No Coast Derby Girls growing, changing sports’ image

Derby Girls practice
The No Coast Derby Girls practice three to four times each week.

By Elisabeth Loeck, NewsNetNebraska

There won’t be tutus or fishnet tights when the No Coast Derby Girls roller derby team takes the track at the Pershing Auditorium. That old image of racy clothes and mouthy performers is out.

“We’ve really been pushing that we are a family friendly event,” Elizabeth Cain, a the skater with No Coast Derby Girls said. “We want to get rid of the rock and roll stereotype.”

When roller derby started in Texas, it was a very alternative outlet, Cain said. Along with rock concerts and girls with tattoos, there would be a lot of drinking during the event. Now that has all changed. Now, the focus is on quality. On reputation. On getting more people into the sport.

“Little girls will come talk to us after a bout,” Cain said. “We want to be good role models.”

The changes include a team rule that skaters don’t drink during the week of a bout, Cain said. The team is training to compete at the international level, and there just isn’t time for distractions.

Along with changing the derby girl alternative stereotype, the way the game is played is changing.

Rules of the game
Rules of the game. Click to enlarge.

“The way people play derby has changed a lot,” Cain said. “Skaters are playing with a lot of different strategies from the way you chase people down or block. It’s amazing how the sport is growing.”

The No Coast Derby Girls have been growing as well. Now in the eighth season, more than 50 women are part of the organization. The roster is divided into two teams, the Mad Maxines (the A team) and the Road Warriors (the B team). Cain joined the team four years ago. During that time, she said, the Maxines have become really in tune with each other, allowing them to form a stronger defense.

The team is also expanding their league by starting a junior girls derby in the summer of 2013. Girls between the ages of 6 and 17 will make up the team.

“Boys have pee-wee football, so we’re trying to give girls a chance to play that contact sport,” Cain said. “It’s an aggressive sport for girls, and I wish I would have had that outlet.”

To join the adult No Coast Derby Girls, women have to go through a recruitment period consisting of practice twice a week for five weeks. Missing practice sets a recuit back, making the process longer. Basic skills are learned through a series of drills, and upon completion of the practices, recruits must pass a 2-hour skills and endurance test to be eligible to join the team as a rookie.

Recruitment occurs in the months of November and December, the only off-season for skaters. January marks the beginning of preseason practice, with the regular season running February through post-season competition in November.

Join the team, get a nickname. Slam, Bullet, Bruise Your Daddy, Cleosmackya. Cain’s nickname is Brooke N. Hearts. Players choose their own nickname, then register it on a website that tracks them. After that, that’s their name. The nicknames are a way for skaters to embrace their edgier derby alter ego. They refer to each other by nickname all through practice and in games.

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Practices are held three to four times each week for around an hour and a half. Players are required to attend at least 75 percent of the practices and additional off-skate workouts.

During a preseason practice in January, Cain said that another player fell on her leg and she thought it was broken. The only consequence: a permanent indentation in her leg from the accident.

Falls and bruises are just a part of the game.

“There really is not very much stuff on our bodies for how much we hit each other,” said Andrea Tarnick, the executive director of the team.

Along with their skates, players are required to wear helmets, mouth guards, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.

Purchasing the required gear as a rookie can cost about $215-300.

Other optional protective wear includes padded shorts, shin guards, knee or ankle support, a tailbone pad or a turtle shell bra.

“To buy all the gear, yeah, the initial investment is a lot,” Cain said. “You want to get good knee pads, but it’s definitely worth it.”

One pair of adequate skates to get through one season costs $100 at the very minimum. A better pair costs more than $200.

In addition to gear, monthly dues are $30 and yearly insurance is $60.

Even with the price tag, the sport is growing in Nebraska, the U.S. and internationally. It is the fastest growing women’s sport in the world, according the WFTDA website. In 2005 there were less than 60 roller derby teams in the United States, that number rose to more than 200 in 2007, and hasn’t stopped growing.

“The confidence this has given me is worth every investment,” Cain said. “It’s helping me be a better person.”

There are more than 170 teams in the WFTDA and more than 1,000 teams globally. The No Coast Derby Girls are one of the top 40 teams in the world, Tarnick said.  The team has also reached the international market, hosting a team from Montreal in the past, but their biggest rival is the Omaha Rollergirls team.

About 2,000 viewers attend home bouts at the Pershing Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for track-side seating and free for children under 10.

“It’s amazing to see thousands of people cheering for you,” Cain said. “I kind of feel like a local celebrity.”

View the No Coast Derby Girls website here.

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