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Roller Derby: A 'Really Different Kind Of Sport'

The sport of roller derby has long been known for its intensity. But for Wichita’s ICT Roller Girls, the game is about much more than alter egos and injuries. KMUW's Abigail Wilson has this sound portrait.

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Credit Abigail Wilson
Rachel Rage

"My name is Kalee Hildreth, also known on the track as Rachel Rage. I've been on the team since 2011.

We get asked a lot about roller derby from the 70s, which was kind of a 'roll around and punch and elbow and bite and kick' situation. We have a pretty intense set of rules of ways that we can use our bodies to hit someone else safely. So there's no elbowing, there's no punching, there's no assault type of play allowed. Another misconception I would say is that [people think] it's just a show and it's fake, and it's really not. The Women's Flat Track Roller Derby Association makes sure that it's a highly competitive sport with algorithms for tournaments just like any other national sport.

We've been around since 2006. Next year is actually our 10-year anniversary in Wichita of being a roller derby team and that's pretty cool. We're one of the oldest teams in the region and definitely the first team in the state of Kansas."

 
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Credit Abigail Wilson
Pat BenaScar

"My real name is Amy, and my roller derby name is Pat BenaScar. They call me Patty B.

I think a lot of people don't know how much actual strategy there is in roller derby. The fact that we play offense and defense at the same time. And a lot of people think it's knocking people down, which we do--we hit, but it's hitting for a purpose. It's not just, 'Oh, there's somebody skating next to me. I'm going to hit them.’

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Credit Abigail Wilson / KMUW
Members of the ICT Roller Girls skate by with the Wichita flag at a bout last month.

I meet people all the time that still have no idea that we have a team, and they're like 'What? We have roller derby here?' So once they know about it, most people seem excited about it. That's how we get new fans, is just going out and talking about it because a lot of people don't know."  

 

  

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Credit Courtesy
Juliana Gonzales, executive director Women’s Flat Track Derby Association

"I'm Juliana Gonzales and I'm the executive director for the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, which is the international membership organization that serves flat track roller derby leagues.

We started at about 20 leagues in 2005. I have to look every time because we're growing so fast, but right now we're over 400 leagues in our membership. When you're thinking about a membership association that serves 400 leagues, we think that you're probably looking at something like 30,000 skaters throughout not just North America but also Europe, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa.

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Credit Fletcher Powell / KMUW
Members of the ICT Roller Girls All Stars team glance back during a bout last month at the Cotillion.

I think it's really important to note that roller derby is a really different kind of sport. Our main concern is promoting and fostering this sport that we think is contributing to our athletes and to the communities that they live in and really changing the way that sports are managed and governed and promoted in our society.

When things go viral it's hard to know why. It's pretty easy to see why roller derby went viral. The world needs a lot more women's sports right now. Women are craving the opportunity to participate in athletic competition. Women enjoy contact sports and don't have a lot of access to those."

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Follow Abigail Wilson on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.