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Comradery and Competition Keep the Undead Roller Derby Rolling

By Pamela Sosnowski

They roll, they clash, they fall, they get up-- and they do it all over again in the name of the roller derby sport. For the passionate skaters of Antioch's Undead Roller Derby, they wouldn't have it any other way.

Undead Roller Derby (URD) was established in 2008 and is a member of the Women's Flat Track Roller Derby Association, currently ranked in the top 100 leagues in the world. Although there is an emphasis on all-female teams, the derby's members are both men and women from diverse backgrounds who joined to have fun with one another, get fit, and engage with the community. There are three teams: The Undead Bettys, The Damned, and The Skaters Grim, the last of which is an all-men team. All players adopt a fierce pseudonym, such as SlamBro, Rebel Vixen, or Ivy Creepin, while competing.

"There was originally only one team, but now, the league has grown to teams for men, women and children seven and older in four teams, and we have re-named the league Undead Roller Derby this past year to better represent how we've grown," explains VanDestroyer, the facility's training director. "Undead Roller Derby includes the Undead Bettys (our WFTDA travel team); Damned Skaters (our Travel B team); Skaters Grim (Our MRDA Men's team), and Bite Club (Juniors). We focus on providing entertainment to our fans, fitness and fun for our members, and promoting confidence for all. All this and derby, too!"

Roller derby competitions are referred to as bouts, and VanDestroyer defines it as "the formal clash of two teams." There is much fanfare and showmanship at these bouts, as they include an announcer and DJ. Bouts help cover the costs of rink rental fees and travel expenses for the teams. "Undead Roller Derby usually hosts 4 to 6 home bouts in a year," says VanDestroyer. "Undead's teams typically travel around the state to play in bouts and occasionally travel to other states. The season runs from February through November." URD also occasionally holds events to help raise money for the league, such as a recent Spaghetti Feed that included music and raffle prizes for attendees.

Roller derby as a sport began to take shape in the 1880s, when organized endurance races on roller skates were held. In 1935, film publicist Leo Seltzer?who had previously hosted dance endurance contests?was challenged to create a sport involving roller skating. A few months later, Seltzer organized the first Transcontinental Roller Derby in Chicago, drawing teams that competed on a banked track. By 1939, roller derby competitions were being broadcast on the radio and the Transcontinental Roller Derby took off in popularity during World War II. Today there are hundreds of organized roller derby leagues worldwide.

For women especially, being a roller derby player can be especially empowering. "I think that derby allows us to be strong powerful women supported in an amazing team of women," says VanDestroyer. "We are encouraged to not get pushed around (as blockers) and to keep pushing, and keep trying to get through what is blocking us or knocking us down. It is a sport and a league that accepts you as you are and the only requirements are that you want to learn and play derby and treat the sport and others with respect."

As roller derby is a fast-paced contact sport, the risk of injury is always prevalent, but as VanDestroyer explains, URD takes precautions to keep any physical harm to a minimum. "Skaters are not allowed to stand on skates unless they are in full gear (helmet, elbow and knee pads and wrist guards). In order to be cleared to bout in WFTDA, there is a minimum skills requirement that a skater needs to be proficient at. We start our new skaters out slowly, teaching them what they need to know to play safe. Even with all that, yes there are injuries. Some of them, like scrapes and bruises, we celebrate. Bruises are referred to as derby kisses!"

You can learn more about Undead Roller Derby and view their current competing schedule at www.undeadrd.com.

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About The Author

Pamela Sosnowski is a freelance writer, social media manager, contributor for REBEAT...

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