Kennebec Valley Roller Derby member Sarah Gott, center, greets prospect Abby Bellavance during a recruitment drive for the team Sunday at the Cushnoc Brewery Co. tasting room in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

AUGUSTA — A roller derby track is a good place to be aggressive, which some women who compete in the sport — and are in the midst of trying to form a new league in the Kennebec Valley — said can have a positive impact on their lives away from the track.

“You feel empowered and that transfers to your day to day life,” Jamie Hoover, of Lisbon, whose roller derby name is “Daisy Cutter,” said at a recruitment meet and greet of the Kennebec Valley Roller Derby league held Sunday at Cushnoc Brewing Co.’s tasting room in downtown Augusta. “You find yourself walking taller, with more confidence.”

Kathryn Ference, president of Kennebec Valley Roller Derby, second from left, speaks Sunday with prospects Rich and Casey Beaudoin during a recruitment drive for the team at the Cushnoc Brewery Co. tasting room in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Kathryn Ference, of West Gardiner, president and head trainer of the new group, said some aggressiveness, within the rules allowed in the contact sport, is a good thing, even though that is not a trait most women have historically been encouraged to embrace.

“Women are not often encouraged to be aggressive, so this is a place you can explore and bring that out of yourself,” said Ference, who first took up roller derby in 2011 when she lived in Colorado and decided, with eight other players with roller derby experience, that the Augusta area should have a team and league, joining other Maine leagues including in Bangor, Portland, Rockland, Lewiston and Caribou.

About 20 people, mostly women, attended the session, some of them already part of the team but some of them checking it out to see if they might want to join.

While there is one men’s roller derby team in Portland, the sport in Maine and nationwide is largely a women’s event. Ference said it may be the one sport where the men’s version came as an add-on to a women’s sport, not the other way around.

But the sport’s aggressiveness should not be confused with hostility toward other players, organizers said. To the contrary, they said the sport is a great way to make friends and join a network of competitors across the region and across the country.

“It’s an amazing way to meet people and also an amazingly fun game — and good exercise,” Ference said. “I hate going to the gym. But I love going to practice.”

The group practices Wednesday nights at the Augusta State Armory, where the skaters hope to host games, known as bouts, though they said the league probably will not be ready for bouts until spring or later.

Kennebec Valley Roller Derby was founded in July with a goal of promoting and boosting roller derby in the region, and is run by volunteers, according to the group’s website.

The organization is seeking participants whom it will teach to compete via its skate school, scheduled to begin Oct. 9. Those interested in taking part in the upcoming roller derby training should contact the group at [email protected]

The school includes eight weeks of lessons on the basics of skating on four-wheel skates. Following skate school, Hoover said, participants will undergo eight weeks of training on the specifics of roller derby.

A game or bout of roller derby consists of two 30-minute periods, with each made up of jams that can last up to 2 minutes, according to the organization’s website. The group plans to play its games according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s rules.

Games take place on flat, oval tracks, with five skaters from each team on the track at a time, four “blockers” and one “jammer,” who is identified by a a star on her helmet cover.

The two jammers — one for each team, start each jam behind the blockers and score a point for every opposing blocker they lap and pass. The blockers seek to both help their jammer get through the other teams’ blockers, and, as their name implies, block the opposing jammer.

Kathryn Ference, president of Kennebec Valley Roller Derby, displays roller skates during a recruitment drive for the team Sunday at the Cushnoc Brewery Co. tasting room in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Contact is allowed but skaters are not allowed to use their heads, elbows, forearms, hands, knees, lower legs or feet to make contact with opponents, nor make contact to opponents’ heads, backs, knees, lower legs or feet, according to the rules.

Skaters wear old-school-style four-wheel roller skates, not inline skates, and helmets and other protective gear.

Ference, whose roller derby name is “Dinah Fire,” showed roller derby gear to potential recruits Sunday, including helmets, mouth guards, wrist, knee and elbow pads and skates. She said skates cost about $150, although they can be had for less, if bought used.

Ference once tore her ACL while playing, but said in general the chances of getting injured in the sport are comparable to playing soccer or other contact sports.

Abby Bellevance, of Lewiston, attended the meet and greet with her 8-year-old son. The 31-year-old said she first tried the sport about a year ago and used to watch it when she was younger. She thinks she will probably join the new group, and said in her time learning the sport, the trainers empower you and build you up.

Ference said at least 14 people are needed to form a team, and other volunteers are also needed to referee or help run bouts.

She said in the 1970s and 1980s, roller derby was largely scripted, similar to professional wrestling, but now the reborn sport is real and competitive.

Ference said would-be new recruits do not even have to know how to skate. That will be taught at skate school.

Bellevance said she is not yet certain if she is going to be a blocker or a jammer on the track.

“I’m not really sure yet,” she said. “People usually seem to fall into their roles. I’m so new at this now. I’m just trying not to fall down.”

 

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