“Roller Derby is like playing chess on skates while someone throws bricks at you. And you can only turn left.” – Root River Rollers team coach Ginger Sinner.
The Root River Rollers came together in the fall of 2012 when Nukly R. Assault wanted to bring the fast growing sport of roller derby to the Racine county area. She recruited a valuable group of determined ladies and they were able to create a strong, solid foundation of sisterhood, community and athleticism. The Root River Rollers are proud to celebrate women of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and backgrounds.
About nine years ago, Hella De Vil, #101 (aka Nicole T.), had just given birth to her youngest daughter and was looking for something different to stay healthy and get some exercise. She began skating with the Cedar Rapids Rollers in Iowa.
“As fresh meat, I was terrified!” Hella told Happenings Magazine of her early days. “It all felt like I was learning a second language. The skaters were so nice – but intimidating! It took me a while to get confident in accepting the fact it is okay to fall; it’s okay to be bad at something; it’s okay to laugh at yourself! Persistence helped me in finding out who I was on the track.”
Another stop in Denver, Colorado on her life travels landed her a position with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls. In 2017, Hella came to the area and found the Root River Rollers.
“I care so deeply about this team and am so protective of my teammates. The team has trust in me that I’ll show up, represent them and they know I’ll always have their best interest at heart. This my our second family and just like with any family, I feel that bond through my bones,” Hella said when asked about her current role as President of the team.
Although she is the President, Hella De Vill is just another skater when they take to the track. The role of leader rests on the coach – Ginger Sinner, #71 (aka Stephenie C.).
Ginger has been involved with roller derby for 12 years and said the league is like a second family to her.
“I roller skated as a kid a the roller rink for fun,” Ginger told Happenings Magazine. “But in 2011 I went to see a roller derby bout in Milwaukee. I watched how strong, athletic, and admirable the players were. I wanted to become someone kids can look up to and see what they can conquer.”
Ginger strapped on the skates and gave it a try.
“Holy Moly! This is hard!” was her first impression after trying out roller derby. “Many times I’d leave practice wondering what the heck am I doing? But over the last decade+ of skating, I’ve realized life is too short to not skate.”
As a coach, Ginger tries to apply the classic recipes for success.
“When I’m building practice plans, I try to start slow and build the skills up to the finale at the end of practice when it all comes together.”
“I also love watching all the fresh meat grow and blossom as athletes and watching them go so hard! Makes my little coach heart so happy,” she added.
Women of all different skill levels, economic backgrounds, colors, shapes, and sizes make up the Root River Rollers, who will take on Fox Cities this Saturday, April 15th at Memorial Hall in Racine. For more information, visit their website here and be sure to follow them on Facebook here
McFear, #5 (aka Heather M.), has a background in rugby, so pushing people around for sport isn’t something new for her.
“I had always loved the idea of derby, but had no idea it was an actual local thing! Since then, I have learned how it allows individuals an opportunity to leave their comfort zone and have fun,” McFear said.
“You know the Miley song? Well, I come in like a wrecking ball! I give and take hard hits and pop right back up after going down!” McFear said about her game face.
Valkyrie, #27 (aka Adrienne N.), never played sports when her and her best friend saw a flyer for the Root Rivers boot camp over four years ago.
“I didn’t know too much about derby when I agreed to try this out. I thought it was so cool and scary – and it definitely still is those things to me.”
‘Missile Butt’ is Valkyrie’s super power.
“It’s when a blocker catches a jammer who is coming in fast with their butt. Jammers will typically expect to get hit with shoulders or chests, but a butt is low and unexpected, so it can take them by surprise. Plus, it’s just fun.” she said.
Babe Butcher, #18 (aka Kayla J.), also was never into sports but was looking for a new hobby, something that would keep her active.
“I love it all. I love skating, the ability to be competitive, all our teammates, the atmosphere, the agility and strength needed, the desire to keep getting better and the excited nervousness feeling when you play in a game,“ Babe Butcher told us.
Mystique, #13, has a long history of sports though school and into adulthood, including soccer, softball, and volleyball. She said she loves the competitiveness and community that the team brings. But she says it’s the mutual friendly violence that she cherishes the most “The best thing about being a roller derby player is that I get to hit my friends and then go and hang out with them afterwards,” she said.
Oddity, #31 (aka Katrina N.), was attracted to the strong, brave, badass women of roller derby. She has always been very active in sports and fitness in general – rollerblading and gymnastics as a kid, and softball throughout her life. She found roller derby as another way to stay fit while having fun. She quickly learned that roller derby was a bit different than softball.
“Intimidating,” was her first impression of roller derby. “It was scary at first seeing all these women who are so strong and confident, but I quickly learn that it’s the people who make it worth it. Everyone is so nice and there for you whatever you need. We’re really just one big family.”
A newcomer to the derby track, Intoxiskated, #.08 (aka Becky R.), found the rules and how to play a bit more complex that she originally imagined and the experience quite intimidating. She made an exciting debut at the recent Friends & Family bout after boot camp graduation and was awarded “Most Valuable Jammer” for the match.
Many of the names the girls choose are puns on popular culture icons or cool nicknames, some have a direct reference and that would be O’Doyle Rules #42 (aka Susie K.).
When O’Doyle joined roller derby, she was looking for something new and thought derby was “such a bad ass sport.”
“Billy Madison is my favorite movie,” O’Doyle said. “O’Doyle is the bully (in the movie) and yells out ‘O’Doyle Rules’ after everything he does. I was unsure of the name at first but when I tried it out at practice and did something cool, my teammates shouted “O’Doyle Rules!” Hey, my name comes with a chant.”
Marilyn Monroller, #24 (aka Sabrina N.), never thought of herself as an athletic person and admitted that it was a long time since she had been on skates prior to joining roller derby.
“I hadn’t skated since it was cool to hit up the roller rink in middle school,” she told Happenings Magazine.
Marilyn has been touted as one of the more vocal and supportive members of the team and she admits she is more of a Root River Rollers fan than a roller derby aficionado.
“The camaraderie, the vibe, the people. The Root River Rollers are what keeps me coming back. I have such a great time and get to interact with some powerful and inspiring people.”
Marilyn reminds fans that although they have a tough-gal image to project, and mean business on the track, when the skates come off, they are just people.
“These are some rough and rowdy misfit individuals on the track, but the sweetest souls off the track and they are definitely my kind of people!”
Poison Ivy, #4 (aka Becky C.) concurs with the other ladies’ statements about the team being a family.
“Even when we’re hitting hard, everyone has a hand out to help you up.”
When you attend an upcoming bout, Poison Ivy might be the one you hear the most.
“I can deliver the big hits,” she said. “But I am also super loud! Loud, but also smiling and encouraging for everyone, on both teams.”
Her fairness and support of all players earned her the Most Valuable Blocker award in their most recent bout, an award determined by the opposing team.
One of the more skilled skaters on the track would be El Jukacabra, #777 (aka Cindy X.). Jukacabra said she is a triathlete and soccer player with years of rollerblading experience.
“I hyper focus and obsess over the things that stimulate me. I eat, sleep, breathe roller derby and all things skating. It is a lifestyle for me.”
“Being a roller derby player makes me feel like a badass,” said Furiosa, #9. “I just love skating and hanging out with my teammates at practice and outside of it.”
But with all the love and support of the team and even their rivals in a bout, things do happen with such a high impact sport, and nearly every roller derby girl has at least one injury story.
“I showed up to the first day of boot camp thinking roller blading and roller skating were on par with each other. I was so so wrong,” McFear said about her gnarliest injury. “Not only did I have to learn how to roller skate; I was learning the rules of derby. I took a fall a few weeks in and shattered my wrist in 3 spots. No surgery, but it took weekly x-rays, 8 weeks in a cast and 6 months of physical therapy to regain full range of motion. Naturally, I went back.”
“On our last (and my first) bout I got a bruise on my right thigh that showed through my black and blue tattoo, and another that was the size of a softball on my… bum,” Intoxisakted told us.
A few have lucked out so far with not much more than a bruised bottom.
“Thankfully I haven’t had any serious injuries,” Babe Butcher said. “Probably the worst I had was just falling on my butt bone incredibly hard when I first started out!”
Some players have interesting rituals and traditions they carry on before each game.
“I rage to some heavy music and purposefully not wash my gear,” Ginger Sinner said. “The funk of my gear helps draw the opposing teams away.”
The Root River Rollers also contribute off the track to local fundraisers like the H.O.P.E. Safehouse, Rock the Vets, Veteran’s Outreach Center and Halo.
“We always look for ways to support the community that supports us!” Hella said.
The team is currently at an all time high with roster players with over 40, and they can only suit up 15 players for a match, but they will never turn anyone away who is interested in putting on the skates and taking to the track at practice. And Hella De Vill is always looking forward to what they call “fresh meat.”
“There will always be reasons why you can’t join – do it anyway!” she said.
“Nothing will be harder than standing in skates the first time,” Ginger added. “You’ll become your own hero!”
The Root River Rollers have developed quite a fan base over their last ten years.
“Our fans, our sponsors, and the members fo the EAA chapter 838 (home of their practice spot) are the best!” Hella De Vill said. “Between the games and the fundraising opportunities, they alway show up. We are so thankful for them!”
“Our fans are FAN-tastic,” said Valkyrie. “They are fun and supportive – even loving us when we lose.”
“It’s not a super common sport so when people hear about it they’re immediately intrigued,” Oddity said.
The Root River Rollers have two upcoming bouts at Memorial Hall in Downtown Racine. Saturday, April 15th vs Fox Cities and Saturday May 13th vs Rockford Rage. Doors open at 5pm with the bout kicking off at 6pm, tickets will be available at the door.
“Expect lots of big hits, tons of falls, and just a little chaos!” Hella told us of what to expect at the upcoming bouts. “There will be beer, food, and merchandise for sale. Come early to get the best seats!”
Rules of Roller Derby
The game of Flat Track Roller Derby is played on a flat, oval track. Play is broken up into two 30-minute periods, and within those periods, into units of play called “Jams,” which last up to two minutes. There are 30 seconds between each Jam.
During a Jam, each team fields up to five Skaters. Four of these Skaters are called “Blockers” (together, the Blockers are called the “Pack”), and one is called a “Jammer.” The Jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on it.
The two Jammers start each Jam behind the Pack, and score a point for every opposing Blocker they lap, each lap. Because they start behind the Pack, they must get through the Pack, then all the way around the track to be eligible to score points on opposing Blockers.
Roller derby is a full-contact sport; however, Skaters cannot use their heads, elbows, forearms, hands, knees, lower legs, or feet to make contact to opponents. Skaters cannot make contact to opponents’ heads, backs, knees, lower legs, or feet.
Play that is unsafe or illegal may result in a Skater being assessed a penalty, which is served by sitting in the Penalty Box for 30 seconds of Jam time.
The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
A common Jam might go like this:
1. Blockers line up behind the Pivot Line and in front of the Jammer Line.
2. Jammers line up behind the Jammer Line.
3. At the Jam-Starting Whistle, the Blockers skate forward and compete for superior position. The Jammers skate forward and try to get through the Pack. Each Blocker simultaneously tries to prevent the opposing Jammer from getting past, and to help their own Jammer get through.
4. One Jammer exits the Pack and is declared Lead Jammer, earning the right to end the Jam when they decide. This Jammer races around the track to get into scoring position.
5. The same Jammer begins to work their way through the Pack for the second time, and the opposing Jammer makes their way out of the Pack for the first time.
6. As the second Jammer to escape the Pack comes around into scoring position, the first Jammer calls off the Jam.
7. The first Jammer has scored points (up to four), and held their opponent at zero points. Meanwhile, the opposing Jammer (by getting into scoring position) held the first Jammer at only those points, as they could have scored more points on subsequent passes.
Upcoming home games:
Root River Rollers vs Fox Cities
Saturday, April 15th, 2023 at 6PM at Memorial Hall 72 7th Street Racine, WI.
Root City Rollers vs Rockford
Saturday, May 13th at 6PM at Memorial Hall 72 7th Street Racine, WI.
Tickets available at the door:
$12 General Admission
FREE Seniors and kids 5 and younger
Follow the Root River Rollers on Facebook HERE & Instagram HERE
For more visit rootriverrollers.com
Written by Jason Hedman
Photos & video by Donny Stancato – taken at the Root River Rollers practice facility Experimental Association Chapter 838