Denton roller derby league brings graceful chaos to skating rink
Austin Jackson | Staff Writer
The adrenaline junkies of the North Texas Roller Derby aren’t afraid of a little grunt and glide.
Last Saturday at the Mountasia Family Fun Center in North Richland Hills, the Main Street Mafia and Hickory Street Hooligans met at a rink tucked behind a miniature golf course, through arcade doors framed by “Dance Dance Revolution” and “House of Dead 2.” But Hickory Street Hooligan Kasey Isik, also known as “MILFunction,” said the roller derby is much more than just a game.
“It’s not fishnets and cigarettes anymore,” Isik said. “We’re athletes, and it’s a sport. It’s a legitimate sport.”
The North Texas Roller Derby is a Denton-based league with three teams: the Hooligans, the Mafia and the Muertas Locas. The cream of the crop is selected to play for the league’s travel team: the Fighting Unicorns.
When skaters join the league, they are placed into the “Crash Test Hunnies” training program, which places skaters into groups that teach different skill sets. Once a skater has passed through each of the groups, they are placed in the draft and then on a team, according to North Texas Roller Derby representative Lauren Williamson.
Isik, who changed her skater name from “Ruby Soho” to “MILFunction” on Saturday, said she got into the sport after taking her daughter to the roller rink and joining the league as a fun mother-daughter activity. More than four years later, she is still competing.
“It’s fun to feel your body be powerful,” she said. “It’s fun as hell.”
The sport itself is simple. Five skaters play on each side, with one jammer, one pivot and three blockers. The jammer races around the track and attempts to slither through the opposing team’s blockers. The pivot serves as a coach on the track, coordinating the blockers to skate as one and put the jammer down.
Ashley Ayer, a.k.a. “The Blocking Dead,” is a Jill-of-all-trades, excelling as both a pivot and a blocker. She said the Hooligans practice three to four times per week and even watch game films on YouTube to prepare for matches.
“It can be violent, but it’s very strategic and very graceful,” she said.
Before the Mafia and Hooligans faced off, the Tulsa Derby Brats and North Texas Fallout kicked off the junior league season. The Brats and Fallout, filled with players aged 11 to 17, are a testament to how the game is growing.
Brianna Jones, a.k.a. “Trouble Clef,” is the star player for the North Texas fallout. She led the Fallout to a 223-109 victory over the Brats in the 2016 season opener.
Jones turned 18 recently and said she will be moving up to the adult league as well as the travel team in the upcoming season. Jones learned the game from her mom, who still plays on multiple teams, and has been competing in league matches since she was 14 years old. She’s even been skating on “quads,” which are skates with four wheels divided into two rows of two, since she was 2-years-old.
Jones looks forward to moving up because she can finally play the game without holding back. As one of the strongest players in the league, she said she has to be cautious to avoid seriously injuring her competitors.
“When I play with the adults, I can go full force,” Jones said. “There’s been times I’ve hit a junior hard and it’s made me burst out into tears because I feel so bad.”
But underneath the competition and bone-rattling hits of roller derby, there is a community of friends and family.
Over 100 fans showed up to the bout, which was B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Chair), and the crowd sat lined around a metal fence gilded with Styrofoam pool noodles. Much of the crowd donned Hickory Street Green and Main Street Mafia Black to show their support.
However, one fan, North Texas graduate student Julia Stamman, was attempting to remain neutral in maroon. Stamman said she was waiting to be drafted into the league on Wednesday, Feb. 17 and was excited to play at a higher level.
“There’s a community for sure,” Stamman said. “Everybody is super friendly and super inviting.”
For Wayne Zeboski and his wife, their first experience of live derby action was the main event of their Valentine’s eve date. He said he used to follow the sport on television in the ‘70s but was confused as to why the rink was flat and how the game had changed.
Much to Zeboski’s surprise, hugs and smiles spread throughout the crowd. After the match, the Mafia arose victorious, beating the Hooligans 270-81, but the night was not over after the final whistle. Supporters and skaters from each side celebrated the competition over a post game meal at Flips Patio Grill. Everyone was invited, including the Zeboskis.
“I was expecting guerilla warfare,” Zeboski said. “This is different.”
Featured Image: Main Street Mafia Captain Stacy Bzdok, aka John Wayne Stacy takes a warm up lap before her bout against the Hickory Street Hooligans. Austin Jackson | Staff Writer
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