2017-06-11 / Insight

Bonding via bashing:

Lapeer’s roller derby league
BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 •adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Vets of the Demolitia Derby Queens practice strategy during a short match up (aka “jam”) on Thursday. Above, Judge Booty prepares for practice Thursday. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Vets of the Demolitia Derby Queens practice strategy during a short match up (aka “jam”) on Thursday. Above, Judge Booty prepares for practice Thursday. Photos by Andrew Dietderich MAYFIELD TWP. — By day, they’re nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms, autoworkers, paralegals, surgical assistants, custodians, and more.

Once or twice a week, however, they switch over to identities like Joy Stixxx, Bobby Pinz, AfterParty, Cash Cow, Tabbycatt, BamBam, Smash, JuJu, and, yes, there’s even a Judge Booty.

They’re Lapeer’s own Demolitia Derby Queens and for two hours every Thursday, plus bout (do NOT call it “game”) days, they’re part of a league that gets together at Lapeer Skating Center and sweats it out in the name of roller derby.

And “it” can mean everything from a stressful day at work where they feel like they always have to be “on,” to a stressful day at home where they always have to be “on”, to just about any other place where they feel like they always have to be “on.”

Sure, there are plenty of other options — yoga, the gym, bowling, softball, a peaceful stroll along the Polly Ann Trail — but that’s not how these women roll, or get laid out flat on their backs as the case may be.

“It lets out aggression,” says JuJu. She’s a paralegal and says she often finds herself frustrated by the daily grind. “It give you a healthy outlet.”

First, if you’re curious about the names, it’s simple: roller derby is its own world. You walk through the doors of Lapeer Skating Center as part of the Demolitia Derby Queens, and you check your name at the door, along with everything that goes along with it.


Before practice begins, the Demolitia Derby Queens huddle in the center of the rink to pump each other up by yelling, among other things, “Queens Rule!” 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Before practice begins, the Demolitia Derby Queens huddle in the center of the rink to pump each other up by yelling, among other things, “Queens Rule!” Photo by Andrew Dietderich The separation between “normal” life and derby life begins with the name change — and during derby time they call each other by their derby monikers.

“There are some people that don’t want their derby life to cross over into their professional life or their personal life,” Stixxx says, though she points out that as the sport continues to grow and more people find out about it, “they are allowing that line to cross.”

“I’m a nurse, and for the most part, I keep derby out of my business,” she says, adding that she will talk about it with coworkers if they ask, and occasionally will have a patient she knows through derby.

Sometimes, roller derby participants sacrifice more than their names.

“My very first game I had to get taken out by an ambulance,” says Legend, 46, of Dryden, with a slight smile. “It was a concussion.”

Legend (who said her real name is Becky) works two jobs, one for an automaker and another as a custodian, and has been participating in roller derby in Lapeer from the beginning. Legend says she loves being part of the Demolitia Derby Queens because it’s the one time of the week that is 100 percent her time to do her thing. She also likes the other participants.

“We really are like a family,” she says.

In case you’re wondering how it’s played — and why concussions and other ailments are involved — here’s a brief rundown courtesy of Wikipedia:

“Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating in the same direction (counter-clockwise) around a track. Game play consists of a series of short match ups (jams) in which both teams designate a jammer who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to hinder the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer — in effect, playing both offense and defense simultaneously.”

To the casual observer, bouts look very similar to rugby on roller skates.

Those who decide to sign the waiver form and join the Demolitia Derby Queens fall under the category of “fresh meat”, aka “freshies.”

They go through 12 weeks of basic endurance and skills training before they can be considered to roll with vets in bouts. This past Thursday, for example, the new batch of “freshies” didn’t even put skates on and instead had to do basic stretching and calisthenics, while the vets were practicing bout maneuvers.

Joy Stixxx and her husband, who is a coach and goes by Biggie Stixxx, started the Lapeer league in 2013.

According to its website, “The Demolitia Derby Queens strive to empower women by promoting athleticism, teamwork, respect, community service and unity — on and off the track.” The organization is a nonprofit and annually provides support to two charities. This year the charities are Habitat for Humanity and Child Advocacy Center.

Joy Stixxx says she was a speed skater growing up, then made the transition into roller derby, playing for a time with the Detroit Derby Girls.

One reason she started the Lapeer was that she was sick of driving so far to play in other leagues.

“Looking at the map of Michigan, there was just this huge gap between Port Huron and Flint, and north of Detroit,” she said. “Anywhere I would’ve skated, I would have had to travel at least an hour. There was a need in Lapeer.”

Others say they agree.

“For us older women, it’s hard to find a really good competitive sport,” JuJu says. “There’s no sports except for softball and bowling…this is way more intense.”

Those who have to take time off oftentimes come back.

AfterParty (Melissa) drives to Lapeer from Grand Blanc to participate. AfterParty, who works as a surgical assistant, says she took a couple of years off from derby and recently returned.

“After stopping skating, you realize how much you miss it,” she says. “You miss the sisterhood and you miss the actual sport itself. Derby is something you kind of become obsessed with.”

The Demolitia Derby Queens’ season runs from April through October.

They play other teams from across the state once a month during the season, and practice all year round.

The league’s home bouts are held at the Lapeer Skating Center, and they stress that the events are family friendly.

The next home bout is set for Saturday, June 17 (doors at 7 p.m.). Bouts also are scheduled for July 15 and Aug. 12, both to be held at the Lapeer Skating Center.

Tickets are $10 in advance (available through team members), and $12 at the door.

More information about the Demolitia Derby Queens can be found at www.demoderbyqueens.com.

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