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Yuma rollergirls changing stereotypes
FOR MORE INFO
• Join the local roller derby group on Facebook to find out more information on how to get involved. Log in at www.Facebook.com and search “Yuma Roller Derby.” Once you click on the group, click “join” to be a part of the group.
• For those without a Facebook account, stop by the weekly practices in the Crane Middle School gymnasium, 4450 W. 32nd St., Mondays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m.
• Visit www.wftda.com or www.usarollersports.org for more information about rules and guidelines of roller derby.
A group of women in Yuma is hoping to break down the stereotypes and misconceptions that sometimes come along with roller derby in order to create a family-friendly sporting event that everyone in the community could come out and support.
“The kids can come watch, too, and your mom and your grandma can come and be proud of what you're doing,” said Elysia Reimann Wiesen, founder of the Border City Rollergirls.
“I think that's such a gift for adult women — because how often do we have a hobby or anything extracurricular we can say that about?”
Wiesen recently started a league in Yuma along with eight other women. They have enough people for one team, she said, but they would like to form at least two more teams to compete with.
The object of the game is to score the most points, Wiesen explained.
There are 10 skaters on the floor at one time, five from each team. Two of the skaters have stars on their helmets and they are the “jammers.”
“The jammers are the only people who can score points. The other eight blockers on the floor, it's their job to stop the opposite team's jammer from scoring the points ... There's no ball; I always tell people that the jammer is kind of like the ball. You're passing her around trying to get her through this little maze of people and for each person of the opposing team she passes, you score one point.”
Wiesen admitted that at times, the game can be very fast-paced as well as physically and mentally intense.
“There's a lot to it, it's quite a complex game. It requires your athletes to play both offense and defense at the same time, which is really hard. It's very fast-paced and it's a mind game, too. As much as it is physical, you have to be able to think quick and think of 10 things at once. I think that's the perfect game for women because we're so good at multitasking.”
Wiesen, a stay-at-home mom, recently moved to Yuma from Washington state where she was an original member of the Whidbey Island Rollergirls. She was surprised to find that there was not an existing league in town.
“Sometimes our identity becomes so wrapped up in being a mom, being a wife and staying at home. You kind of lose yourself. Roller derby, for me, has just really given me back my independent identity and it's something I can do that's just for me and I love that ... So when I came here I thought, ‘I have to get a group of girls together to do this' because I just know how great it was for me and I really wanted to pass it on.”
The current team in Yuma is made up of women of different ages and from different walks of life.
Although Wiesen originally became interested in roller derby because she was involved in speed skating competitions as a kid, she said that women 18 and older are welcome to come out and try it out even if they don't have any experience in the sport.
She recommended they come out and watch a practice first, put on a pair of roller skates and see if they like it and watch a video on YouTube to get a better idea about what a game consists of.
“It's a very skilled sport, it's got a lot of strategy, it's very athletic but it's really, honestly not all that dangerous,” she said with a laugh when asked about the hard hitting and punching that people often think of when they think of roller derby.
Women wear wrist guards, elbow and knee pads, as well as a helmet and a mouth guard to ensure that they are protected from any bodily harm.
“With the strategies we use now in roller derby, our main goal is not to hit someone and knock them down. I know a lot of girls think that and a lot of them still like to play like that but that isn't the case.”
Crane Middle School teacher Bibi Castro, who is also on the team, said that although they don't hit and punch each other like they used to in the '70s, they still end up falling down and getting cuts and bruises.
“We usually walk out of here with ‘war wounds.' It is important to come out with a good attitude and know how to take a hit — or be willing to learn how to.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.