Roller Girls bouts offer exciting entertainment
by SARALYN NORKUS Banner Sports Writer
Jun 27, 2014 | 857 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roller Girls
THE CHATTANOOGA ROLLER GIRLS work on their pack techniques during a practice in Ringgold, Ga. Cleveland’s own “Shank Williams Jr,” or Lara Burns Harwood (second to left), works to block the opposing jammer from getting through the pack. Banner photo, SARALYN NORKUS
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If you haven’t yet made it down to the Chattanooga Convention Center to catch a Chattanooga Roller Girls tilt this season, you still have two opportunities to see the roller derby team in action.

On Saturday, the Chattanooga Roller Girls will host the Derby City Roller Girls, out of Louisville, Ky., at 7 p.m., in their next-to-last home bout of the season.

The Chattanooga ladies, who have been undefeated at home this year, will battle to keep that record alive against a tough Louisville team.

A portion of the proceeds pulled in this Saturday will be donated to Cleveland’s Kevin Scoggins, who was the recipient of a bone marrow transplant several months ago.

CRG was created in 2008, and by March 2010 had been accepted into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

Currently, the WFTDA has 243 Full Member Leagues, broken up into three divisions all across the country as well as internationally, and 114 Apprentice Leagues.

Clevelander Lara Burns Harwood has been an active skater with the Roller Girls for the past four years.

Since becoming involved with CRG, said the 43-year-old Harwood, she has lost about 70 pounds.

A cardiac rehabilitation nurse by day, Harwood transforms into “Shank Williams Jr.” in skates three nights a week at derby practices and competitions.

“You have to get in that mode before playing. All of the girls on the team are really good people who really love the game and want to do well. This is my fourth season and I still feel like I’m developing the right attitude,” Harwood stated.

“I just focus on the game and what I’m doing. I’m trying to not get hit and trying to help our jammer or block the other jammer from coming through. I guess I just enjoy the feeling I get. Even when I was out running or playing other sports I would be thinking about everything else. With this sport though, I’m not thinking about other things — I’m just out there playing the game.”

One of the better-known facets of the derby is the collection of eclectic names that can be found on rosters.

The Roller Girls are no exception, with names like Bully Von Beat’em, Jenny Hate, The mBOMBinator, Gisele Bludgeon, Hits ’n Giggles, Tasty Murder and CurbStompin’ Cupcake in their ranks.

For the CRG’s captain this season, Cupcake, or Caitlin Kelley as she is known in civilian life, the roller derby provided another outlet to be involved in something athletic.

A soccer player and athlete all her life, Cupcake suffered a laundry list of injuries that sidelined her competitive career.

Three years ago she discovered the Chattanooga Roller Girls, showed up for a meet and tryout, and the rest was history.

“I love derby and I love my team. We’re a big old family,” Kelley declared.

Before becoming an active skater, a girl must first be what is so affectionately termed “fresh meat,” which is basically the derby’s label for a rookie in training.

The rookies spend a good deal of quality time with Bully, aka Lynda Cope, who works on their development and training.

“First off, I would say that skating is the most important thing. Then we work on minimum skills, which are stops, falls and the things that we do every day,” Cope explained.

There are four different falls the fresh meat novices must learn, such as the rockstar fall, and the two stops are plow stops and T-stops.

“It’s give or take in our fresh meat program. Once you try out and become fresh meat, it takes about 60 days or two months. Some skaters may need a little longer than that. Within six months, you’ll be a good active skater and fully good to go,” Cope stated.

A roller derby bout is made up of two 30-minutes halves. Each halves are broken up into two-minute jams, with 30 seconds between each jam.

The pack is made up of five players from each team, which includes a pivot, three blockers and a jammer.

The jammer is the player who scores the points for their team. According to Harwood, the jammers are essentially racing around the track while the pack’s job is to help their jammer and stop up her counterpart on the other team.

The first jammer to make it through the pack becomes the lead jammer, and after one successful time around the track, scores a point for her team every other time around. The lead jammer can also call off the jam whenever she wishes.

Penalties are often handed out by the officials, and things such as elbowing, hitting above the shoulders or below the knees (high and low blocking) and tripping can earn a derby girl a quick trip to the penalty box. If a skater racks up seven penalties, they are removed from the bout.

One aspect of the competition Harwood feels goes unnoticed by the general public is the amount of work that goes into the roller derby.

“I don’t think people realize how hard we work. It’s not just about putting on skates, getting out there and hitting each other,” Harwood explained. “We practice three nights a week and at least 10 to 11 months year round. We do our own practices on days off to get stronger too. You either really like it and find a way to do it, or you just won’t make it.”

Since their inception, the Roller Girls have built up quite a fan base in the Chattanooga area, and pride themselves on giving back to the community.

“We’ve had anywhere from 800 to 1,600 people come out to watch. Our last bout had about 900,” Harwood commented. “We always donate a portion of our proceeds to different charities throughout the season, and also do occasional volunteer work.”

The 2014 roller derby season began in February, and out of the five bouts CRG has competed in, they have won three.

After Saturday’s bout against Derby City, the Roller Girls will host the Mississippi Roller Girls for their last bout of the season on Aug. 23.

Tickets for the bouts are $10 in advance and online or $12 at the door. Tickets for veterans and active duty personnel with valid ID, as well as children ages 6-12, are only $5, and kids 5 years old and younger are free.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and the theme for the night is “Star Wars” based, with R2D2 making an appearance alongside Chattanooga cosplay group Chattooine.