Local roller derby boosts women athletes

Two roller derby leagues empower Valley women on and off the track


Brian Palm, Reporter

Roller derby is alive and well in the Valley.  There are three flat-track leagues composed of 13 teams and a banked-track league with another five teams.  There are roller derby matches called “bouts” played in every month of the year in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  While there are men’s leagues, the sport is dominated by women.

Arizona Roller Derby is the largest and longest standing flat-track league in the valley.  Their season begins in January and concludes in October.  They are also the only league in the valley endorsed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.  Ginger Root-Ya, also known as Jeannie Bridenbaugh, is the league’s Public Relations Director.  She stressed some of the things that are important to AZRD.

“We concentrate more on fitness, athleticism, your mental game and moving girls up to the skill level that they want to be at,” she said.

They use a four tiered system to accommodate the different skill levels of their skaters.  After three cycles of training and passing a written rules test, beginning skaters compete on a team called “Smash Squad”.  From there, skaters can move on to become involved in a city team and compete locally, a state team which travels within Arizona or their national team “Tent City Terrors,” which tours all around the United States.

The Arizona Rollergirls and Desert Dolls are the two upstart leagues in the valley.  The Rollergirls have three team and compete from March through November.  Desert Dolls field four regular teams and a travel team.  They hold their bouts from October through June.  Both leagues skate under USA Roller Sports (USARS) rules.  This allows for more interaction between the leagues.

Skye Smith, who also goes by the name of Ruby Slipahz Rocket, is the founder of Desert Dolls and explained the relationship between the two leagues.

“We work with them closely,” she said.  “We will do mash-up bouts with them.  We’ll share practice times.  If they need players because they’re short for their bout they’ll borrow some of our players.”  These two leagues may be younger and smaller than AZRD, but they are growing and no less competitive.

“There’s something very empowering getting on your skates, eight wheels on the floor, and hitting somebody so hard that they pee themselves.”  Smith said.

Roller derby is definitely real but it’s not reality.  It’s a sport that allows its players to escape from reality by adopting an alter ego on the track and relieving some stress from their day.  AZ Roller Girls member Deborah Schweikardt, also known as Red Rocker, explained.

“Whatever we do in our lives, we just want to come (and) become this alter ego,” she said.  I can beat up girls and not go to jail.  Where was this 20 years ago?”

It’s also a sport that draws participants from a variety of backgrounds.  Some athletes come to the organizations from broken homes or abusive situations and are looking for a place to fit in.

“They are given the opportunity to find themselves in a supportive environment where they realize they’re not dead inside.”  Smith said.  “Sometimes we save that person from themselves or their circumstances.”

Arizona Roller Derby holds their bouts at SpoFit, located at 5031 E. Washington Street, Phoenix. Arizona Rollergirls skate out of the Broadway Rec. Center, which is located at 59 E. Broadway Road in Mesa. Desert Dolls’ home is Peoria Sportsplex at 16083 N. 75th Avenue in Peoria.