by Cesca Janece Waterfield
“When the whistle blows, half of the people are trying to help them, and half are trying to kill them, basically. It’s the only sport where you are simultaneously playing offense and defense at the same time”
Busting stereotypes and drawing crowds with no-holds-barred competition as well as fun, the River City Rollergirls are Richmond’s first all women’s flat track roller derby association. In their fifth season, they travel the eastern seaboard in addition to playing six home games each year. At a bout last month, they packed an 800 seat venue. And for the next couple of weeks, the Rollergirls are looking for “Fresh Meat,” their straightforward description of new members. They open to new members four times a year.
“You don’t even have to know how to skate,” Amanda “Lenore Quicksilver” Allgood says. “You just have to be a quick learner if you can’t skate. After three months, you take a skills assessment and then you’re in.”
Do they have fans? Is the River City hot in June? “Usually the jammers have the most fans,” Amanda says. “The jammers are the point scorers and they usually have the biggest fan following.”
“The jammer’s job is to skate through the pack,” says Amanda. “What you need to be a jammer is speed and agility.”
By day, Baker “Shake “n” Baker” Johnston is a nanny. But on the track, she draws on skills developed as a skate boarder to be one fierce jammer. “It’s fun but you need a lot of help from your team to get you through,” she says.
Amanda is a librarian. But on skates, make no mistake: “It’s real, and we’re serious athletes. Our number one priority is competing. We’re here to win. We have fun with what we do, but it’s a serious sport.”
“There’s a lot of bruising and fracturing,” says Kathryn “Murphy” Hawkins.
So why do they do it?
“It’s a ton of fun,” answers Amanda. Kathryn echoes, “It’s our life, really.”
There are two teams in the league: “Poe’s Punishers,” the all stars, and “the Uncivil Warriors.” The Rollergirls will do appearances in exchange for sponsorship or to support charity.
For some, the derby dream began years ago. Kristen “Raven Darkhold” Porter first saw derby on television as a child. “It used to come on at midnight,” she remembers. “I told myself if it ever came around when I was an adult, I would do it.”
Kristen’s been a Rollergirl since the league’s inception and is Interleague Coordinator. While the women consider the league a sisterhood, 29 year old Kristen is enthusiastic about its growing racial diversity and mentions teammates including Captain of the All Star section, “Paris Kills,” as well as “Lucifer Ball,” “Forty Ounce Bounce” and “Rude A** Huxtabrawl.”
Comprised of a variety of professionals from lawyers, teachers, mothers and more, the Rollergirls are athletes and organizers, selling their own merchandise at bouts and from their website. “We do a lot of volunteer stuff,” Baker says. “We like to get out there.” Some goals include buying their own practice space and beginning a youth league. They’re sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) who endorses about 80 leagues out of 400 nationwide.
“It’s good exercise and a great way to meet other people,” Baker says.
They’re always open to businesses and individuals who want to sponsor them. Right now, in addition to “Fresh Meat,” they need volunteers including referees, announcers and DJs who are ready to have fun.
But first and foremost the Rollergirls are serious.
“I always thought back in the day, roller derby was choreographed and it wasn’t really real,” admits Thomas Roberts, who photographed this feature. “But they were serious. I was really shocked at the crowd they got, and it wasn’t just one type of crowd. It was diverse.”
How roller derby works:
The River City Rollergirls skate on a flat track. “There are five people from each team on the track at once,” explains Amanda. “Four people from each team skate in a pack on what’s called a pivot line. The jammer lines up about 20 feet back from the pack. When the whistle blows, half of the people are trying to help them, and half are trying to kill them, basically. It’s the only sport where you are simultaneously playing offense and defense at the same time.”
Want to be a Rollergirl?
You must be 18 years of age.
If you haven’t skated before, the Rollergirls will teach you. Skates can be rented at the practice site, Skateland on Hull St.
Contact RCR Secretary,
Amanda Allgood at