As a skater and member of the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, I field a lot of queries. Some of the most common questions are:
Is roller derby fake?
How is roller derby played/scored?
Aren't you too small to play roller derby?
Do skaters ever get seriously hurt?
Why on earth would you want to do something like that?
I'm also asked about how much work goes into being part of a roller derby team. There's the short answer: We have demanding practices twice a week where we do core exercises, weight training, intervals, various drills and scrimmage.
And then there's the long answer: Countless hours are spent together with teammates off skates working to keep the team practicing and bouting. We are not professionals. We are not paid to play; in fact it's quite the opposite. We pay for our own equipment (everything from skates, pads, helmets, mouthguards, etc.) and uniforms individually as well as monthly team dues that go towards paying for practice space at the Coralville Marriott. OCCRG does receives some financial aid in the form of sponsors; revenue is also generated from ticket and merchandise sales.
But there's also a lot of elbow grease involved. We arrive at the Marriott seven hours before the start of every home bout to set up everything from the track, the merchandise table, the sound equipment, chairs, signage, etc. In the weeks beforehand we plaster our posters and fliers around town to generate excitement and interest, make radio appearances and send out our own press releases. The OCCRG website, Facebook page and blogs are all skater-operated and updated.
Each skater also belongs to one or more committees. These committee members are responsible for everything from bout productions (photo shoots, poster design, etc.), merchandise (tracking current stock as well as ordering new items like cowbells and pompoms), fund-raising (auctions, jello shot sales, etc.), coaching (sharing training responsibilities and expanding the team's library of drills) and public relations (making appearances and expanding our community presence). They meet several times a month to ensure responsibilities are being met and to discuss plans of action.
Finally, OCCRG is also very focused on making a positive contribution to the community. We volunteer at several local events including the annual Jazz and Art festivals, hold public scrimmages to raise money for the recreation centers and this summer we even organized a 5k run to benefit the Iowa City Animal Shelter. Most recently you may have seen us working as official Hokey Pokey wranglers at Fry Fest for the new world record dance.
As cliche as it sounds, it really is a labor of love. This team and sport have become a part of who I am, and I am more than happy to devote my time and energy towards prolonging them.