La Crosse roller derby heating up

By Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor

Racing, points, tracks, helmets, collisions. These are the elements of many sports, but how many athletes do all of this in roller skates and hot pants? To someone new to roller derbies, this may sound a little strange and a little outdated.

It is at first, Sara Gilman, a 2011 Viterbo graduate with a B.S. in biology, told Lumen. She lives in La Crosse, works part-time, and plans on continuing to professional school soon.

“I always loved the idea of roller derby. Now, I have the time for it,” Gilman said.

Gilman joined Mississippi Valley Mayhem (MVM), La Crosse’s original women’s flat-track roller derby team, after graduation. She hadn’t skated in about 15 years, and had to relearn.

The rules of the game are fairly straightforward. One roller derby game is called a bout. One bout consists of several two-minute jams.

During these jams, five players from each team are on the track. Eight girls are blockers in the front pack and one jammer from each team starts behind the pack. The jammer has to be a fast skater, her goal being to get through the pack.

Once she does, the jammer can score points by passing a member of the opposite team. All the while, the blockers are trying to push and shove the jammers, preventing them from scoring points.

Roller derby was popular in the 1970s and has recently made a comeback, especially on the east and west coasts.

“Back then, the players were able to punch each other,” Gilman said. However, now there are more restrictions on physical interactions between players. People still get injuries, but Gilman mentioned that injuries are actually not that common.

“The sport provides great cardiovascular exercise and requires a large amount of strategy,” she said. “It is a great outlet for stress relief and provides its members with a sense of belonging outside of the immediate family and the workplace.”

The MVM is a diverse team, ranging from college students to mothers to professors at UW-La Crosse. In roller derby, each player is given a spunky nickname. Gilman goes by Saradactyl and listed a few of her teammates’ names: Bride of Spankenstein, Vicious Valerina, and AngHella.

“We’re all from different places and are at different places in our lives, too,” Gilman, the youngest on the team, explained. “I didn’t think I’d fit in as well as I do. Everybody’s very supportive of each other.”

The MVM is very involved with the La Crosse community. The team is required to complete 30 hours of community service each month. Also, the Mayhem chooses a charity to donate proceeds to for each competition, Gilman said. Past charities have included Z-Care, the YMCA Teen Center, and HorseSense for Special Riders.

The MVM have two more bouts this month on March 24 and 31. They play nearby at the Green Island Arena at 7 p.m.

Gilman said, “As a new member of the team, I have felt incredibly welcome and blessed to know the women and others involved with our team and I would like others to know about it as well.”

“And it’s really fun to watch,” Gilman added. “These girls are good.”

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