New Roller Derby league is jammin

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 Messenger photos by Dianne Garrett

Ohio Roller Girls team, Band of Brawlers just before taking the track against the Sprockettes on April 6.  Mandy "Drrty Girl" Knight is the fifth from the left kneeling.   All bouts in Columbus are at the Lausche Building at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

A former Whitehall veterinary assistant has gone from caring for pets to dogging the tracks of her opponents as part of the Brawlers roller derby team.

Whitehall residents who take their pets to Whitehall Animal Hospital wil remember former employee Mandy Knight, who has been a roller girl since the Ohio Roller Girls league’s inception.  

She is known as "Drrty Girl" on the track, and a force to be reckoned with.  

The westside resident is a jammer with the Brawlers, and a former teammate with the Sprockettes.  She switched teams this year because she had the opportunity to skate both as a jammer and a blocker.  

She said that by doing both, it sharpens her skills to make her more effective at the sport.

Ohio Roller Girls is in its third season in Columbus, and drawing large numbers in the fan department.  

The league consists of four teams:  Band of Brawlers, Blackeye Bullies, Sprockettes and The Take-outs.  Each team has about 15 members with creative, and a bit bizarre stage names like Girlzilla, Crash Test Bunny, Bashkin Robbins and Martha StewHurt.

According to Anthony Dill (aka Jonny Noxious), media relations coordinator, there are five other leagues in Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland, Akron/Canton and Toledo, with about 200 leagues nationwide.  Fifty-three leagues are affiliated with Flat Track Derby Association, including Ohio Roller Girls.  

 

 
Brawlers’ jammer, Mandy "Drrty Girl" Knight prepares to take off to make her way through the pack to rack up points to score.

The making of a jammer

Knight was not particularly athletic as a kid growing up in Kansas. She played some recreational softball and baseball, but only one year of softball in high school.  

In 2006 she worked in the food court at the Columbus Convention Center when the Extreme Sports Expo was in town.  She had seen a car in her neighborhood with an Ohio Roller Girls bumper sticker, and didn’t know what it meant.  

At the expo she noticed a booth for the organization, and decided to check it out.  She was given a packet of information, and asked if she would be interested in skating.  The person she spoke with invited her to a practice.  She went to one practice and was hooked.  Knight is now one of the top two jammers in the league.

By day she attends Columbus State Community College, where she is taking classes until she can get into the veterinarian technician program.  She loves animals, and wants to make caring for them her career.   

The 31-year-old lived in New Orleans for a while, where she had a pet-sitting business, and has been in Columbus for four years.

Dill offered that the minimum age to skate is 21, but there is a team member who is in her late 40s.  These women take on a tough girl persona, but in their every day lives, like Knight’s, they have regular jobs.  They are librarians, accountants, graphic designers, nurses, personal trainers and teachers, to name a few.  

Dill is an employee of the state in the office of Ohio Consumer’s Counsel.  He is also a referee for the league.

Back in the 1960s roller derby was practically a free-for-all.  Today, there are more rules, and even though it is an aggressive game with hard hits and speed, players have to be in enough control to keep the game clean.

The track is made of a hard plastic that snaps together.  Before they obtained the track, the women skated on concrete, which changed with the weather.  If it was cold in the building, the concrete would accumulate condensation making it more like an ice rink.  The plastic floor is much safer.

 

How the game is played

 A bout consists of two periods of 30 minutes each.  Each period is divided into segments called "jams."  A jam can go a maximum of two minutes, unless the lead jammer calls it off before that.

 

Each team sends five players to the track at the beginning of the jam.  The four lined up in front are the pack, and the one in the back is the jammer.  The pack is made up of three blockers and a pivot, who is in the front with the striped helmet cover.  

The blockers and pivot play both offense and defense through a jam, trying to help their jammer through, and prevent the opposing jammer from passing.  The jammer, lined up in the back is the point scorer for her team.  She has a star on her helmet cover.

After the first whistle by a referee, the pack takes off, and starts jockeying for position.

The refs then blow two short whistles for the jammers to start.  Each jammer tries to pass all the opposing players legally.  The first to do so will be declared "lead jammer" by a short whistle blast from her ref.  

The ref will also continue to point one finger in the air, also known as the "finger of power."

 

Once out of the pack, the jammers must race around and try to lap it again.  At this point, a jammer earns her team one point for each opposing pack player she passes legally.  Refs count the points as the jammer’s hips pass the other player, and award them when she clears the pack, or at the end of the jam.

 

If the jammer is the lead jammer, she has a strategic advantage of being able to choose whether to call of the jam, or continue to try to rack up points.  She can do this by repeatedly putting her hands on her hips.  

 

Penalties

 

Both minor and major penalties can be called, depending on the severity of the action.  Four minors or one major will send a player to the penalty box for a minute.  Penalties can be called for elbows, forearms and hands.  Legal hits are between the shoulders and hips.  Players can also be called for hitting without a skate on the floor, hitting or assisting more than 20 feet outside the pack, or hitting out of bounds of the track.  

 

Cutting the track is also a penalty, and can be a major for a jammer trying to clear the pack.

 

The next bout will be May 11, and mothers will be treated special for Mother’s Day, with  raffles, coupons and a free movie pass to Studio 35.  

Bouts are held at the Lausche Building at the Ohio Expo Center, 717 E 17th Street.  Doors open at 4 p.m., and the first whistle blows at 5 p.m.  

Tickets are $15 at the door, or $10 in advance.  For information, log onto to www.ohiorollergirls.com.   

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