Flint Roller Derby Ends Season with a Win

Mix together a dash of Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman,” a bit of X-ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage Up Yours,” a sprig of esprit de corps, and a load of high octane energy and you have a sense of a roller derby contest. An enthusiastic crowd cheered the Flint Derby Club to a comeback victory, 221-217, over rivals the Kalamazoo Kill Stars last Saturday at Rollhaven Skating Center.

“There was a lot on the line going into the bout,” said Kate Feher, UM-Flint alumni with a degree in Communication. “I’ve played for almost ten years and haven’t got an opportunity to play Kalamazoo before. They have been around since I began and were one team we wanted to knock off our bucket list.”

Flint Derby Club became a full member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) in September of this year. Kalamazoo has been a member of the since 2010, now ranking 105th. Rankings are based on how well each club performs based on a projected point spread.

“Next year we expect to play a full schedule of sanctioned games,” said Head Coach Nick Cotton.  “We must complete three sanctioned games to receive our initial ranking. The team will start next season on the road at Fort Wayne and Grand Raggidy (from Grand Rapids). They are ranked 181st and 58th respectively.”

Cotton was impressed by the team’s performance as well as the support the team received from the cheering sections in what was a gritty contest.

“We had the biggest crowd since returning to play at Rollhaven,” he said. “I am unsure of the exact count but the venue was packed. They were loud and proud of our club.

“The team played their hearts out. We ended the season with a record or 6-4. This victory was especially sweet as we avenged an earlier season loss. I told the team and all of our staff that I could not be more proud of the work that they put into this season and how they conducted themselves.”

Although the derby action may initially appear as a whirl of bumping, grinding and racing about an oval rink, there is a method to the perceived madness. Many fans come for the hitting but some of the most exciting action revolves around the jammers. They are the only skaters who can score (with a starred marked helmet cover) as they attempt to weave and dodge the opponent’s blockers.  Alternatively, a blocker deemed the pivot, wearing a striped helmet cover, may become a jammer.

There are three other blockers that make up the rest of the side. Imagine a football linemen playing both offense and defense, without the luxury of heavy pads. They simultaneously block and prevent the other team from passing them to jam and gain points.

The jammers attempt to pass through the pack. The first to break through their opponents becomes lead jammer. On the second pass through the pack, she may score by passing an opposing player, one point for each that she gets by. Each jam is allotted two minutes. The match is divided into two, 30 minute halves.

As you watch, try to grip the strategy that each jammer uses and also the blocking by the jammer’s team and the opponents’ strategies to prevent the jammers from passing through the pack. The more you view the action the more the rhythms of the play will come clear.

Next year’s opponents have still to be formulated, but Cotton points to home dates of May 4, June 15, September 21 and November 9.

The skaters point to the positive group feeling that allows them to be a sort of family and spurs their performance.

“Our victory validates all the hard work our club has been doing,” said Assistant Coach Kate Kirkpatrick. “Various physical and mental issues have taken their toll as we prepared for this game.  We could easily have derailed but we rose above.

“This victory made a statement about the team. It shows how hard we worked and that we deserve to be one of the top roller derby clubs in the state. We should continue to climb the ranks of the WFTDA.”

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.