Shoreline Roller Derby an outlet for everyday people

The Shoreline Roller Derby’s first home bout of the season against the Hartford Beat City Bedrockers on April 14 felt a bit like one of those old Norwich Navigators games from years ago.

The atmosphere at the UConn Avery Point athletic center was great. Families crowded the gymnasium, buying Belladonnas merchandise and joining in halftime games. Kids ran around and people cheered for team as they enjoyed warm wood-fire grilled pizza from Brick & Basil Wood and Fired Pizza.

Before the bout, kids from Connecticut Junior Roller Derby came out and gave us a little rundown on some of the basic rules of roller derby.

Shoreline Roller Derby is a non-profit organization with the goal of giving people a way to participate in a unique and physical sport. Modern roller derby is played commonly on a flat track between two groups of five skaters per team, with a maximum of 15 on a team. They skate counter clockwise during so-called jams around a track and score points, with the highest score being the winner.

Two specific players on each team are marked with a helmet cover. Jammers, who can score points for their teams, wear a star, and a pivot, who is an alternate jammer, wears a stripe. The jammers score points by lapping the opposing team’s skaters until the lead jammer calls off the jam and starts a new one.

Erin Johnston, a veteran skater with the team who goes by “Lolli Rotten” on the track, serves as media commander, and she jokingly described her job as the gal who “takes all the blame” when needed.

She is also a captain of the Belladonnas, and she made quite an impact at the bout on April 14, when the team beat the Bedrockers, 175 to 103.

According to Johnston, “Whip It,” a movie that came out in 2009, was a big inspiration for the Shoreline team that started seven years ago.

The juniors league was founded just last year, allowing young ladies early entree into a rugged sport that also creates strategic ways of thinking and requires fast-paced skating mechanics. When asked why the juniors league was founded, Johnston said it was because so many derby players wish they had access to the sport sooner.

“There was no roller derby for kids,” she said. “Almost every derby player said this would have been great to have when I was younger. Especially for me, I grew up around hockey, which is mostly all a male thing. I also tried soccer, basketball, but if I knew about roller derby, I definitely would have tried it.”

Roller derby may viewed by some as a game that involves big hits to accumulate points, but that isn’t the case at all.

Roller derby is more than just a sport to these skaters. They also learn valuable life skills from Shoreline.

“On the person themselves, there is a whole journey that you go through,” Johnston said. “We get a lot of people who don’t view themselves as athletes, and especially to get women to view themselves as athletes and athletic really hits a lightbulb for a lot of people.”

 

And she wasn’t joking around. Watching these ladies Saturday evening was a real eye opener. There is a lot of strategy involved, and women of all sizes have a place in roller derby.

Johnston said the main theme of Shoreline has been the friendships she has formed.

“I was never a huge team person, never athletic, never did sports,” she said. “And now you have all these teammates that will support you and build you up.”

One thing roller derby has in common with all sports is the family atmosphere and lessons about discipline. And Shoreline’s members and fans sure know how to create a show because the action was nothing short of spectacular.

Shoreline’s next bout is June 2 at UConn Avery Point against the Connecticut Roller Derby Yankee Brutals. They will be sharing a doubleheader with Connecticut Junior Roller Derby, playing New Hampshire Junior Roller Derby. For more information, visit shorelinerollerderby.com.

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