Women on the ICT Roller Girls, Wichita’s only sanctioned roller derby team, have spent the last decade working to build a derby dynasty.
The ICT Roller Girls is a competitive team comprised of more than 40 professional women. The players work together to raise money to fund their travel, jerseys and venue rental. The team also has a philanthropic spirit, donating to different charities throughout each season.
Players said they love competitive play, but most of all they love the community their sport creates and the wonderful friendships they make.
In 2016, the team’s 10-year anniversary season, team members hope to reach the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Division II status, which would rank it in the top 100 teams in the world. In 2015, the team leaped more than 70 spots in the rankings.
Currently the team sits at number 113 out of the association’s 270 teams internationally.
“We have been so happy and excited to have a good year filled with women who build each other up and support each other,” said Kalee “Rachel Rage” Hildreth, the team’s director. “I’m huge for a team mentality and also having goals to work toward.”
Roller derby is a sport played on skates where five members of each team are on the track at a time. The objective for each team is to get one designated member, called a jammer and wearing a star symbol, past the other team’s players. The other four team members are defenders, and they try to block the other team’s jammer from scoring points.
“It’s the most strategic game I have ever played in my entire life because you’re playing offense and defense at the same time,” said team captain Antoinette “X-Mental” Black.
Stereotypes about roller derby—like scantily clad women in fishnet tights purposely injuring one another—are out of date, team members said.
The ICT Roller Girls have matching jerseys they wear as a uniform, along with helmets, knee pads and other protective gear.
There is no denying women have fun playing roller derby, as is evidenced by each girl’s derby name and the close relationships they share. But these women take roller derby seriously.
“No one gets to play in the game until they have passed minimum skills testing,” X-Mental said. “We make sure people are ready for what is going to happen.”
Women do get hit playing roller derby, and they sometimes are injured. However, the game’s regulations specify what constitutes a legal hit. Second-year roller derby participant Coree “Lady MacDeath” Rogers said she has sprained her ankle several times and more severely injured it last summer, but she does not allow roller derby‘s extreme sport status to deter or intimidate her. “I feel like it takes a different type of athleticism to skate, and hit, and be hit and not fall,” she said. X-Mental said her teammates on the ICT Roller Girls All Star team are athletes. “We definitely take it like it’s a sport,” she said. “We train three times a week. We are in it to win it.”
Getting Down to Business
Roller derby is a spectator sport, and the team relies on ticket sales to keep it running. During the 2016 season, the team will host six home games at the Wichita Cotillion, which they rent out for competitive play.
“It’s really rewarding to run our team like a business and get to see the fruits of our labor play out,” Rachel Rage said. “We are growing the team into a successful, women-driven, do-it-yourself team.” Much work goes into belonging to the roller derby team, and during the season the women train six hours a week, attend fundraising events and work on committees to make the program function. Some team members even think of roller derby as a second job.
Players said roller derby fans are loyal, and those who haven’t attended a game should come see what it is like. “Watching roller derby itself is just fun to do,” Lady MacDeath said. “The environment and energy in the place just make it so much fun.”
All Are Welcome
Players gain benefits from belonging to the roller derby team, from strong friendships to a sense of accomplishment and strength. The women agreed that one of the best aspects of the roller derby community is its acceptance of different types of women.
“The community is so tight-knit,” X-Mental said. “It’s really accepting, and it’s all-inclusive. You could show up in a tutu and an Elvis wig, and we would be like, ‘You should totally come play with us.’” Rachel Rage said meeting new people is one of her favorite parts about playing the game. “The diversity really brings life to our team, to have that richness of type of people,” she said.
Lady MacDeath said she joined the team when she was experiencing a lot of change in her life, and other team members mentioned roller derby seems to find women when they need it in their lives. The team is always accepting new members—even newbies who do not know how to skate or who aren’t stereotypical athletes.
“It helps women build confidence and helps them realize all the talents and skills they have to offer,” Rachel Rage said. “It’s really amazing to watch.” Lady MacDeath said she even enjoys interacting with women from opposing teams. “It’s the only situation I have ever found myself in where I can knock someone on the ground, and they’re like, ‘That was awesome.’”
To purchase tickets to a 2016 ICT Roller Girls game, visit ictrollergirls.com
Tickets are $11.50 online or $13.50 at door.