation.org). As mentioned in the book, this is a not for profit established in the memory of her father. The Ted Rullo Foundation serves to provide scholarships for high school athletes who are interested in better serving their community.  In her free time, Christine enjoys abstract painting golf, and live music.  If you are interested, you can follow Christine’s painting channel on Instagram @artgallerybyz.

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