When it comes to roller derby, people are often in one of two camps: they’ve never experienced it, or it’s been many years since they have. Yet somewhere in the middle is a growing contingent that has caught the roller derby bug in a major way and is helping to make the sport accessible to all.
Three years ago, right here in Longmont, Boulder County’s only all-female flat track roller derby league was established. Today it boasts three squads, a posse of dedicated referees and a core group of volunteers who do a little bit of everything, all for the love of it. The Boulder County Bombers (BCB) league is actively recruiting skaters, referees and volunteers!
Courtney MacArthur aka Bev O’lution (skater name, more on that later) founded BCB after a move here from Highlands Ranch. Previously involved in derby, the move found her too far from an active league to regularly participate. “I knew it was up to me to do something if I wanted to skate again,” she says. Courtney and her friend Jordan handed out fliers on their weekly jog for a Recruit Night meeting. Thirty-five people showed up. “That fall we moved to an indoor space near the old Sugar Mill that we dubbed the ‘Bomb Shelter,’ complete with bullet holes, cracked concrete floor, and a leaky roof, that we were ecstatically grateful to find in our price range.”
The league remained in the Bomb Shelter until January 2013, when it moved to its current practice space on Weaver Park Road.
The Boulder County Bombers league is completely volunteer run by the skaters, officials, coaches and others. No experience? No problem! The league does not require tryouts or even previous skating experience. The veterans value and mentor the newbies. In Phase 1, participants learn how to roller skate. One only moves on when she is ready. Phase 2 is all about learning roller derby. There are distinct rules and regulations. There is strategy and etiquette. Successfully pass the required testing in Phase 2 and you’ve got your laces to skate in actual bouts. You also now get to partake in roller derby’s coolest rite of passage: choosing your derby name. A few standouts from a recent visit to the BCB practice facility: Catastrophoebe, Jenitellya, Muscle Leanie, and Skinny DipHer.
Although people do their best to avoid injury, it’s a physical sport and stuff happens. Just ask Mallory Knocks-n-Blocks, a top tier BCB skater who broke her leg during a scrimmage last November. “Injuries don’t happen all the time,” she says, “but it’s the hazard of the sport.”
A mother of two who comes from outside Boulder County to participate, Mallory was forced to give up her spot in the All Stars team due to the injury and is now in rehab with designs on an eventual return to the track. The league teaches its skaters how to fall, how to avoid smashed fingers and how to be as safe as possible. Helmets and pads are required.
Bev O’lution has high hopes for the league. “Over the next five years, we fully expect to be a highly competitive Division 1 team. In our second season we were undefeated, playing against much older teams. In our first season we only lost one bout. We are about to embark upon our third season and are climbing the ranks from Division 3 to Division 2 this year. We are even lucky enough to have the opportunity to play some Division 1 teams in 2014, which is going to be a vital experience for a growing league.”
Christopher Molinet has been the league’s head referee since March 2013. “As the head ref, you have to know answers to rules questions without hesitation; if an official does something incorrect, it falls on your shoulders to get it fixed by any means,” he explains. Molinet is a very focused man when it’s time to hit the track. “I’ve learned to go into bouts with a clear head and an empty heart,” he says. “I really don’t care who wins or loses. My primary goals are to referee to the best of my ability and lead my crew to a successful bout.”
Could roller derby be for you? The league’s founder makes the case: “A lot of people seem to find roller derby during transitional periods in their lives. I was no exception. Roller derby focused my wild heart, challenged me, and captured my imagination like the suburbs never could!”
(Acknowledgment: The writer thanks BCB’s Courtney Imhoff for the introduction and hospitality.)
By Darren Thornberry, Photos by Christopher Chase