Calgary roller derby empowering women

Derby1It includes speed, body checks, jams, blocks and fun nicknames; what's not to love?

Roller derby is an alternative to yoga or the treadmill for women as a way to relieve stress and get exercise.

"I love it because I want to smash and I want to get smashed," said Jessie Wilson, who competes as Suzi Smokeshow in the roller derby world.

Wilson previously battled a life of drug addiction and said that roller derby was a great distraction and support system for her road to being drug-free.

"Derby has a great subculture. When I started I didn't account for the friends and relationships I formed. If it weren't for these friends, I wouldn't have made it through many tough times in my life."

Rosie Moyer, also known as Mamma Ro, has been playing roller derby for the past seven years. She says she isn't looking back anytime soon.

"My friend from Vancouver who played told me about it and said you got to skate around and hit people. And I thought, that sounds like awesome fun," said Moyer.

The three main teams in the Calgary Roller Derby Association are the B52 Bellas, Cut Throat Car Hops and the Thrashin' Lassies.

Each team has their own persona, along with custom nicknames and outfits. As the roller derby community expands, Calgary teams travel around Southern Alberta and beyond in order to face new competition.

Time commitment

During the season, Moyer says there is a fair amount of time required to thrive in the sport.

The regular derby season starts in late April and runs until August. However, the work doesn't stop there.

Moyer said there is practice about four to five hours per week. For the last seven years she was on the All Stars team, which was an additional two hours a week.Derby2The Calgary All Star roller derby team celebrates a hard-earned win. Roller derby has become an empowering and supportive community for many Calgary women.

Photo courtesy of Mike Trottier

"You have to have a love of the sport, because the commitment is intense," she said.

In order to play the game you have to attend 75 per cent of team practices and at least 50 per cent of league practices.

Because of the extra time commitment, Moyer recently left the All Stars team in order to keep up with her busy schedule.

Wilson is currently on the All Star team, which requires plenty of off-season training.

"I'll train about three to four times a week for the All Star practices and I help train the new girls," said Wilson.

Moyer says that it's a real balancing act to find time for her beloved sport.

"I have two kids: my seven-year-old son who is in hockey and I've got my nine-year-old daughter who is in art classes. I own a photography business, so I'm shooting over sixty clients in September alone."

Moyer and her husband also started a furnace company last September, which she is busy managing.

"Everyone helps each other out. I book nights off for roller derby and my husband will watch the kids and sometimes watch the kids of any single moms on the team," she said.

"The husbands are called 'derby widows' because they lose their wives to the time commitment," Moyer added with a chuckle.

A sport for everyone

Moyer says that roller derby is much more than just a sport to these women.

"There's such a camaraderie. It's like a sisterhood really."

Moyer encourages women to not be scared and to just give roller derby a try.

"Go out and buy yourself some gear and start out by roller skating at your local roller rink to get your basic skills," said Moyer.

"I've seen girls who had never been on skates before and are now playing at a national level. There's lots of training involved and you do have to be committed to the time in order to develop."

Wilson reiterates that roller derby is a great community for all women to take part and thrive in.

"This sport is such a great way to unify all walks of life, and that's why I love it," said Wilson. "You don't have to be rich or thin-just show up and try your hardest."

In total, gear costs about $200 to $300, which includes skates, helmet, pads and mouth guard along with a $50 per month fee to play in the league.

You can watch roller derby games usually at the Triwood Community Arena, Brentwood Community Arena or at the West Hillhurst Community Centre in Kensington.

Visit calgaryrollerderby.com for more information.

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