Arlington Women in Vanguard of Roller-Derby Resurgency


(Tuesday, March 20, 2007 6:22 AM EDT)

Think contact sports aren't for women? You've never met a modern-day “rollergirl.”

Roller derby may date to the 1930s, but it's undergoing a local revival - with Arlingtonians leading the way.

“My favorite part of the sport is hitting people,” acknowledged Arlingtonian Melissa Cannarozzi, who goes by the name “Beltway Betty” when she skates.

The game is a series of races (“jams”) between two teams that skate around a track as a pack.

Each team has a player, called a “jammer,” designated to score points, and three “blockers” who try to stop the opposing team's jammer. The “pivot” skates behind the pack, and sets the pace for team.

Jammers score by breaking through the pack and lapping as many opposing blockers as possible.

Players can elbow and slam each other to keep jammers from getting by.

Created last January, D.C. Rollergirls is a new, local roller-derby league that Arlington women can join. Teams in the league include the creatively named Secretaries of Hate, the D.C. Demoncats, the Cherry Blossom Bombshells and Scare Force One.

“My friend is on the Windy City Rollers in Chicago, and she couldn't shut up about roller derby,” said Kari “Bruisehilda” Greenwood in a recent interview. “Last March, I attended a D.C. Rollergirls recruitment party and, in a couple weeks, I was totally hooked on roller derby.”

The women who participate in roller derby love the sport for what it demands of them physically. The sport requires speed, agility, strength and endurance.

Rollergirls are required to attend one league practice a week, and sometimes up to three team practices, as well. Bruises and injuries are a regular occurrence.

Rollergirls often wake up with contusions all over their bodies, but that's nothing compared to the broken shoulder and broken tailbone that others have suffered.

Some Rollergirls find it difficult to go head-to-head with their own league-mates, which they have to do in scrimmages two times a month.

“We form friendships and then have to go and knock them down,” said Camille “Camilla the Hun” Morin. “After my first scrimmage, I had to stop and ask, ‘Can I do this? Do I have the fortitude?' You have to be tough.”

Overall, the roller-derby experience is positive for the women involved, who say they have grown as athletes and as individuals.

“I've met a lot of great people, and I've learned about myself and becoming a stronger woman,” Cannarozzi said. “I used to be a little shy, and now I think I'm out of my shell.”

“I'm not a natural-born athlete. I'm an academic,” said Greenwood, who is a law student at American University. “But this is a great opportunity to do something I wouldn't normally do.”

D.C. Rollergirls starts its inaugural season with a “Peep Show” Expo Bout on Saturday, March 24 at the Dulles SportsPlex in Sterling. It will feature pre-game demonstrations that will teach spectators the rules of the game and two abbreviated pre-season matches. Tickets are $6 and are available at

Roller-Derby Details

What you didn't know about roller derby:

* Roller derby started as a marathon-styled race, where men and women skated for miles and miles on a track.

* A game is today comprised of three 20-minute periods, and each period is made up of an unlimited number of “jams” or races.

* Jams are two minutes long, at a maximum.

* Players are required to wear full padding, including arm and knee pads, wrist and mouth guards and a helmet.

* Only quad roller skates are allowed in competition, and skates are cut closer to the ankle than traditional boot-cut skates.

* Skaters can only block using shoulders and arms above the elbow. Official rules state that skaters may not hit or punch in the face, kick another skater, intentionally trip another skater, choke skaters by the helmet straps or bite.

* There is a national master roster of rollergirls' names, and players are urged to be creative in coming up with their own.

- Kristen Armstrong

D.C. Rollergirls opens its 2007 season over the weekend. Arlington participants are taking part.

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