Roll with the punches
There are two roller derby organizations in Reno—and don’t ever make the mistake of confusing one for the other
Somewhere in the mess of skates, helmets, pillows and dog-pilefights on the rink exists a group of aggressive women looking to wreak havoc for no other reason than, well, to wreak havoc.
These are the Reno Roller Girls, and they skate at the Roller Kingdom on Seventh Street.
A couple miles south of that, a serious and athletically-driven group of women discuss the sport of roller derby with a no-nonsense attitude that makes me believe them when they say they have a serious chance at beating some of the top-ranked roller derby teams in the nation.
These are the Battle Born Derby Demons, who skate on the outdoor track on First and Virginia streets. (The track is an ice skating rink in the winter.)
The two groups are separate entities and have very different philosophies on roller derby. Both organizations are striving to create their own identities, but for one reason or another, many people often mistake one group for the other.
That’s a mistake I made myself a couple of months ago when I saw Maia “Irma Geddon” Finholm, who has been with Battle Born Derby Demons since it started in June of 2006, walking down the street.
“Hey Maia,” I said. “You’re in Reno Roller Girls, right?”
She replied with a joking but sharp, “Fuck you!”
Both organizations just finished their seasons a couple of weeks ago and are now recruiting members for next year.
Comparing Reno Roller Girls to Battle Born Derby Demons is, to use a tried and true analogy, like comparing apples to oranges. Aside from the fact that members of both organizations wear skates and occasionally break into a fight or two on the rink, there are few similarities to note. Both groups are skater-run. Both have been around a little over a year.
The two organizations considered merging back in June, but after a few practices together, it quickly became apparent that the two groups have irreconcilable differences.
Reno Roller Girls
A couple of Saturdays ago, I made it down to Roller Kingdom for the last bout of the season. It was an Angels v. Devils theme, complete with an announcer in a Jesus costume and pillow-fight penalty sessions galore.
Reno Roller Girls, consisting of about 40 members of all shapes, sizes and experience levels, only holds bouts within its own ranks. They don’t skate against any other roller derby teams. Instead, they split their members into two teams for bouts. The two teams don’t consist of the same members every bout, and the team practices as one unit.
They hope to gather enough members to split into a permanent league of four teams.
“Every girl gets to skate on our team,” says Vickey “VicGoria” Alvarez, 29, president of the organization.
Even though they skate on a flat track right now, Reno Roller Girls’ main goal is to make enough money from bouts and sponsors to build a bank track—an elevated track tilted at an angle.
The scene at the bout is something like a slapstick comedy. Skaters on the Devil’s team sport black homemade outfits, mostly spandex and tutus; Angels look the same, but in white.
Hardly a minute into the first quarter of the bout, Taryn “It Up” Draper, 23 gets a technical penalty. Forced to spin the penalty wheel, she lands on “Spank Alley.” She has to skate around the rink while fans and players from both teams smack her ass.
When Jesus spanked her, I realized this was a light-hearted version of a real derby bout. It all fits into their mission statement: “We don’t mind silliness, sluttiness or sloppy skaters. We skate by our own rules, which are catered to make the game more fun for us and our spectators.”
Draper, who also handles recruitment, has been with the organization for about a year, since it became an officially chartered club. She’s one of the toughest and most experienced girls on the rink.
“Everyone’s out to get me,” she jokes of her teammates-turned-opponents. “That’s what it is.”
Throughout the night, one-on-one fights keep turning into giant brawls with members from both teams wrestling opponents to the ground. It’s fun to watch, but none of the girls are really trying to hurt the other.
The most intense fight was when Angels coach Kalie “Patty Melt” Giareina, 23, skated onto the track to replace a member of her team in the fourth quarter. After shoving down nearly every skater she passed, the refs told her she couldn’t skate.
Giareina, a pint-sized skater, jumped onto the ref, a 6-foot tall man, grabbed him around the neck, wrapped her legs around him and slammed him to the ground. Hard. From there, she pinned him and hit him in the chest until the other refs managed to peel her off.
She was ejected from the game two minutes before the eight-minute quarter ended.
“I learned how to fight like that from the team,” she said, after the bout. “I think when you become a derby girl, you get a lot of courage in a lot of different ways.”
Reno Roller Girls is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization. But for now, all proceeds from the bouts and fundraising events are going toward their goal of building a bank track.
Battle Born Derby Demons
As part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, Battle Born Derby Demons follows a strict set of rules during bouts. For example, while fights do happen, skaters are immediately ejected. When fights do break out, they’re not pillow fights.
Think of it like this: If Reno Roller Girls are a group of friends playing touch football in the backyard, then Battle Born is the New York Giants fighting through the playoffs, hoping to take on the New England Patriots.
Battle Born, a non-profit organization that donates its earnings to various local charities, is working on being ranked in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, a national association with over 250 teams. They plan to have that done by next season.
“A lot of our interests go to charitable events that help women,” says Finholm, 37, a community liaison and skater representative for the organization. She estimates that Battle Born raises close to $2,000 a year for charities.
Battle Born, consisting of about 40 members, never holds bouts between its own members. Instead, the team holds practice four times a week and puts its best skaters in bouts while newer and less-experienced members help run the events.
Now recruiting for next season, Battle Born Derby Demons, like Reno Roller Girls, would like to get enough members to create a four-team league.
“We actually play leagues from other areas,” says Michelle “Fitts n’ Giggles” Calhoun-Fitts, 34, a skater and publicist.
Playing teams from out of town is one thing on which the group prides itself. And with sponsors, including the Sands Regency Casino Hotel, Battle Born is able to put opponents up in hotel rooms, making them an attractive team with which to bout.
“We want to go to national championships,” says one enthusiastic team member. “We want to bout these teams that are fucking kick ass. And we want to kick their ass!”