If you are sitting in a suicide seat with a jammer in your lap on Saturday night, then life is good.
As a matter-of-fact if any number of the jammers, blockers or pivots from the Juneau Roller Girls’ bout between the KilKats and Raven Lunatics are near your seating that is good. That means you were able to get into the sold out Centennial Hall tomorrow night (50 tickets will be sold at the door) for some high octane, composite wheel, circular roller derby action by some of Juneau’s most athletic and competitive women.
“There is nothing like being able to fly on skates and land a hit really good,” said Aimy Villanueva, aka Pint Size Villain. “It’s the best. We are more than just fishnets, short skirts and crazy porn star names. This is a sport of agility and endurance.”
Villanueva, 22, is a KilKats jammer and is barely 5-foot and a breath of fresh air tall. Born and raised in Juneau with four older brothers, she became an avid skate and snowboarder, and her nickname fits.
“I needed to find something that was just girls and a team building kind of thing,” Villanueva said. “But there is nothing like being able to take someone down who is 5-foot-9 and almost 200-pounds it makes me feel really good. First and foremost though is we want people watching to have fun while we are ripping each others’ heads off.”
Raven Lunatics captain Julie Sanbei, aka Just Julie, also hopes that the fans watching have a good time.
“I am a group hug cup-cakey kind of person,” Sanbei said. “But I don’t skate like that. I consider myself a strong blocker. I like to give and receive the big hits, but you have to remember it is a team sport. You can’t do it yourself.”
Sanbei, 30, has made every practice except the one when she was attending a professional roller derby boot camp in Anchorage. As a blocker she neutralizes the opponents offensive threats with positional skating, and a bit of pushing.
“In general I just hope people appreciate the time we put in,” Sanbei said. “I give 100 percent and that’s what I ask of all my girls. We are not just out there wearing fishnet stockings.”
There are always two teams on the track at once.
During play, each team provides no more than five skaters on the track at one time. Four people are in a pack, three blockers and the pivot. The jammer trails the pack. The object of the jammer is to get past as many of the opposing team’s skaters as possible, aided by the blockers, all guided by the pivot in front.
The pivot is designated by a striped helmet cover, the jammer has a large star helmet cover (called the star panty), and blockers have plain helmets.
The pivot helps determine how fast or slow the pack will go and communicates how the field is shaping up. The pivot is also the last line of defense.
Opposing teams are trying to do the same thing at the same time. Just as one team’s blockers are trying to slow down the opposing squad’s jammer, opposing blockers are doing the same.
“There is way too much to say about why I love being a jammer,” Villanueva said. “There are so many personalities on the floor and you find the skill you are good at. There are no ‘cliques’ in roller derby.”
Inside two 30-minute halves, a jammer will try to score as many points as possible in a two-minute “jam.”
The jammer starts 20 feet behind the rear of the pack at a dead start and has to skate through the entire pack one time and lap the pack before she can begin to score points.
Scoring is based on how many opponents are passed, even if they are in the penalty box, and additional points are awarded if the opposing jammer is passed.
Teams then substitute during a 30-second break, and begin again in repetitions until the half ends.
A jammer can also “pass the star” to the pivot during period play without stopping action.
The lead jammer, if seeing she has an advantage in points, can also put her hands on her hips to signal the referee she is stopping the jam, thus keeping her opponents from getting points.
The lead jammer is the first jammer to get through the pack without passing any opposing blocker out of bounds or committing a penalty while passing. Referees signify lead jammer status with one short whistle blast and by pointing to the jammer.
The action is non-stop and can result in over 20 Jams per half.
“The more I play the pivot the more I see how we can exchange with the jammer if they are not being successful,” said Kilkats’ Kim Champney, aka Kimbustible. “Everybody can help the jammer through or try to keep the other team’s jammer from going through.”
In professional, high-level roller derby, a team may even skate backwards to slow the pace to a crawl or sprint all out to race ahead.
During the 30-second break the new jammer must hurry to the jam line and her four teammates to the pivot line before the action begins again. Bench coaches are responsible for organizing the teams, keeping track of penalties and general “mother hen” activities. Teams will decide who is focusing on defending the other jammer and who is being an offensive blocker just before a jam begins.
If a skater is not on the track when the whistle blows then her team must skate short.
One long whistle blast signals the beginning of a jam and for the pack to start skating. Two short whistle blasts are blown to signal the jammer start. Four whistle blasts signal the end of the jam.
“There is a lot of strategy to it that we are still learning in Juneau,” Champney said. “There is fast decision making going on at all times and a lot of grabbing and pushing. We are all hoping for a close bout. It reminds me of why I loved being involved in team sports. There is real team camaraderie. We are hoping it is a really close bout. We want it to be a good show for the audience.”
Champney was a former soccer player until knee injuries limited her action.
With roller derby she still gets an intense workout but the physical pounding is more upper body, the lower body carries the load with smooth flowing motions.
As in any extreme sport an “athletic stance” or “derby stance” in this instance, is used. Skaters are always in a crouching position and quads and hamstrings and core strength are vital.
Illegal activity to watch for includes: grabbing or use of hands, blocking with forearms, tripping, kicking, or blocking with feet or legs, pushing, shoving, punching or holding, swinging or jabbing elbows, blocking with the head, blocking a jammer while 20 feet ahead or behind the pack, and hitting from behind.
Teams can grab, pull, and push their own members into position but not opponents. A legal hit or “booty block” has to be done by body positioning with elbows tucked to the sides.
Fans watching should note that the difference between a major and minor penalty is that the referee’s whistle is blown for a major but not a minor. If a skater picks up their fourth minor it amounts to a major and they must retire to the penalty box for a minute. A skater can be kicked out after seven majors. An expulsion is described by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association as a gregarious act, such as a skater intentionally going after an opponent.
At least seven referees are needed for the bout.
“Outside ref is the hardest,” referee Jeff Polizzotto, aka Dirty Jeff, said. “You have to skate the farthest, plus all the action flows to the top so you have to be mindful of being hit by the women. It is safer on the inside.”
Skating refs wear traditional white and black stripes. One ref is needed for each jammer, as head ref in the middle, and as refs for the inside and outside of the track. Non-skating refs are needed for timing, scoring and penalty observance. They are usually wearing goofy pink shirts.
The lead ref is in charge of backing up the skating officials, mitigating any issues and overriding bad calls.
The inside ref makes sure there is a pack intact, which is required for legal scoring. The inside jammer ref watches only the jammer and counts points. The outside refs watch the pack from the perimeter.
“I think overall, for Juneau and for roller derby, our mission is the empowerment of women,” said Deb Fischman, aka Nuclear Fischman, the JRG president. Fischman organized the bout with the help of Shonda Belknap, aka Money Honey, and Lauren Brooks, aka Conquistawhore. “In attending the event we hope people have fun and appreciate the sportsmanship and the hard work. Not just the show but also the athletic side.”
The JRG’s will donate a $500 check to the AWARE shelter. A halftime Halloween costume contest will be judged so fans are encouraged to come as their favorite roller girl or other costumed creation.
Centennial Hall announcers are Pat Minick, aka Voice of Treason, and Ben Lyman, aka Nipply Longstocking. Andy Kline will announce for a live broadcast on KXLL.org. The bout can also be heard live on 100.7 FM and watched in replay Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. on 360 North.
The Juneau Roller Girls have blue/silver league uniforms they will wear against team Anchorage Jan. 14 (away), team Fairbanks May 19 (away) and when they host the Yukon in Juneau Feb 18. That JRG team will be a mix of the Kilkats and Raven Lunatics.
Complete rules and information on roller derby can be found on the WFTDA website.
Tomorrow night the Raven Lunatics hope to avenge their 129-109 July loss to the KilKats, the KilKats look to repeat, and a lucky fan may wind up with a jammer across their lap in the suicide (front row) seats.
“Flying across the rink and landing a hit real good hit is a great workout,” Villanueva said. “When “fresh meat” (first time tryouts) turnout we encourage them to skate until they throw up. We push our bodies to the limit. We wear bruises for Band-Aids. If fans see something in us they like, than keep cheering that skater on. That is what keeps us going, the fans.”
The Juneau Roller Girls rosters are as follows, KilKats (team colors pink and black): Kim Glasow, aka Catapult Kim (No. 3), Captain; April Rebert, aka April Mayhem, (420) co-captain; Heather Bayless, aka Edith Bumpher (333); Carol Mahara, Feral Carol (30); Kim Champney, aka Kimbustible, (b4u); Aimy Villanueva, aka Pint Size Villain (13); Sarah Sjostedt, aka Showstoppa (32); Katie White, aka Skatie Brite (22); Tanya Cavanaugh, aka Tanyo Hyde (15);
Sabrina Bracher, aka VertaBracher (666); Aimon Rachael, aka Thunder Thai (17), bench coach; Kelly Moore, aka Midgimoto, (42), bench coach.
Raven Lunatics (team colors maroon and lime green): Julie Sanbei, aka Just Julie (11), captain; Jeanne Crochet, aka Jean Claude Hot Damn (10mg), co-captain; Kim Hort, aka CarHeartless (40); Alicia Gillis, aka Fatty Dook (2); Erin Hanson, aka Hellion Hanson (574); Sarah Arntson, aka Juneau UWantSome (907); Olivia Barrow, aka Peach Clobber (OB1); Britten Burkhouse, aka Maiden Alaska (49th); Amanda Triplett. Ala Titty Tripper (99); Sue Watt, aka Tufy Bragoon (cat5); Sherri McDonald, aka Wild Bird (21); Lauren Brooks, aka Conquistawhore (151), bench coach; Stephanie Dunham, aka Goldigger (212), bench coach.
Referees: Matt Glasow (Ur Honor Giner), Joleen Langel (Miso Nasty), James Langel (Major P. Rick), Jeff Pollizotto (Dirty Jeff), Lizzy Solger (Sol Grr), Don Gillie (Alaska Skate Trooper), Matt West (Rolling Apocolypse).
Non skating officials: Melinda Cambell (Boxxie Lady), Torrey Jacobsen, Liki Darrah, Rachelle, Alex Kenon (Little Ball of Fury), Nicky Love (Love Machine), Kevin Omher (Funk Master K), Casey Langel (Juice Box), Pat (Pattiekakaes), Faye Ewing (Atilla the Hottie), Jasmine Darrah (Phoenix), Dwain, Stephanie Whitely (Bruise Blue), Kathy Peterson (Wrath of Kath), Izzy Rowand (Huricane Izzy)