Southern Oregon Rollergirls's Madame Morticia (left, white) bumps past Treasure Valley Rollergirls's Raggedy Ann-Ihilation during a session in the 1st half of the Winter Thunderland Roller Derby season opener at the Medford Armory. - Photo by Andy Atkinson

Rollergirls are out to smash stereotypes

Should you ever run into a Southern Oregon Rollergirl at a bar, do not make the mistake of calling roller derby a "hobby."

This probably won't earn you a hip check into a wall, but you will receive a stern correction. I learned as much when I recently sat down with a group of Rollergirls at the Wild Goose in Ashland to talk about their coming bout against the Coos County Rollergirls.

During the interview, I happened to mentioned the "H" word. I was rebuked.

"It's not a hobby," said Erin Go Brawl, aka Megan Chambers. "It's a lifestyle."

A booth jammed with Rollergirls educated me in roller derby ethos just before karaoke broke out at the Wild Goose.

A few of the girls limped to the back of the Goose bar where they belted tunes by Sheryl Crow and 4 Non Blondes. Chrome Molly, aka Anna Antic, received a stout round of applause for her rendition of Melanie's "Brand New Key."

Southern Oregon is home to two roller derby teams: the Southern Oregon Rollergirls, which skate out of the Medford Armory, and the Sis-Q Rollerz, based at Roller Odyssey.

The Sis-Q Rollerz were victorious in their May 21 bout against Mount Shasta's Mighty Rollers. Their next bout is June 25 at Roller Odyssey.

SORG hopes to claim victory Saturday versus the Coos County team.

SORG formed in 2009 and has enjoyed packed houses at the Medford Armory and road venues. In February 2010, their first bout was against the Sick Town Derby Dames of Corvallis, in a losing effort before a crowd of about 1,200 fans.

Their February bout against the Treasure Valley Rollergirls of Boise filled the Armory. They hope to do the same Saturday against the Coos County team.

SORG is serious about becoming a national player in roller derby. In April, the team was accepted as an apprentice league with the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

As an apprentice affiliate, SORG joins more than 100 leagues nationwide with 60 apprentice leagues. The Rollergirls could participate in large regional tournaments to determine the nation's best derby teams.

One of the most important benefits of joining the WFTDA is the mentoring program, where established leagues provide guidance and hard-fought wisdom to upstart teams.

SORG is being mentored by the Rose City Rollers of Portland and the Detroit Derby Girls of Detroit, Mich.

"They answer our questions about business structure, how to recruit good referees and how to raise money for our league," Antic said.

The girls hold to a strict "skater run, skater owned" code that values team input before any decisions concerning the league are made.

"It's like being part of a family business, but you don't get paid," said Cara Tucci, aka Pretty Hate Machine.

"It pays in other ways," Bebe Le Strangle, aka Anita Wright added.

Team president Madame Morticia, aka Rachel Patstone, said the team is only as strong as its individual members.

"All the girls have a say," she said. "A lot of the girls have come out of their shell once they joined roller derby."

SORG is always recruiting "fresh meat" to join the team; however, the girls are up front about the commitment of time and pain necessary to compete in roller derby.

"Some girls think they are going to show up and be cute and skate around and not get hit," Wright said. "It weeds them out when they start getting hit."

For the ones who can take it, roller derby can be liberating, Chambers said."I have three kids and work full time," she said. "Derby brings out the fun, crazy wild woman that kind of disappeared when I settled down."

The Rollergirls believe derby is empowering, giving local women a venue to express leadership, toughness and teamwork.

"I was much more shy before derby," Wright said.

In addtion to smashing gender stereotypes, SORG works hard to draw attention to the Rogue Valley, Antic said.

"We do so many things for charity and are looking to get the word out about this area," she said. "We try to do one community outreach program a month."

A portion Saturday's proceeds will benefit the Cancer Awareness Project.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story