Page 43

the michigan


contemporary roller derby teams first

the sport. It kept Hatcher from trying out

surfaced in Austin, Texas. The new itera-

for her league for three years.

tion emphasized athletics over theatrics,

“I was intimidated to try out because of

and by 2004 the Women’s Flat Track

the stereotype of what the women would

Derby Association (WFTDA) had been

be like,” Hatcher says. “But once I joined

established. The organization has helped

I realized that they’re not that way at all.

legitimize roller derby by establishing a

It’s not just women in fishnets hitting the

standard set of rules that leagues must

crap out of each other,” says Hatcher.

follow during a match. Though the rulebook is thick, the rules of play boil down, essentially, to this: In each bout, two teams of five players

/ NOT JUST ANOTHER ANGRY FACE In leagues that are managed by the ath-

compete by skating clockwise around

letes and for the athletes, each woman is

the track. Eight players known as “block-

counted on to bring her unique skills to

ers” skate in a pack. The other two skat-

the group. They are nurses, waitresses,

ers, known as the “jammers,” try to lap

teachers, deejays, physicians, lawyers

the pack as many times as possible.

and more, who use their off-track talents

And while the rules are hard and fast,

to help manage the teams’ business and

the sport is young enough to allow room

financial aspects, or lend medical exper-

for flair and finesse. “The styles of play are

tise to help players both avoid and care

still being developed,” says Erica Nashar

for injuries.

(U-M ’02) a.k.a. Blossom Bruiso, a skater

self-image and a better understanding

got her start with skating on a high school

of themselves. “You are completely ac-

women’s ice hockey team in Ann Arbor

cepted for your different body type, and

before playing women’s club ice hockey at

you learn how to manage your body type

U-M. Nashar is now in her sixth year play-

better,” Hatcher says. “Everyone has their

ing for the Windy City Rollers and loves

own advantages and that is appreciated.”

being on the ground floor of the up-and-

Each player also has a unique derby

coming sport. “There’s always room to try

name, “usually something with an edge,”

something new and to get better,” she says. It’s also hard to emerge unscathed since roller derby is a full-contact sport. Blockers can use arms, hands, chest, shoulders, and hips to “check” jammers off the track and knock them down. There are rules against using elbows and hitting below the knee or in the back. Still, don’t let the fishnets fool you: There’s a reason that wearing helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and even padded shorts is standard practice. “Everything you see is real,” says Nashar. Both she and Hatcher have watched other players sustain major injuries, such as broken collarbones and torn ligaments. Fortunately, aside from a lot of bruises, both have avoided serious injuries so far. Even so, there is an intimidating culture of toughness that surrounds

TERMS YOU’LL HEAR ON THE TRACK BOUT: A single roller derby game

that lasts 60 minutes, and is divided into two 30-minute periods. JAMMER: The skater on the track

who can score points. BLOCKER: A skater who stops or

blocks the other team’s jammer. GRAND SLAM: When a jammer suc-

ceeds in lapping the opposing team’s jammer. TARGET ZONE: An area of the body

that may be hit legally. WHIP: An assist technique wherein

one skater uses another skater’s momentum to propel herself.

Such work helps players build a strong

for Chicago’s Windy City Rollers. Nashar

“It’s hard to get bored with it.”


Names might reference a cultural icon, like Agony Christie, or relate to an aspect of the athlete’s personality or interests, like the art-centric Whistler Smother.


says Hatcher. Names might reference a cultural icon, like “Agony Christie,” or relate to an aspect of the athlete’s personality or interests, like the art-centric “Whistler Smother.” Hatcher got the idea for her derby name while working on her dissertation. She was analyzing the beloved Lewis Carroll tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when she was inspired by the memorable character known as “The Mad Hatter.” Just as Hatcher’s derby name makes her sound tougher on the track, she says the derby also brings out tougher parts of her personality. “I’m usually a pretty riskaverse person, but when I put skates on I feel different. I’m more comfortable being in the moment, and being confident and taking chances.” And as an alternative to dissertation writing, Hatcher says it’s the perfect outlet: “It’s better than a stress ball.” n

SPRING 2011 / LSA Magazine


Crime and Punishment  
Crime and Punishment  

Spring 2011 issue of LSA Magazine.