Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Want to be a Derby Darlin? Come prepared for pain

Women looking to burn off a little aggression — and calories — this year might check out roller derby. The Tampa Bay Derby Darlins are recruiting new members for their upcoming season. No experience is needed but assume that you need to know how to skate and aren't afraid of feeling pain, or inflicting it. Those curious enough to try can attend Saturday's boot camp and the Feb. 5 tryouts, both at the USA Skateplex in Temple Terrace. Here's what to expect, from Derby Darlins recruitment chair Shayna White, a.k.a. Stella Knockout.

What happens at boot camp?

This is a chance to see what you will be tested on at tryouts, from stopping safely to skating on one foot. It's not a requirement for the tryouts but strongly encouraged. Recruits will need to bring a mouth guard (because sharing one is gross). The league will have some loaner pads and helmets, but they don't have enough for everyone, so it's best to come prepared. Knee, elbow and wrist guards are available at the rink as well as Sports Authority, Target and other big-box stores. The league has a special deal with Skatepark of Tampa for the helmets.

What about the tryouts?

The pros will evaluate each recruit on their skating posture, stride, speed and endurance. And don't be surprised if they push you around a bit. They want to see if you fall. Afterwards, everyone will get a call saying whether they made it. The league, formed in 2005, has no quota but constantly likes to grow the ranks. It has 60 players on six teams but in the past has had more than 100.

Do skaters get hurt?

That's an obvious yes, if you've ever seen the sport. "It's not a matter of if you will get hurt, it's when,'' says White, who plays for the Bruise Crew. No joke. During past tryouts, skaters have broken a wrist, an elbow and tweaked a back. Not to mention suffered from rink rash. At the very least, skaters will probably feel sore for a few days. Members are required to get insurance through the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, regardless of what other coverage they have. It costs about $60 a year.

How much experience is required?

The league has some former hockey players and speed skaters, but you don't need a skating background. People who Rollerblade on the Pinellas Trail or couple-skated to Open Arms in the '80s are probably capable of making a team. "As long as you can maintain balance on skates, you should be fine,'' White said. Veterans can teach you the rules and technique of roller derby.

Is it expensive to join the league?

Initially, yes. Players must buy wrist, elbow and knee pads, a helmet, mouth guard and quad skates, which run $100 to $600. Monthly dues are $30, plus the $60-a-year insurance.

What's the time commitment?

A significant one. The league practices year-round on Sundays and Wednesdays from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at USA's Skateplex and occasionally on Tuesday nights for Quad Killer training at Tampa's United Skates of America. Recruits must have at least 70 percent attendance during the 13-week training program in order to compete. Home games, called bouts, are usually held monthly on Saturdays. The season runs from about March to September, and slightly longer for the traveling teams, which compete at the state and national level. Skaters are also expected to attend appearances, fundraisers and committee meetings.

Do looks matter?

Nope, this isn't a beauty contest. Athleticism and guts matter more than how you look in an outfit. Skaters dress up in tight shorts and fishnet hose for bouts but wear tights, sweats and yoga pants for practices. The women come in all body shapes and sizes.

Biggest misconception?

The game doesn't involve a ball. Teams are made up of one pivot, three blockers and one jammer. The jammer scores points by passing the opposing team's blockers. Bouts consists of two 30-minute periods.

What's with the nicknames?

Players earn better-fear-me-names like Force and Teddy Machete after finishing training. Skaters pick their own but must check it against a national registry to avoid duplication. Names are announced during a graduation ceremony.

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