Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SPORTS >> Roller derby in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

Roller derby, mostly known for its reputation of tough women, fights and fishnets, may be the fastest growing sport around. As of Tuesday morning, there are 1,017 amateur roller derby leagues in the world, according to www.derbyroster.com. Jacksonville happens to be home to one of those leagues, Girls Rollin’ in the South.

Saturday, the G.R.I.T.S. will hold an exhibition bout at Skateworld on Loop Road in Jacksonville, mixing up teams with the East Texas Bombers, based in Jacksonville, Texas. The two teams will combine players and test their skills against each other. Doors open at 4 p.m., with the first whistle at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 at the door, $6 with military ID.

The organization wants to draw interest in roller derby as a sport and encourage the community to get involved, including holding raffles at each bout to raise funds for various area charities.

Nick “Coach Fever” Fitzpatrick, of Cabot, coaches the Breakneck Brawlers, G.R.I.T.S. team of MST qualified skaters. Skaters must pass a set of minimum skills in order to compete.

“We hold practices twice a week and highly encourage our skaters to workout on their own time also,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s an intense sport and requires endurance and strength.”

Practices are held from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Skateworld.

The league was officially formed in March 2010 and put on its first exhibition bout in December of that year.

“Our goal is to continue growing and eventually obtain WFTDA status,” Fitzpatrick.

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is the sanctioning body for modern roller derby. The WFTDA sets the guidelines for leagues to follow.

The sport, founded by Leo Seltzer in 1935, began as Transcontinental Roller Derby, an endurance race on a raised track and evolved into its current forms of teams skating on banked track and flat track roller derby.

The original version of roller derby was a co-ed competition. While there are still men’s leagues, the popularity and attraction seems to focus more on women.

The modern roller derby revival began at the turn of the century with the Texas Rollergirls in Austin, Texas. Leagues are formed as businesses and are operated by the skaters and league members. Roller girls come from all walks of life, including stay-at-home moms to hard working single moms, recent high school graduates to career women.

Girls Rollin’ in the South is always recruiting skaters, referees and non-skating officials. Visit the league’s Facebook for more information.

The league also has a website, www.gritlsrollerderby.com.