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By Nathan Harper
Who’s got your back – your best friend? Your family? 50 badass derby gals on skates? For the women of FoCo Girls Gone Derby the answer is yes to all three.
At a recent bout at the Qdoba Event Center in south Ft. Collins, FoCoGirls Gone Derby’s (FCGGD) two home teams – the CinderHellas and the Psycho Sirens – each sent five women in pads, helmets and glitter to the starting line. The action began immediately with the sound of the opening whistle. Shoulders were thrown and dodged and strategies tested as the jammers – the one woman on each team whose goal is to pass the other skaters in the pack in order to score points – attempted to get through hell on wheels.
The sport is high scoring, fast and physical, and occasionally sends women flying into the first of row of fans, dazed and out of breath. A little risky, yes, but, according the women who play it, also a lot of fun. The reason that these women are willing to take these risks is because as members of the FCGGD league, they feel that they’re part of not just a team, but a roller derby family, and that their family is there for them.
One of the women trying to keep the jammer from getting through the pack is Suga Smaxxx, aka Jessica Candea, a blocker for the Psycho Sirens. “I like being a blocker because when you make a really good hit you get the ‘Ooohs!’ from the crowd,” she said.
Suga stands 5’11” and earned the nickname The Tank while playing soccer in high school because, as she says, “I was a revenge hitter in a sport that didn’t allow contact.”
Suga Smaxxx had some athletic experience before joining the league, but says that other sports didn’t compare to what she’s experienced in roller derby.
“In volleyball there’s ‘Mine. Yours.’ In soccer it’s a lot of eye contact. In derby you’re talking to each other, there are hand signals, we touch each other,” she said. “Things get chaotic and you can feel like you’re on your own out there, but then a teammate will come up and put her hand on your hip, and a hand on the hip can mean ‘I’m here with you’, and things are immediately better.”
Another blocker in the pack is Mollitov Maguire, aka Lory Hamill, who began skating with FCGGD in 2011. When skating, Molli, as she’s known to her fellow CinderHellas, pairs up with a teammate so they can make what’s called “the wall.”
“I’m looking over her shoulder, watching her back, and she’s watching mine,” she said. In the wall her job is to keep the opposing jammer from getting through, and her favorite way to do that is with a good booty block, which is exactly what it sounds like. For Molli, the physicality of derby was part of its appeal.
“Derby is the hardest thing I’ve ever done – harder than work, harder than school,” she said. But despite the sore arms and bruised legs, she’s stuck with it because her best friends are there.
“Closeness and friendship starts on the track. You begin with basic drills where you get so close to another person that there’s no daylight getting through,” she said. “We’ve shared sweat for hours and hours. It’s a physical closeness that lends itself well to a relationship, a true bond, a sisterhood.”
One of the women attempting to get through the pack’s gauntlet of torso and hip-checks is CinderHellas’ jammer Shirley Temper Tantrum, aka Chloe Muir. Even on skates Shirley isn’t very tall, but she says that her smaller size helps her to sneak through the pack. When she does need to lay a shoulder into an opposing skater, it’s tough because sometimes they don’t move. “But” she says, “you can’t let that stop you.”
Her resilient attitude comes from the encouragement she gets from her fellow Girls Gone Derby.
“We push each other – hold each other accountable to their limits and encourage them,” she said.
Along with their derby family, and the opportunity to keep active and take out some aggression, all of the skaters said that they love the sport because it’s made them more confident.
“Derby gives you a sense of satisfaction – you finish and you think ‘I did that!’” Shirley said.
Mollitov Maguire agrees: “It’s allowed me to be more me – brought out the form I was always meant to be.”
You can check out the FCGGD at focogirlsgonederby.com and by attending their upcoming bout August 24 at the Qdoba Events Center.