Chicago Roller Derby Week, Part 2: Derby Lite

Chicago Roller Derby Week, Part 2: Derby Lite
Derby Lite: A recreational way to do derby

Part 2: Derby Lite - A little derby, a lot of fun.

After taking a spin through the Windy City Rollers league and how their teams stack up yesterday, it's important to highlight that roller derby isn't just a spectator sport. If you're like me then watching a bout will make you crave to get up and do roller derby yourself. For women in Chicago, here's a way to jump in and feel derby's fire with both feet.

So what is Derby Lite?

I'll put it this way. Let's say you're in love with the idea of roller derby. You've seen it live and you've even rented "Whip It!". But you're not sure you are tough enough to endure all those hip checks, bumps and bruises from night to night.

Derby Lite was founded by a Barbara Dolan, a retired roller derby skater, as a club providing women interested in fitness  the opportunity to skate for fun while getting a sample of derby's lifestyle and adrenaline rush.

Queen B, as Dolan is called in the derby world, thought it a good idea to put together Derby Lite as a "more recreational version" of flat track roller derby. What a lot of fans of the sport probably don't realize is that roller derby women practice up to five times a week, not just a once a week like rec softball. And anyone 18+ can experience it all with less time commitment and risk of injury than derby regular.

Elizabeth Vassolo takes a spin through Derby Lite.

Women who enroll in Derby Lite learn basics first. After strapping on a helmet, pads and a pair of quad skates, skaters learn how to skate forward and backwards, how to build a pack, block and move, not to mention  --most importantly-- how to fall. Later, Derby Liters grasp the art of competing in a bout and scoring. Fitness gradually comes into play for most women, who gain strength in their legs and core while getting accustomed to sport on a pair of skates.

It's recommended that you pick up your own helmet, which you can find for about $30 at Rebel Rebel, the area's premier derby shop. But Derby Lite can provide you with skates and other equipment to get started.

At the same time, Derby Lite has evolved as a proving ground and training vehicle for emerging talent. Although Dolan started Lite after retiring from her own career, others have joined the top leagues after getting their feet wet in her program. A handful of Derby Liters currently skate for the Windy City Rollers and The Outfit. WCR women who started in Derby Lite include the Hell's Belles Pominatrix and Zombea Arthur, along with The Fury's co-captain Poppy Spock, who has in turn taken a training role with her squad.

Derby Liters learn roller derby drills like the "shopping cart" as well as how to manage their own balance and fall safely.


Zombea, left, skates for the Hell's Belles and WCR's All-Star "B" team. Her teammate, Pominatrix, also started in Derby Lite.

Up until now the lite version has existed solely in suburbs such as Wheaton, Prospect Heights and Oak Park, where Derby Lite was originally based. However, starting on Feb 18 Derby Lite will debut its beginner classes in Chicago at Pulaski Park and two other locations through the Chicago Park District.

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There's tons of info about Derby Lite online, and you can enroll for classes at their website. Tomorrow we'll take a look at  The Chicago Outfit, the club that skates at the Windy City Fieldhouse, starting in April.

Andy Frye has written for, The Chicago Sun-Times and FiveonFive magazine. Follow on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.

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