The internet has allowed people to connect with others they wouldn't normally meet outside their comfort zone and that couldn't be more evident when it comes to the roots of the Green Country Roller Girls. "Actually none of us even knew each other when we started the league," said Nancy Humble, manager of the Green Country Roller Girls (GCRGs). "We all started chatting at the same time on an old MySpace page from some people that tried to start a co-ed team months earlier. We decided to meet and we talked to other people on the internet from other leagues about what they did and we just totally went for it!"
Six years have passed since that fateful day in March, and with 35 active skaters and two teams, the All Starz and the Thunder Dollz, the GCRGs are still going strong today.
To make room on their roster, the GCRGs broke their team up into two groups. "Skaters must first play on our Thunder Dollz team," Humble said. "While some of this team is made up of girls that have busy schedules, there are several other girls that use it as a stepping stone to get onto our All Starz team. The All Starz is made up of the best of the best skaters in our league and play around the central part of the US against other leagues from other cities like Dallas, Memphis, and Las Vegas. The Thunder Dollz mostly plays other teams in Oklahoma or teams from Arkansas, Kansas or Missouri."
Understanding What's Going Down
Roller derby is very simple to understand. It's a 5-on-5 game where skaters, dressed in tutus, fishnets or team uniforms, simulate bumper cars. The bouts consist of two 30-minute halves, with each shift (known as a jam) lasting up to two minutes. The girls skate counterclockwise around an oval track. The responsibility of each skater differs; one girl is jammer and the other four are blockers. Jammers, who are identified by a star on their helmets, are solely responsible for scoring points for their team. In order to score points, the jammer must lap opposing skaters. The more opposing skaters she laps, the more points she gathers for her team. An added perk: she can end the jam prematurely by tapping her hands to her hips. Her teammates, or blockers, make use of their hips and arms to clear a path for their jammer and stop the opposing jammer from getting through and lapping them.
For Humble, being a blocker is more her style, but she is also a team player. "I'm a blocker, but on occasion I'll be the jammer. It's not my favorite, but I'll do it if my team needs me," Humble said. Outside of being a jammer, she'll step up and take on other roles. "As a blocker, my responsibilities are stopping the opposing jammer and getting my jammer through the pack if she can't get through on her own," Humble said. "It's definitely easier said than done because you have to get all your blockers with you to stop their jammer, all the while you're trying to help your jammer make it through the pack."
A Matter of Style
While watching the bouts, you might be surprised by what the girls are wearing. Don't expect them to wear anything too insane. Some of the girls do wear crazy attire such as colorful socks or tights, but they know that if they want to be taken seriously as a skater they need to leave the lingerie at home.
"The league gets together and decides if they will have a theme and they vote on colors," Humble said. "Depending on the teams and if they are serious about playing the sport of roller derby or just play for fun, you may see crazy stuff added to the typical jerseys each team wears."
The serious skaters, though, are all about playing the sport. "Most teams that play at the national and international level of roller derby and that consider it a sport don't really do that kind of thing very much anymore," Humble said. "Teams that play more recreationally will play more into this."
Since the GCRGs are split into two teams, they both have a different style and attitude. "Our All Starz team is required to wear their jerseys and all black on bottom. We play around the U.S. and feel it sends more of a message that we are a team," Humble said. "The Thunder Dollz is more of a recreational team, so we allow them to wear crazy tights. All we ask is that they just have to wear their jerseys with numbers on the back."
While uniforms can show the personality of a team, nicknames are a way for the skaters to show off their own personality. For instance, Humble came up with the nickname, Elektra Violette. While the spelling may look different, there is a reason behind that. "Violette is said the same as violet, but the extra 't' gives it some flair. We call them skate names. Everyone picks their own name," Humble said. While some of the girls do need help coming up with clever nicknames, most of the girls know what they want to be called.
"These names become your alter ego," Humble said. The names are a way the roller girls can pay homage to the original roller derby trailblazers. "When roller derby was revived in 1999, Leagues all over the United States wanted to honor the original roller derby skaters and now it's a tradition and rite of passage in many ways," Humble said. "Most leagues make their Fresh Meat skaters wait to pick their names until they make the team." If you aren't up to creating a nickname for yourself, that is quite alright. Real names are allowed to be used.
While roller derby is about having fun, there is a serious side to the GCRGs. "We also play so that we can give back to our community," Humble said. "Last year, GCRG donated $7,300 to charity. So far this year we have donated $2700 and are hoping to be able to top $10,000. We feel fortunate to be able to do what we are doing and want to give back to the community that has supported us over the last six years. We hope to be able to continue to skate in Tulsa, grow our league and be able to give even more back to those less fortunate."
The GCRGs consider themselves a family, but not just a family in Tulsa. "We're a family, a dysfunctional one at times, but it's a family none the less," Humble said. "But we're not just a family in Tulsa. We have family all around the World. If there is a roller derby team in their country, they will invite us in. It's so amazing!"
To accommodate a growing fan base, the GCRGs bouts are currently taking place in The Pavilion at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. The GCRGs next bout is Saturday, May 12, when the All Starz will face the Dallas Derby Devils and the Thunder Dollz will face the Mississippi Roller Girls. Doors open at 6pm and the bouts begin at 7pm.
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