Join The Naptown Roller Girls in celebrating their 10th anniversary at their home opener this Saturday at 7p.m. The Tornado Sirens will be going against Pittsburgh’s Steel City Roller Derby.
Melissa Smith, a.ka., Maiden America, is starting her seventh season this year.
“I decided to join because I have always played team sports growing up and after I graduated college and moved to Indy I needed to find something to do in my spare time.” She said, “I love skating, and I am very competitive so after finding out about the Naptown Roller Girls, trying out for the team was the obvious solution!”
Roller Derby is a full contact sport that requires both offense and defense while two teams of five players skate around a track. To score, each team picks a ‘jammer’ who must lap the ‘jammer’ of the opposing team.
This idea combines some similar traits from American football and speed skating to create a new sport.
“It's the best adrenaline rush I've ever had. Taking the track with a team of like minded people and going into battle with them is an experience of a lifetime. Going up against teams from all over the country and all over the world is something that I will never take for granted,” Smith said about her experience. “Naptown has given me so many amazing opportunities to compete, and whether we win or lose, I am always proud of my teammates.”
Because it is a full contact sport, injuries are rather common, but don’t stop the girls from playing. Emily Udell, also known as Vivi Section, broke her hand during a practice in 2014 and has seen plenty of injuries.
“I’ve been playing for 6 years and I’ve seen my share of rolled ankles, busted knees, clavicle breaks. It is a full contact sport.” Udell said.
The Naptown Roller Girls formed back in 2006 when one of the creators, Strawberry Jam, started a MySpace page for the group. From there, they begin meeting at a small skating rink and then at a church parking lot.
The numbers have grown since their first meeting leading to statewide, and then national recognition.
Ten years later, they’re thriving with three traveling teams of over 60 skaters altogether. Beyond Indianapolis, roller derby is quickly gaining more traction as a sport across the world as one of the few full contact sports for women.
There are currently over a thousand amateur leagues and there are plans to have an Olympic roller derby team in 2020.
The Naptown Roller Girls play around the world and were the first from Indianapolis to be one of the 256 internationally ranked teams of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
Those interested in getting involved in a roller derby team can sign up for Camp Naptown hosted by the Naptown Roller Girls, which is a workshop hosted every few months to help individuals learn how to play the sport.
“Roller derby isn’t something necessarily played in gym class when you’re growing up,” Udell said. “so this is an opportunity to come and learn from some of our veteran skaters.”
Their seasons runs from Saturday, February 27 until June 25 and they will have five bouts. Tickets can be purchased for the events at the Jagtag Office for $10 or at the door for $15. The next bout is on April 2. You can also livestream the event for $10 here.