On your marc 9/11: On Track

H er name is Mona Lott and she used to speed skate and figure skate and dance on skates and had a desire to participate in Roller Derby when other parts of life got in the way. She married young, had three children, worked and a year and a half ago, jumped back on track, […]

Roller Derby queens still rule

By Marc Katz

Her name is Mona Lott and she used to speed skate and figure skate and dance on skates and had a desire to participate in Roller Derby when other parts of life got in the way.

She married young, had three children, worked and a year and a half ago, jumped back on track, so to speak.

Lott signed up for the Gem City Roller Derby (GCRD) League as Jamie Etherington, which turned out to be the only part of her that wasn’t welcome. She had to have a Derby name, like all the other skaters.

She chose Mona Lott with the help of a friend; pretty tame if you ask me, but sure to evoke jokes from the stands. On her summer recreational league team—The Snark Attack—she has teammates with names such as Owl B Back, K Lethal, and Peppermint Splatty.

Did I mention Lott is also the oldest member of the team at 57?

From what I’m told, this isn’t anything like the 1940s and 1950s Roller Derby. I used to watch televised games—or bouts, as they’re called—where mean-looking women skated around a high-banked track trying to bump opponents into the audience with hip checks and pointed elbows.

Most of Roller Derby is on a flat track now. The local organization, founded in 2006, has 60-80 members from teenagers to middle age. There are three recreation teams that skate from September through November, and three travel teams that go from December through July.

Locally, the teams mostly practice at the Orbit Fun Center in Huber Heights and stage matches at the downtown Convention Center.

Fun fact: the Gem City Roller Derby (GCRD) League is designated as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, charging $30 per month per participant.

It’s a competitive sports league, and its website says its teams, “Strive to improve individual athleticism, self-discipline, character and promote team unity.”

It wants to, “represent Dayton at a national level.”

Do not look for all the hip bumps and sharp elbows of the past.

“It’s not like (pro) wrestling today,” said Archangel Anarchy (yes, not her given name), who doubles as a team member and publicity director. “It’s more a standard competitive sport. We’re a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.  “There’s still plenty of body contact, but not as much violence. There are definitely rules in place to encourage safe play.”

For example, if someone is seen to have hit their head, the referee can call off the jam (a two minute spurt). Play will be stopped and that skater will have to be evaluated. Even if cleared, a skater with a head injury will have to sit out a period of time.

Skaters wear safety gear, not limited to elbow, wrist and knee pads, a mouth guard and helmet. More protection can be worn if the skater finds it necessary.

Of course, that isn’t what attracted Anarchy, 27, to the sport.

“I grew up in Manhattan and live here now,” Anarchy said. “I saw the movie Whip It with Drew Barrymore. They don’t play by the rules in that movie.” The 2009 film stars Ellen Page and was also directed by Barrymore.

Essentially, Roller Derby rules stipulate five skaters from each of two teams on the track at once. One participant is a jammer, the other four are blockers. The jammer earns points for her team by passing members of the other team on the track.

I’m not going to get into body types here, but the blockers are generally bigger than the jammers.

“I watched Roller Derby on TV and wanted to do it so bad,” Lott said. “Now, my three kids are grown. Everybody gets bumps, bruises, and knots. Nothing serious. When I was speed skating, I broke my shoulder.

“Skating, though, has always been on my mind. It was my bucket list thing. I love skating. I just love skating. I love to skate and I love the sport.”

The women practice three days a week, and while there is plenty of contact this isn’t a place to let out your weekday work frustrations by crushing somebody in the ribs.

“I’m a passive person.” Lott said. “There are mean names (on the team), but I didn’t feel mean.”

Most of the women who try out for Gem City are placed on one of the teams. They don’t have to be “play ready.”

“We don’t normally turn people away,” Anarchy said. “I was terrible when I started. I skated head first into a fence.”

She doesn’t skate into fences anymore. For a look to see what it’s like, there’s a Junior Gems match at the Orbit Center on Saturday, Sept. 15, beginning at 10 a.m. Participants and those on other Roller Derby teams will also be at the downtown Hispanic Heritage Festival that day beginning about noon.

There’s a $5 charge to see the “bout.” Kids under 12 are free. You don’t have to change your name to attend.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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