Published in the Munster Express, 15th Feb 2013.
In a Hall nestled in Ballybeg, a group of ladies huddle together roller skating quickly around an oval track. To the untrained eye they appear to be knocking each other to the ground needlessly but to a fan they are the Waterford Viqueens, playing the action-packed sport of Flat Track Roller Derby.
Roller Derby has become something of a phenomenon in the past 10 years. While it has its origins in the roller-skating marathons of the 1930s, Roller Derby as we know it today started in 2003 in Texas. In just 4 years, the sport grew from two leagues to 135 across America and currently stands at 784 leagues with another 455 across the world. In Ireland the first team, Dublin Roller Girls, was established in 2009. Now the country is home to 8 leagues with positive rumours of more about to start up.
The Waterford Viqueens started in January 2012 and in one short year have taken their club from a group of five girls skating in a circle to a nationally recognised training team, preparing to play their first ‘bout’ this summer under the guidance of their coach Jim. Their motto stays true to the ethos of roller derby, ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’, as the team of moms, office workers, lecturers & students run the entire operation by themselves, handling PR, Finance, Insurance, Fundraising and Merchandise. They are learning as they go and receiving invaluable advice and support from the already established teams.
You’d think that a sport made up primarily of women would be rife with cat-fights and rivalry but it has never been that way. Everybody sees the benefit of helping each other, as the more teams there are in the country, the more ‘bouts’ they can play and the more publicity the sport gets nationwide.
Safety is a primary concern. Protective gear must be worn and all new skaters are required to complete a ‘freshmeat’ course before being accepted onto the team. Bruises are an occupational hazard, but most girls see them as a badge of honour, taking pride in their bumps and scrapes.
The benefits of playing derby can be seen across the team. “It’s great to get fit as a by product of doing something I love” says ‘Pain Doe’. “It’s hard, it hurts, but it is an amazing stress reliever. I’m not thinking about deadlines when I see Disco Inverno flying towards me, ready to knock me down.”
As an added bit of fun, each skater must pick a unique derby name. “They act as our alter egos on the track”, explains Bee Rawler, “they allow us to become stronger, more outgoing versions of ourselves. We can achieve things we would otherwise be too shy to do in normal life”.
These ladies run an all inclusive team. They welcome everyone as no experience is necessary to join. One thing’s for sure, they demonstrate that girl power is well and truly alive and that women’s sports can be just as exciting as men’s.
Waterford Viqueens train in Cill Barra Community Centre Wed 6-8pm & Sat 10am-1pm. Next Freshmeat Information Evening is Wednesday 5th Feb at 7pm. Contact facebook.com/waterfordcityviqueens for more details.