Fisher, center, a member of the Crooked River Roller
Girls roller derby team from Brunswick, Ohio, tries to
break away from members of the Indianapolis Junior
Roller Derby team during their game in the Great Lakes
region of the Junior Roller Derby Association at the
Akron Sports Complex on Saturday, May 23, 2015, in
Ohio: The words scrawled on the windows of the Dodge SUV with
Indiana plates were a message for the competition: "Great
Day to Kick Your Butt."
stood in the Akron parking lot staring at the vehicle, a woman
with a curious expression approached. "Is it a tough
an innocent enough question.
this the first time youíve attended a roller derby
bout?" I asked.
Sendelbach nodded, adding that her granddaughter was playing
and a grandson was a referee.
well, as a grandmother, you might need to cover your eyes now
and then," I advised, chuckling.
Crooked River Roller Girls, a youth squad whose members range
from 9 to 18 years old, have skated together on other teams.
The event that Sendelbach attended recently was the first home
bout for the team, which formed in October.
the Akron Sports Center, Sendelbach sat in the front row of
the bleachers. Her family, some 20 strong, and good pal Sue
Reigle were seated nearby.
granddaughter, Olivia Sendelbach, whose skater name is Slug
Bug, came to her side, Grandma enveloped the 15-year-old in
be careful, Bug," she whispered in the teenís ear.
be fine," she was assured.
bench at the side of the flat track were the girls who make up
the local varsity team. Reilly Spencer-Trueman of Cuyahoga
Falls, Ohio, aka Pluto, was excited as she watched the
competition warming up. Devious, who goes by Dylaina Campbell
when sheís not on the track, was nervous.
on her mouth guard, the high school student watched skaters
Bustiní Stitches, Audry Hipburn and Caught ní Kandi from
Indianapolis. Around and around they went, shooting a warm,
sticky breeze toward the girls.
names are important. Some are sinister, others as sweet as a
was called Diva since I was little because I got what I
wanted. I mean, not in a sappy way, but Iím
persuasive," admitted the 15-year-old Dylaina, "so
Devious seemed to fit."
9-year-old spitfire Cassandra Evanich, a member of the junior
varsity, was given the name Pocket Monster by her mother,
names have very sentimental meanings.
Michaela Sisson, aka Moe Jammer, was given her name by her
was murdered five years ago," she said, "and I donít
have the heart to give it up."
guts to be a roller derby gal. You need to be quick-thinking
and athletic. Decisions are made in split seconds and strength
is important. Thereís also something else about being a
roller derby girl: Itís cool.
a really diverse and underground," explained Devious, who
is an artist and plays the viola. "When you go to school,
you say, "Yeah, I play roller derby. Not soccer. Not
softball. Roller derby."
some, skating has been a godsend.
derby saved her life," explained the mother of one of the
skaters. "She was borderline suicidal. She fits in. Derby
mom said she likes to refer to some of the girls who skate as
a "beautiful band of misfits."
Hallís daughter, Saige, aka Megan U. Fall, is a current
skater. Another child, Kit, is retired from the team.
daughters went from shy, quiet girls to interactive girls,
girls positively challenged by the physical and intellectual
demand of roller derby," he said. "We have every
type of personality on our team, yet the sport of roller derby
demands give and take, expression and cooperation in order to
gain an ounce of success. It has made a positive and
noticeable difference in their lives."
coach Nick Kubik, whose daughter Natalie, aka Gnat, is on the
varsity team, said itís important to understand that todayís
roller derby is not staged. "Itís a real sport with
real athletes," he said..
bouts are nothing like the laughable, televised game of the
í60s and 70s in which actors performed outlandish antics for
the camera. No one is pulling hair or slinging an opponent
over waist-high railings.
the halftime break of the Indy vs. Akron bout, I asked the
girls if there was trash-talking on the track. Several of the
girls said there was not. Instead, they praised their
opponents for maintaining "clean" bouts, free of
profanity and dirty shenanigans, such as jabs with elbows.
girls fell during the recent bout, a chorus of "fall
small" wafted from the bleachers. Thatís because those
who know the sport want the girls to avoid sprawling on the
floor. That can lead to injuries from other skaters or a
is paramount. Before the girls can advance to a more difficult
level of play, they must pass both a written and skills test.
spend a lot of time on safety," Hall said. "The
better you know how to fall, the safer you are going to
there are occasional minor injuries. After all, while todayís
bouts arenít violent, they are aggressive. Which brings us
back to Grandma Sendelbach.
less than 30 seconds into the first bout with Indy when
Sendelbach witnessed a spill. Skates made a crashing noise as
the girls hit the floor, becoming tangled in each otherís
legs. Grandma cringed.
God," she said quietly. "When you get knocked down
in football, you are down. Here, you just keep getting back
girls with guts.