It's 9 p.m. on a humid Sunday night in June. A dozen women of all ages and cultures in workout gear are struggling into skates and kneepads at Summit's Fleetwood Roller Rink, hoping for a shot at roller derby glory with the Chicago Outfit, a semi-pro team looking for skaters who have advanced derby skills for their 'A-Team.'
Founded in 2007, the all-female Chicago Outfit promises on its website to "represent roller derby internationally with class, sass, and dignity." A member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, the Chicago Outfit practices at Fleetwood in the wee hours of Sunday night and play their games at the Windy City Fieldhouse in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.
Tonight, they’re looking for some skaters to join their advanced group, with current team members on hand to assist with drills. Altogether, there’s 50-60 women on the roster at any given time.
One such skater is Matza Ball Breaker, who's greeting the hopefuls. "Hi, I'm Matza Ball," she says, aggressively extending her hand with a vigorous pump and shake. "Welcome to the Outfit. Are you ready to kick some ass?”
Other current players, Rude, who wears extra-thick kneepads for protection, Crazy Skates, Casey Mace ‘Em and Mimi Furst, demonstrate proper turns, stops and defensive moves to the hopefuls.
Why would anyone want to risk their lives for an unpaid, high-risk, low-profile sport like roller derby?
“There are very few full contact sports for women, and this sport is so empowering” says Furst, who lives in the western suburbs, of joining the Chicago Outfit three years ago.
“And, " Furst adds with a wicked grin, "My husband loves having the bad-ass wife. He loves coming to games.”
She’s upfront about the risks. “I’ve had my share of broken bones and bruises. We play aggressively, but unlike previous roller derbies, there’s more pageantry than athletics. There’s no elbows to the head anymore. We follow a set of rules."
Prior to taking up her skates, Mimi had “never played a team sport. I was a theater kid, and this is a really cool way to feel super-strong and super-athletic. I got hooked, immediately.”
"The camaraderie among the women here is powerful, uplifting, " said Furst.
One of the sweet-natured hopefuls is 34-year-old Carla Albrecht, of LaGrange Park. A mother of four, she began Derby Lite roller skating classes two years ago in Lombard.
According to Derby Lite's website, certified instructors take the "style, speed, strength and camaraderie from roller derby and roller skate for fun and fitness."
Open to women of all ages, Derby Lite participants can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour.
"I'd never been on skates before," Albrecht said. "And I wanted to do something challenging, something different."
Her husband and children support her. "I've been supporting my son in football and my daughter in cheerleading, and my husband in jujitsu. This is Mom's thing. So, I think they’ll be proud of me doing this.”
Albrecht is there with her friend, 40-year-old teacher Rebecca Moulfahra, also of LaGrange Park. “We had to do 27 laps in five minutes," remembers Albrecht, shaking her head.
What separates the great players from those not chosen? "Their ability to jam (opponents), " explains jammer Lindy Carrow. "And their ability to play offense and defense at the same time."
Following tryouts, a probationary period and boot camp separates the new jammers by skill level, assigning them to 'A' B,' or 'C.' "That's also where we see the level of commitment the players have, " said Carrow. "It's an enormous time commitment."
The Chicago Outfit's season runs from April to August. They are always looking for new players, sponsors, volunteers and fans. For more information, their website is https://chicagooutfitrollerderby.com/
Note: This article first appeared on the pages of the Des Plaines Valley News
Like this? Many more thoughts to come....how about subscribing to my blog? To subscribe to my blog: Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
You can also follow me on twitter: @alisonsmoran Or 'like' my Token Female page