LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Two or three times a week, the skaters from ROCK get ready to roll during practice sessions at The Yard off Leestown Road. ROCK stands for Roller Derby of Central Kentucky. The teammates can’t wait to lace up and face off.
This is a sport the ROCK stars love, especially when push comes to shove.
Publicity Chair Laura Hohman said, “I guarantee you there is contact—plenty of contact. People go flying, and it’s still a very physical and fun sport.”
Makes you wonder: just what type of woman would join a derby squad? Hohman works for a book publisher. Other members include a psychologist and a finance director for an international nonprofit organization. They said roller derby is an escape from some of the stresses that come with their jobs.
The teammates said practice sessions are fun, but nothing like the energy they feel in a bout in front of a cheering crowd. Recently, they faced the Confluence Crush Heartbreakers from St. Louis at the Central Bank Center. It was their first bout with an opponent in three years. COVID-19 had knocked the wheels out from under them.
Nicole Begg, the psychologist, said, “Many of the venues in other cities are small, maybe an old roller rink, with not very big crowds. We definitely have one of the nicer, bigger venues, so it’s absolutely a big factor in the game. The cheering gets you real excited.”
There’s a big entertainment factor when teams face off, but it’s not a free-for-all.
Roller Derby used to be compared to pro wrestling, where opponents would get thrown to the ground or over the rails. That’s the way many people who watched roller derby on television in the 1970s remember it. These days, nothing is scripted. All the spills and thrills are real. Skaters may bump and push each other, but it’s against the rules to punch or throw elbows.
The goal is simple. One skater known as the jammer (identified by a star on the helmet) has to break through a pack of blockers to get points. That’s when the aggression comes out.
Sam Fox, a skater from Dayton, Ohio, was at the ROCK bout in September. She said skaters don’t want to hurt each other but respect tough defense. “You’ll tell another skater, ‘That was such a good hit. I’m really happy you hit me that hard. That was so fun!'”
Polly McManus, a single mother who works for a nonprofit, said, “I’d say the hardest hit I ever took, snot actually flew out of my nose.”
Maybe that’s why the skaters don’t use their real names on the floor. McManus is known as “Roary Killmore.” Begg’s alias is “Fifty Shade of Cray.”
Many fans said they were hooked the first time they saw roller derby.
Holly Heist of Lexington said, “I was definitely in it the entire time. Like, I’m not going to have a voice by the time I leave here.”
The team hopes to recruit new skaters and said no prior experience is necessary. Members believe there are a lot of like-minded people out there willing to try a sport that comes with a few bumps along the way.
You can find more information about joining the team or upcoming bouts at rockandrollergirls.com.