The Charm City Roller Girls roller derby team is used to bruises, fractures, sprains, tears, and all manner of pain. This is the price derby athletes willingly pay for the exhilaration of the sport. Women undergo a grueling 10-week boot camp to learn the basics before trying out for the league. It may take more than a year of mastering further skills to be drafted to a team. Roller Girls train hard for long hours to stay in shape, improve, and avoid injuries.
Charm City Roller Girls’ “B” team, Female Trouble, is battling Philadelphia’s Independence Dolls in the first bout of an interleague doubleheader of the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) at the Clarence “Du” Burns Arena in Canton. Female Trouble falls to their strong Philly rivals, 215 to 166, but they never lose their smiles. It’s fun. Next up are the Charm City All Stars, also facing a tough Philly squad, the Liberty Belles. Baltimore’s All Stars are ranked 12th in the world at the start of this season, and #3 in the WFTDA Eastern Region, right behind Philly.
After taking a direct hit to the shoulder midway through the first period, All Stars co-captain Kacey Huntington lands facedown on the track. Huntington’s roller derby name, I.M. Pain, has become agonizingly apt. The bout comes to a halt, but not for long. I.M. Pain, 31, with her bruised shoulder iced and bandaged, is back on the track in the second half. After holding their own at halftime, the All Stars are overwhelmed by the Liberty Belles, 231 to 129. Baltimore’s skaters seem undeterred by the loss, and their loyal fans ring the track to offer high-fives to both teams.
The game is divided into two-minute jams, with five players on each team. After the “jammer’s” first pass through the wall of opposing players, called blockers, she becomes the “lead jammer” and can score each time she passes opposing players on subsequent laps. Jenna Los, 34, known as Allie B. Back, observes, “You have to rely on your teammates to win; one person does not win or lose a bout.” Teammate Amy Callner, 39, adds, “I love the physicality of play and the strategy involved. We play offense and defense simultaneously.”
Callner, one of the founding members of CCRG, recalls that there were few contact sports for women when Maryland’s all-woman flat-track roller derby league began in 2005. “Roller derby redefined what an athlete looked like.” Throw in the “glam and glitter…and it seemed a safe place to explore and play with what femininity really meant for a lot of us…” Once Callner, whose moniker is Lady Quebeaum (pronounced “kaboom”), also discovered “just how much I really liked to hit people,” she was hooked.
Rachel Smith, 40, known as Red Pepper, loves both the exercise and friendship she has with her fellow skaters. For Smith, the deep camaraderie among teammates means that everyone can be themselves and feel fully accepted. Callner concludes, “This is not a hobby. This is a second job that pays me in muscle, grace and joy.” Female Trouble and the All Stars will be ready to roll again on April 13th, in the next home game of the interleague season at Clarence “Du” Burns Arena.