Roller Derby Doubleheader Tonight at Wallace Civic Center
FITCHBURG -- Looking for some excitement this weekend? Your best bet might be heading down to the Wallace Civic Center.
The Bay State Brawlers, a women’s roller derby league based in Massachusetts, will be in action tonight when its A team, The Punishers, takes on the Black Rose Rollers from Hanover, Pa.
The event is a doubleheader, featuring Bay State’s affiliated men’s team, the Maelstrom. The gates open at 4:30 p.m., with action beginning at 5 p.m. and lasting until roughly 9 p.m.
Tickets are $10 at the door for adults, and $5 for children under 12 and students with IDs. Fans can also purchase tickets in advance at brownpapertickets.com , where adult seats cost $8 and kids get in for $4.
Roller derby is played on roller skates, as teams of six circle around the arena floor. The two jammers are the point-scorers, and after lapping the field for the first time, each subsequent pass accumulates points for the team. There are four blockers, whose job is to keep the opposing team from stopping their jammers from scoring.
It is full-contact sport, with blocks and checks, crashes, bumps, and bruises.
The season began in April, and Saturday’s bout will be the second home battle on the schedule. The next and final home contest will be held Aug. 6, before the season concludes in October.
The Punishers do most of the traveling throughout the season, while Bay State’s B team, The Brawlin’ Broads, stays closer to home. There are 13 skaters on the Punishers, and 11 on the Brawlin’ Broads.
The Punishers are a Women’s Flat Track Derby Association-sanctioned team that competes and is ranked on the international level. Currently, the Punishers having a ranking of 182 out of over 400 teams in the world.
“We are currently (not ranked high enough) to play in division and playoff games,” said Keighley Sherwin, head of the Brawlers’ promotional committee. “We’re not quite there yet.”
Even though the Punishers have yet to qualify for national tournaments, they do compete at the regional level.
The Bay State Brawlers are open to anyone who is interested in giving roller derby a try. Skating experience is not a requirement and there are training activities in place to bring novice skaters up to speed.
“If experience was required I never would have been on the team,” Sherwin said. “The only sports experience I had was soccer, and I only rollerbladed a little as a kid. There’s no background required, we train you. We have a new skater program for people who haven’t skated before.
“We don’t just throw new people out on the track and let them take a hit. When I started I had no idea what roller derby was, but I knew I would eventually get to hit people and that was definitely an interest of mine.”
In addition to learning how to skate, athletes learn how to start and stop, and -- most importantly -- fall. There is an assessment period, where officials determine if new derbiers are ready for the big stage and more tactical training.
“It’s a process,” Sherwin said. “The program is designed to help each skater individually improve their skills.”
The new-skater program begins in September and represents is a yearlong commitment, with practices occurring throughout the calendar year except for a three-week break during the winter holidays.
A diverse group of athletes become derby skaters, from those looking for contact to those looking to join the camaraderie of a team.
“A huge array of people have joined ...” Sherwin said. “Teachers are big on joining roller derby. I found moms looking for their own thing they want for themselves. We also have a referee program, for those not interested in contact but want to be involved in a sport and officiating. It’s a good outlet and a way of exercising for people.”
Those interested in becoming roller derby players or referees should email firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information, visit baystatebrawlers.com .