Flint Roller Derby Ready to Jam at Season’s Last Match

Thrills and spills abound as the Flint Roller Derby hosts the Kalamazoo Kills Stars on Saturday, Nov. 17 at Rollhaven Skating Center. The women’s flat track roller derby team will be competing in their final match of the 2018 season. The Saturday event will be a rematch of this year’s state championship.

“We played the 115th ranked team in the world and tied them in regulation, and barely lost in overtime,” said Flint Roller Derby Coach Nick Cotton. “We were not expected to be good enough to compete with the Kalamazoo Kill Stars, but we showed that we belong as one of the teams in the top 150 of the WFTDA.”

The team was founded in March of 2007. Last season they became a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

“This allows us to both compete internationally with the best teams,” said Cotton. “It also makes us a voting member of the organization that regulates our sport. We are part of making the sport bigger and better.”

Last season the team posted a 10-1 record and claimed the state championship. As part of the WFTDA, the club’s opponents became tougher and this season the record has dropped to 5-4. However, Cotton feels the record is not reflective of the overall quality of the squad.

“This year we have played many teams ranked well above us,” he said. “We have greatly increased our ranking because, despite more defeats, we beat the point spread and won the ranking battle although we scored less.”

In their most recent competition, Flint Roller Derby took part in the state championship. In a round robin tournament, the Mitten Kitten, the team laced up for two matches in one day.

“First was the game against Kalamazoo which we lost 234-223,” said Cotton. “A few hours later we upset the Lansing Derby Vixens, 170-92. We were the underdogs in both matches.

“However, we jumped both teams and ended up ranking higher than the two. The ranking system is based not only on order but the point spread. Even though we are defeated, our rankings can rise by beating the expected margins.”

The WFTDA governs the sport of women’s flat track roller derby. More than 450 apprentice and member leagues fall within the aegis of the organization. The international administrative body devises not only the rules but the leagues and rankings.

Flint Roller Derby also has roots within the UM-Flint community from the coach to current students. Cotton, who graduated from UM-Flint, began coaching the team in 2010 while going to school at the university. Now teaching at Atherton Virtual Academy, he continues to coach.

“I literally changed the path I was taking after joining Flint Roller Derby,” said Cotton. “When I began coaching while attending classes at UM-Flint, we were a club team at the university. During this period, I found that my passion was coaching and mentoring skaters.

“I found that teaching was essentially the same and pursued another degree a couple years ago in secondary education. I graduated this spring and began to teach.”

Not only has Cotton’s life bloomed since joining the team, but so has the club.

“Our team is a family and that is very rare in sports, especially this sport. Our mantra ‘greater good’ says it all. We work for the betterment of our team and the city. We are selfless and yet we work to make sure each person is loved and appreciated. That requires that everyone works together for the common good,” said Cotton.

Another member of the team with UM-Flint ties is current student Shanna Miller (also known by the team as Miller Lite). Miller is carrying a double major at the university in biology and psychology. She expects to graduate in 2021.

A rookie on the team, she became involved with the squad after attending one of the boot camps that Flint Roller Derby provides for those interested in the sport. These camps include knowledge and training as well as the potential of making the team.

“Flint Roller Derby has been a blessing for me,” said Miller. “I wanted to try something new so I went to a boot camp and it was great. But when I actually got to the team, it became so much more. I was quite a timid skater and I was a little scared at first. At one point, I didn’t feel like I was ready to be on the team and it kind of brought me down, but I reminded myself that my coach saw potential in me and believed in me, so I trusted that my coach foresaw a place for me on the team.

“To me, Roller derby is so much more than a sport; the track has become my second home, and my team has become my family.”

If interested in learning more about the team, upcoming games or participating in future boot camps, check out the Flint Roller Derby Facebook page for more information. The next boot camp should be available after the new year. No skating experience is required.

Tomorrow’s match begins at 8 p.m. with the doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance (available at Brown Paper Tickets). At the door, the cost is $10 with kids under the age of 12 free with a paid admission.

“There could be no better game for people to see roller derby for the first time,” said Cotton. “These two teams rank with the very best around the region. This game is one of the most anticipated matchups of the year. People are coming from all over the state to attend.”