A dislocated elbow was not going to stop Amanda Evans, also known as “ACE of Sprains.”
Evans lived up to her derby name in the fall of 2016. She was training for her first official season with the Middle Georgia Derby Demons when she fell during a footwork drill and tried to catch herself, resulting in the injury.
Loyal is an understatement when it comes to fans. They proudly wear merchandise brandished with the team’s logo: a skull adorned with stars and horns, and slogan, “We Bruise Black and Pink.” The players also go by clever derby names that embody their personality on the rink.
The league, which formed in 2011, did not have its first official season until 2013. But the sport has impacted its women participants since the very beginning, players say. It has provided women of all ages with confidence and companionship.
Evans is no exception. Her injury left her out of the game for two months, but she was determined to keep going.
“I couldn’t give it up cause I missed being a part of the group. ... I said, ‘I’m never going to quit.’ Not until I at least played in one bout,” she said.
Evans is a full-time student at Central Georgia Technical College. She studies cosmetology. When she was injured, her husband was worried it would affect her studies.
“He said, ‘I’m not telling you to quit, but I want you to think about it. You’re in school doing something that requires you to be able to work with your hands and arms,’” Evans said.
I couldn’t give it up cause I missed being a part of the group. ... I said, ‘I’m never going to quit.’
Roller derby has a stigma of being violent. But a lot has changed over the years for the sport, players said.
“A lot of people do mention watching it back in the ’70s. And it was definitely over-dramatized. But this is more family friendly than people realize,” Evans said.
A bout consists of two 30-minute halves, each packed with several “jams” lasting up to two-minutes. There are five players from each team on the track: one “jammer” or point-scorer and four blocking players. During a jam, each jammer will try to maneuver through a blockade made by the opposite team, at the same time. To score a point, the jammer must break through and lap her opponent. When a jam is over, teams have 30 seconds to reset for the next jam.
Naturally, there is pushing and falling involved. Despite roller derby being a contact sport, encouragement and support is present between teams.
“One minute somebody’s knocking you down, then they’re helping you back up, and at the end of the game you’re taking pictures together and hugging,” Evans said. “You don’t get that in all sports. After a game, you go your separate ways. But we don’t in derby. It’s a family.”
It was the family mentality that pulled Evans back into the sport after she was injured.
Amy Mooney, also known as “Rikki Ratchet,” is a veteran on and off the rink. She’s stuck with the sport for six years and is retired from 17 years of service in the Air Force.
Mooney has been with the Derby Demons since January 2016.
“When I was in the military, I was in a very guy-centric world. And I was always like, ‘I don’t know if I want to be around other women,’ ” Mooney said. “But I tell you, this is a huge sisterhood. I’ve never seen such supportive women before.”
Mooney also had a violent impression of the sport before she got involved.
“I don’t know why people still think it’s that way because it has not been that way for 30 years. But I was guilty of it too. I thought it was a sport where people punch each other,” she said.
Over the years, the sport has helped build her self-esteem.
“It’s definitely given me more than I ever expected. I’m a lot more confident. ... I stopped looking more at how my body was and to more of what my body could do. My size is an asset, and that’s really rare,” Mooney said.
Size is an advantage when it comes to blocking in roller derby. And hearing you have a “derby butt” is a compliment, Evans and Mooney said.
But I tell you, this is a huge sisterhood. I’ve never seen such supportive women before.
How it all got started
The league started with an interest meeting in April 2011. Erin Ferrell, a founding and now retired member of the league, saw the meeting on Facebook and decided to attend.
“When we started we had no clue what we were doing. We really didn’t,” Ferrell said. “The drills were ridiculous, and half the time people were more interested in what our uniforms would look like, what colors we were going to have, and what our name would be.”
The league’s first appearance was at a booth at Bragg Jam 2011. They set up a craft table.
“Nobody knew who we were ... because nobody was on skates, and we weren’t skating around. We weren’t showing anything,” Ferrell said.
It wasn’t until the fall when the league established an executive board, Ferrell said.
The league was originally housed at Olympia Skate Center in Warner Robins. It was difficult to schedule practices there, according to Ferrell. The league could not grow its skills until it moved to Bibb Skate Arena in October 2011.
“Once we got over to Bibb, things changed a lot. Things got better. We had practices, we were able to progress faster,” said Ferrell.
The Demons were able to host a skate-a-thon, which helped get their name out there.
It also was hard to learn to skate without a professional, Ferrell said. But in August 2012, the league met a woman with roller derby experience who skated under the name “Mona Mour.” She ended up running the early practices.
By November 2012, they were ready for their first exhibition game. They played the Muscogee Roller Girls. It was their first game as well.
The first official season started the next year in February 2013.
“One thing you don’t realize when you’re doing it cause you think it’s all fun and games, you don’t realize you are technically starting a business,” Ferrell said.
This season started at Bibb Skate, but the arena closed in May. The team is holding temporary practices at Olympia Skate Center and Gray-8-Skate Roller Rink in Gray until it can find another permanent home, according to the group’s website.
The league doesn’t limit itself based on level of experience. There are opportunities for amateurs and young people to get involved. The league hosts a boot camp every Thursday and Saturday following a home bout to teach those willing to learn the basic techniques and athleticism involved in roller derby.
Keri Neal recently participated in a boot camp.
“Everyone is really great. Everyone is super helpful, very informative, very supportive, and excited when you do something good,” she said.
The Middle Georgia Derby Demons also has a Junior League, which is a co-ed experience for school-age children. Mooney helps to coach the young team.
“It’s great watching girls not have to worry about what their body image is like I did. The sport eliminates that,” Mooney said.
Cate ‘Lil Bit’ Jones is a 13-year-old participant in Junior League. She joined after convincing her mom and sister to get involved as well.
“You’re not afraid to be who you are when you’re doing roller derby, so you’re not afraid of being who you are outside in the real world,” Jones said.
Evans uses her experiences to share her love of roller derby with others.
“I talk to people all the time about it. I talk about getting injured. Because that’s not stopping me. They think I’m crazy,” she said. “I’ve had a few people tell me maybe I’m a little too old to keep doing this. But I will not allow that mentality to have a place in my brain.”