As a kid, we all have daydreams about superheroes and what they could accomplish.  I think I was the queen of the daydreamers (that’s according to my teachers), and my superheroes were always these tall, strong, opinionated, justice seeking, beautiful women.  Think Superwoman, a show I plopped down for with regularity as a young girl.  Additionally, Saturday mornings were dominated by the XMEN as well as Spiderman, Firestar, Iceman, and Plasticman…see where my imagination was fueled?  One thing differed from what I saw on TV: all my superheroes wore rollerskates and all my superheroes were named Rollergirl.  Well, guess what?  It seems Nashville has it’s own gang of Rollergirls.

 

I have been meaning to seek out an interview with Music City’s Roller Derby team for a couple of years and this Saturday’s double header match, the last of the season, was my incentive to finally find out more about this team that intrigues me.  I firmly admit that talk of the Nashville Rollergirls is under the radar in many circles.  I have never been to a dinner party or had cocktails and discussed the Rollergirls.  My hope is that this interview changes this as I really think that these ladies deserve to be skating in a sold out Municipal Auditorium.  No, I’ve never been, but I am going this coming Saturday night.  You should too.  See our StyleBlueprint True Deal: enter today to win 4 tickets to this Saturday evening’s double header match.  Enter, win, go.  If you don’t win, go anyway.  This screams an “outside-the-box” fun time.  And, Nashville, we all need to break outside the box from time to time.

To buy tickets, click here for ticketmaster.

My interview was with Leann Lewis, the Nashville Rollergirls’ Marketing Director.

What is the biggest misconception that you all run into?

The biggest challenge we run into is that people have no idea there’s a roller derby team in Nashville.  The biggest misconception we run into, and often by those who are just finding out that there’s roller derby in Nashville, is that we skate around in next to nothing with only one goal – to beat the snot out of one another.  Roller derby is not wrestling.  It is full contact and it can be dangerous and it’s certainly a thrill to watch, but everything that happens is 100% real.

I have early memories of watching roller derby on Saturday afternoons.  Has roller derby made a come back, or has it stuck around since the 70’s?

Roller derby has been around in some form or fashion since the 70’s and actually started way back in the beginning of the 20th century.  Early roller derby wasn’t much more than a speed race; roller derby of the 70’s was athletic, but full of staged hits and fights; today’s roller derby has evolved into a serious amateur sport that has less emphasis on drama and more focus on athleticism.  It is definitely a full contact sport and the colorful derby names tend to lead new fans to think it’s similar to roller derby of the 70’s, but watching just one bout confirms that today’s game is it’s own thing.

My early memories may be weak, but I remember the competitors having different personas and sometimes being in costume.  Is that still part of the game?

Derby names are definitely still in use and some leagues do have skaters who wear face paint or accessories that match their derby names, but costumes are few and far between among the most competitive teams in the country such as Gotham Girls Roller Derby, the Boston Derby Dames, Oly Rollers, Windy City Rollers and the Texas Rollergirls.

How many girls are on the team, age range, and is there a wide range of day jobs represented?

We currently have just over 30 bout eligible skaters and about a dozen girls going through our 8-week training class that will culminate in a skills test in September.  Those who pass the WFTDA skills test will be eligible to bout.  Those numbers are always changing as we recruit, people move, people have life things that interfere with being able to skate, etc.  We accept skaters at 18, but our youngest skater is 20 and we have a few skaters in their forties and there’s also a junior roller derby league getting started, the Nashville Junior Roller Derby.

This is all essentially a hobby for people and an expensive one at that, so it takes a high level of commitment to want to participate in up to 4 practices a week, exercise outside of practice, be available to travel for games, and do the millions of other small things needed to make the league run and get fans to come to our bouts so we can afford to offer money to other teams to bout against us, to maintain practice space and help offset some of the cost of travel for skaters.  The Nashville Rollergirls are 100% skater owned and operated. Day jobs include teachers, service industry workers, stay-at-home moms, nurses, retail workers, office workers, managers, basically anything you can think of we either have, or have had, someone with that job.

For readers not familiar with roller derby, can you give us a brief synopsis of how it works and how score is kept?

Bouts are comprised of two 30 minute periods, which are broken down into jams. Each jam can last up to 2 minutes. A maximum of five players from each team are allowed on the track during a jam: one offensive player (Jammer), and four defensive players (1 Pivot and 3 Blockers). At the start of each jam, the pack (pivots and blockers from each team) lines up on the track behind the pivot line. Jammers line up 20 feet behind the pack. With one whistle blow, the jam begins. Once the pack has advanced 10 feet past the pivot line, two short whistle blows signal the jammers to sprint forward to fight their way through the pack. The first jammer to get through the pack that does not commit any penalties is deemed Lead Jammer. The Lead Jammer has the strategic advantage of being able to call off the jam.  After the jammers exit the pack, they race around the track in order to lap the pack and earn a point for each opposing play they pass legally.

How many games do the Roller Girls have each season, and what is the official season?

There isn’t a set season for roller derby in general and we tend to see different start and end times in different parts of the country.  Nashville typically starts off their season in February or March ending in the fall.  The 2010 season started in February and our last home game is August 7th.  We go to Pittsburgh for a game on 8/21 and to Bowling Green on 8/28.

Is there a play-off situation?

WFTDA consists of 4 regions: West, North Central, South Central and East.  The teams ranked in the top 10 for the 3rd quarter from each region go to their applicable regional tournament throughout September and October and the top 3 teams from each regional competition go to Nationals in November, which is being hosted by the Windy City Rollergirls this year.  Nashville is ranked fifth going into the South Central regional competition.

Is this a family friendly event?  If yes, do you all have opportunities for autographs and picture taking with young fans?

Roller derby is absolutely a family friendly event!  All skaters make time at the end of each bout to greet fans, give autographs, and take pictures.

How has the team grown and changed since it started?

Just as modern-day roller derby has changed over the past few years, so have the Nashville Rollergirls.  Our audience is growing, evidenced by our move from the Tennessee State Fairgrounds Sports Arena with a maximum capacity of 1200 to our first bout at Municipal Auditorium and a crowd of 2,418.  We fully expect to add at least 50% to that number, if not more, for our final home game this season on 8/7.  Gone are the days where the most penalized skaters would spin a penalty wheel to have tricycle races at half time and in comes a few people skating with their real name.  There are certainly some people that miss the spectacle aspect once so common in roller derby, but I think the sport is still so unique that one can’t help but love it.

Are you ready to try to win 4 tickets to this Saturday night’s game?  StyleBlueprint True Deal (click here): By entering, you are subscribing to our email list (free) if you are not already a subscriber.  You know you’ve always meant to sign up anyway, we’re just amping up the ante!  The winner will be chosen Thursday night and will posted on the home page of StyleBlueprint.  Winners are randomly selected.  We will enter your name more than once if you:

  • Tweet about this contest.
  • Email at least 10 of your friends about this contest with a link to this post, and cc us [email protected] on that email.
  • Have a Nashville blog? Refer to this contest with a link to this post on your blog.
  • Mention this contest with a link on your fb page (email us that you did this!)

If you do all 4 of these things, you get 5 entries!  We have 2 packages of 4 tickets each!