Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 14, 2010

Resurgent roller derby alive and well in Jacksonville

Jay Neal
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — By day they are moms, wives, home health nurses, social workers — pretty much your run of the mill ladies.

But at night, when they lace up their skates, strap on their pads, put on their head gear, insert their mouth pieces and take on their metaphorical aliases such as “Shell Shock”,  “Alli-Get-Her”, “Crash” or “Frita the 13th”  they really come alive.

What is this transformation all about?

It’s flat track roller derby (that by definition is a fast paced team contact sport that demands speed, strategy and athleticism), a sport that thrived in the ‘70’s, flamed out, but since 2000 has once again rapidly gained steam — according to statistics provided by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) there are close to 80 member leagues in the United States today.

And if things go as planned, the East Texas Bombers could be joining the WFTDA ranks in the near future.

The Bombers, about a dozen women from all across East Texas (Tyler, Longview, Henderson, Carthage and even Jacksonville) are in the rink once again after a brief hiatus in 2009.

The team, who sport an average age of about 32 years, began bouting earlier this year and held their first full-on intersquad scrimmage in Kilgore on May 23.

On Friday the Bombers travel to Temple for a bout against another new outfit, the Central Texas Sirens.

Jacksonville resident Michelle McCann, or if you prefer, “Shell Shock”, a wife and mother of two, serves as the team’s secretary and is one of the Bombers’ leading skaters.

McCann says today flat track roller derby is much different from the banked track brand of roller derby popular 40-some years ago and often glamorized in motion pictures.

“Flat track derby is different than the bank track derby seen in the 70’s,” McCann said just before hitting the boards at Skatetown USA on Thursday night. “We’re not permitted to trip anyone, throw elbows, punch opponents or throw anyone over the railings.

“The rules are very strict now and we are working on following them and improving our skating so that we can attain our WFTDA affiliation. To do that we must have our business organized and have all our skaters at a certain level.”

The Bombers practice every Thursday night from 7-9 p.m. at Jacksonville’s Skatetown USA during bout season (March-October) in addition to holding a couple of two-hour practice rounds in Henderson each week.

Practices focus on scrimmaging and improving individual skating skills while the Bombers work on conditioning, new skater recruitment and orientation in the off season period.

Being an amateur sport, the skaters do what they do for reasons other than collecting a paycheck; therefore the team stages quite a few fund raisers throughout the year to help defray their expenses.

McCann said the Bombers are working tirelessly on being able to have a public scrimmage in Jacksonville in either late August or early September.

“We want to promote awareness to let everyone know that roller derby is here in East Texas and that we are recruiting skaters as well as referees, none skating officials such as penalty trackers and scorers (refereees and none-skating personnel can even be males),” McCann said.

She went on to add that prospective Bomber candidates do not have to be seasoned skaters to participate and that ladies my practice with the team for up to a month to decide if roller derby is for them.

”We’ve got girls out her all the way from just learning to skate to those that can knock you off your butt.,” McCann said.

She added that she hadn’t actively skated for a number of years but when she read a flyer at a hair salon in Nacogdoches, announcing the formation of a team in that city, she knew it was something that she had to try.

“I always enjoyed watching roller derby on t.v. as a kid and I like to skate,” McCann said. “I find roller derby to be a great way to get out aggression and to stay in shape.”

McCann states that she is optimistic that the Jacksonville community will embrace the sport and that roller derby could have a future in the city.

“I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) making Jacksonville our headquarters because we have the perfect facility here,” she said.   

NOTE: For more information on joining the East Texas Bombers visit the team’s Website (www.easttexasbombers.com) or contact McCann at 936-652-0857.