News


Rough and tumble sport skates into the Tri-Valley

Golden StateRoller Girls preparing in Val Vista park for 2012 season

What's got eight wheels and flies? Any of the 26 or so women now part of the area's newest professional sports team, the Golden State Roller Girls.

The team is the brainchild of Jennifer Banks, who's also president of the newly formed business.

"I moved back to the Bay Area last year and I lost my Mom on Aug. 26. I needed an outlet," Banks said at a recent practice. "I knew I wasn't qualified to make it on the established teams because I wasn't at the skill level at that time."

While she may not have had the skill -- then, anyway -- she had the desire and the motivation to start a team from scratch, inviting any woman interested in joining, whether they had experience or not.

What Banks -- whose roller derby name is Jennifer Love Screw-IT -- came up with is a team that's owned and operated by the skaters themselves. They rent a rink at Val Vista Park in Pleasanton three times a week for practice, and the women pay $45 monthly dues that go for rink rental and for liability insurance. All the executives are skaters themselves.

The first goal of the team is to be ready for the 2012 season, which begins in January, but Banks and the other team members have bigger dreams in sight: the national championships in three years.

Team members come from as far away as Tracy and Moraga for the practices. Most of the members haven't been on skates since they were in their teens. And with the exception of Banks and a few others, none has been involved in roller derby before, although most say they've been fans.

"There are skills we have to have," said Renee Henderson, whose roller derby name is Tuthy Max.

The team skates under Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) rules -- although it hopes to move to a banked track in the future -- and Henderson said required skills include doing single-footed glides for the length of the straightaway, 35 feet, and being able to do 25 laps around the track, which has an outside circumference of 238 feet, in five minutes.

This is not the '60s- and '70s-era roller derby with alligator pits and wrestling-style theatrics. This is a sport, with 40 pages of rules; players have to pass a verbal test as well as three physical assessment tests, and these women either are or are on their way to becoming athletes. That's part of the draw.

"I always played competitive sports in high school," said Samantha Christy of Danville, a relatively new skater who's yet to pick a derby name. "I tried softball and kickball. They were just a little too lax for me. I wanted something that's more competitive."

Banks, like other team members, wasn't happy about going to the gym to stay in shape. She said she's lost 30 pounds since starting the team. Kristy Blackstock, also known as Mystic Blaze, said joining the team has given her discipline.

"It's such an extreme sport, we're constantly exercising, three days a week," Blackstock said. "At least I'm not sitting on my couch."

Members warm up before practice and the team as a whole goes through a stretching routine before and after. Practice itself is enough to leave the members' legs, thighs, ankles and backs sore, as they move through drills that focus on developing core strength and endurance. Banks, who's watched other teams fade because they weren't strong enough, said at this point she's less concerned about the finer points of the game than she is in making sure everyone can last the fast-paced hour-long bouts.

The phrase "rough and tumble" may have been coined with roller derby in mind. Players use their upper arms, hips, torso and thighs to block opponents. Falling is part of the game.

"You have to be fully protected to get out there, even for practice," Henderson said. That means helmets, wrist protectors and elbow and knee pads. Members point to their bruises and scrapes as badges of honor.

It's unlikely that many of the women involved would have even met had it not been for the team. They range in age from those barely old enough to play -- the minimum age is 21 -- to women in their 40s; one joked she was worried about breaking a hip. Members include teachers, a veterinarian, a web designer and a cosmetologist, to name a few; many, if not most, are mothers.

"I needed an outlet," said Krissa Nelson of San Ramon, who pointed to the other aspects of her life as a mother, spouse and worker. "I felt like I lost my identity. This is me."

Being on the team means becoming a member of an extended family, regardless of skating ability. That's another attraction for some of the women involved.

"I think it's women empowering each other. We encourage each other," said Lorraine Vegas of Dublin, also known as Lo-Lo Down-Dirty. "There's a cool factor to it. When I talk to people, they say, 'You're doing roller derby? That's so awesome.'"

There are aspects of punk and burlesque to roller derby that allow the women involved to wear clothing, adopt attitudes and express themselves in ways they might not be able to in their non-derby lives. Tattoos and fishnet stockings are as common as elbow pads, and derby names like Trixie Coldblood, Mollytov Cocktail and MercyMe are ways the players can adopt a personality on the track that might not be acceptable to an employer or a room full of students.

The local team is not just about thrills and spills. Banks has been working with the San Ramon based National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and hopes to set up a junior league for girls 12 to 18 within the next couple of months to steer them away from drugs and into a healthier, if slightly more risqué, lifestyle.

Banks said she hopes to have a business license in the next couple of weeks and for the team to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit by the end of the year. The team is looking for an indoor track for practices when it gets too hot or cold for outdoor play, and for sponsors, too. Golden State Roller Girls is still recruiting members, and women interested are invited to attend one of the three weekly practices, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays

The biggest draw of all may be that it's a socially acceptable way of channeling aggressions.

"I like the roughness," said Jackie Nefdt -- Invader Jax -- of Moraga. "I like that we're allowed to 'beat each other up.' It's not ballet class."

Roller derby rules

A roller derby takes place on a circuit track, on which players travel counterclockwise. The two teams each send five players onto the track -- one jammer (scorer) and four blockers (defense), one of which plays as a pivot, the leader of the blockers, who shouts out instructions to teammates as needed during the jam.

The jammer scores points for her team by lapping players from the opposite team while opponents try to block, either by putting themselves in front of the jammer or other blockers, or by hitting or "checking" the other skaters. Skaters who are knocked down or forced out of bounds must return to play behind the player that sent them out. Play is for two 30-minute periods.

Comments

Posted by Lorraine V., a resident of Dublin
on Jun 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Thank you Glenn for coming out to learn about us and sharing our story with the community.

We are the Golden State Roller Girls! I love my teammates and what we stand for. Positive, patient and determined to improve ourselves in every practice. We encourage,empower and motivate one another to do our very best. We are a team of women who rock and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach our goals in a positive way! We love Roller Derby, we love our families,friends and sponsors who support us, and we love our community. Does it get any better than that?


Posted by Kristy Blackstock, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Thank you Glenn for your support and getting the word out about our team!
We are an awesome group of women who have come together to form such a positive, encouraging and healthy activity.
I love roller derby and what it's done for me and my family! I can't wait for the community to learn more about us!


Posted by Kim L., a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I love being part of the Golden State Roller Girls team! I feel like I have a place to go where I can be myself, get away from the drama of life, and just skate! The support I get from my team keeps me going each day!


Posted by Sonia , a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I have known this team for 1 week and am blown away by the spirit and heart that goes into every practice and every flier that is posted, this is hands down the best thing I have ever been a part of!I am so grateful to have found the GSRG :)


Posted by Serena, a resident of Castlewood
on Jun 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I LOVE THIS TEAM!!!!

These women work hard, they are drama free and they are helping our community in several different ways!


Posted by K.T, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jun 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I LOVE MY SISTERS, GO GSRG!



Posted by GSRG, a resident of Dublin
on Jun 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

THANK YOU GLEN, FOR AN AWESOME ARTICLE!!!!


Posted by Mac, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm

THE FIRST FLAT TRACK ROLLER DERBY TEAM TO REPRESENT THE TRI VALLEY, THE GOLDEN STATE ROLLER GIRLS!


Posted by Shay, a resident of Downtown
on Jun 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I have been skating with this team for 6wks now and I am so hooked that I dread missing any practices or outside events. I really enjoy that we all work well together. We have local sponsors who support us, and we are working toward our non-profit status. We have many different skill levels, but we all help and support each other. We also have outside support from local teams and we are lucky to get help from people like Pia Mess 24/7! I love my team, and I consider all of them my second family. I would not trade this experience for the world.

I LOVE GSRG


Posted by Screw-IT #925, a resident of Dublin
on Jun 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Thank you Glen for posting about our team in so many articles, this is really awesome!


If anyone is interested in Sponsoring us, Joining us, Volunteering for us, Refereeing for us, or you just want to attend one of our local events please email us at GoldenStateRollerGirls@Gmail.com You can also visit us on our face book page. Our web site is currently being updated so it is temporarily down but if you send an email we will get right back to you and our web should be back up soon!

Thank You,

♥GOLDEN STATE ROLLER GIRLS!


Posted by Dan, a resident of Val Vista
on Jun 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I am a huge FAN. I watch you girls on thursdays at the park. You guys work really hard and you are always nice to me.

Dan


Posted by Star, a resident of Val Vista
on Jun 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm

We are so happy to be the first flat track roller derby team in the tri valley. We are working really hard to make our community proud and we appreciate all of the support we have gotten this far. We will be hitting the next derby season hard but right now we are scrimmaging with other teams and getting ready. We welcome new skaters, so if you are interested you should give it a try. I did and i love it. I am getting in shape and feeling good. I hope to see you on the track.




Posted by Cherrie, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Jun 30, 2011 at 6:10 pm

This group of women really inspire me. They work so hard, and they put their heart and soul into this league. I am cheering you on, GO GOLDEN STATE!


Posted by Rhonda, a resident of Foothill Place
on Jun 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

When I read this article I thought of my daughter, but I think I am going to have to check it out too. Thank you, I will be sending an email tonight.


Posted by Joe, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 6:23 pm

You know you have my support! Just keep doing the right thing, and stay focused on the goal!


Posted by T-Brat, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Golden State Fan


Posted by De, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I have worked with the Golden State Roller Girls, and I know these women are on their way. They are doing everything the way a new team should. Flying G' is not only a good person but she is a great coach and if she ever wants help, she can call on me or my team and we will be there to help.

We Love our GSRG sisters!

PS. It is really sad to see another team using your article to get attention but don't worry GSRG not all teams behave this way.


Posted by Lynn, a resident of Val Vista
on Jun 30, 2011 at 10:43 pm

I ♥ YOU GUYS, GO GSRG!!!!


Posted by GSRG, a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2011 at 12:55 am

GOLDEN STATE ROLLER GIRLS ARE SCHEDULING THEIR 2012 SEASON NOW!! WHILE YOU ARE WAITING FOR US YOU CAN VISIT OUR FRIENDS SONOMA COUNTY, MENDO MAYHEM, AND THE UN-DEAD BETTYS! WE ARE ALSO DOING AN EVENT AT OUR SPONSORS "GALLGHERS PUB" IN DUBLIN ON AUGUST 5th, WITH A RAFFLE AND LOTS OF GREAT PRIZES! WETT WILLY WILL BE PERFORMING THAT NIGHT TOO! PLEASE COME HAVE FUN WITH US! WE ARE ALSO SCHEDULING AN EVENT WITH STAY TRUE TATTOO IN DUBLIN IN THE FUTURE AND THEY WILL BE DONATING ALL PROCEEDS TO OUR TEAM, WE WILL KEEP YOU POSTED ON THE DATE!

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN JOINING OUR TEAM PLEASE EMAIL US AT:

GOLDENSTATEROLLERGIRLS@GMAIL.COM

OR YOU CAN VISIT OUR FAN PAGE ON FACE BOOK, HERE IS THE LINK


Posted by Joe, a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 4, 2011 at 8:29 am

How very fun! Did not know it even existed anymore. I will try to get over to Val Vista Park to watch the practices. You Go Girls!


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