“Roller Derby: Building strength & confidence as a team” was published in Central PA Magazine; 2013
This article was written for witf‘s Transforming Health initative

Jen Cole is one of the Dutchland Derby Rollers league founders. Jen, whose derby name is Josie Cuervo, says that skating with the Lancaster-based derby team has been a passion of hers for seven years: “I love the camaraderie, I love the teamwork, it’s a challenge, and it’s really fun!”

We met Jen and her teammates at a nighttime scrimmage in Lancaster, and learned that derby is more than just a sport. It’s about building strength, confidence, better health and friendship together as a team.

“The most simple way to explain roller derby is that it’s a race between two skaters with human obstacles,” Jen says.

So, what is roller derby?

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 12.43.52 PMEach team has a “jammer” that skates for two minutes. And there are four skaters on each team called “blockers.” The eight blockers, together, compromise “the pack.” The jammers have to race each other around the track as many times as they can in the two-minute long “jam,” dodging and weaving while being blocked and checked by the blockers.

“Being a blocker is really fun, and it is unlike any other sport because you play offense and defense at the same time. There’s a lot of strategy involved,” Jen explains.

Although derby rules can get a bit complicated, she says that, “Its ladies skating fast and hard so it’s fun to watch even if you don’t understand what’s going on.”

What’s special about derby?

We asked Jen that question, and she replied simply with a smile: “Everything!”

For those involved in the sport, it’s an escape. “Folks participating come for two hours and forget about who they are in the outside world. They put on skates and sweat, burn, hit… at the end of the night you have to go back to ‘real life,’ but for two hours you were a roller derby superstar!’”

Theresa Flavin -aka Stompin’ Lizzy Stanton–  has been a skater for Dutchalnd for about 6 years now and says about the sport, “Its empowering for women.” She says that there’s an adrenaline high that comes with exercise and playing this sport. “But, multiply that by 1,000 because you’re with all these cool people and everyone accepts you for who you are.”

Acceptance is another thing that makes derby special. Although some of the skaters come from an athletic background, many of the skaters have never participated in organized sports in their life. “For them to get excited about fitness and join a gym is inspirational,” Jen says.

No matter what an individual skater’s skill level or fitness goal may be, they find common ground in the sport.

Jen says, “At the end of the day, we all share the same goal which is to play a sport we find challenging and a lot of fun.”

The health benefits of roller derby:

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 12.43.41 PMDerby takes strength, endurance, teamwork, strategy, and the right attitude. “It’s a great cardio workout and great for the body overall,” Jen says.

For Theresa, being in good physical condition from playing the sport actually helped in her recovery after heart surgery.

Jen says, “I think for a lot of women joining roller derby inspires them to work on their fitness level more, make healthier choices, quit smoking, and adopt healthy eating habits.” For many it is also a great outlet mentally, and is great for stress relief. “You kind of feel like a rock star when you’re out there, so how is that not going to give you confidence?”

Teresa says, “We’re a family as much as we are a sports team. It’s a great organization.”

Jen says that there’s a real source of pride having the fans and the community come out to watch the team play. So, check out their schedule for their upcoming bouts, starting in April, and show your support!

Meet the Dutchland team and learn about the health benefits of playing this sport in the video below:

A bit more about the Dutchland team:

The Dutchland Derby Rollers are proud members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and are comprised of three teams of different skill levels.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 12.43.22 PMThey’re committed to athleticism, sportswomanship, and their community

Hannah Abelbeck

  • (aka Mad Plow Dizease) and

Kristie Grey

  • (aka Merry Khaos)

Roller Derby

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