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How they roll: QC derby girls know teamwork

by Ryan Pitkin

April 10, 2012

The Charlotte Roller Girls are anything but conventional, and as an athletic organization they don't adhere to operational norms. Established in 2006, the roller derby league is owned and operated entirely by the skaters themselves, fostering a sense of commitment and teamwork among the athletes that is truly unique.  

Who are they?

The athletes in the all-female league come from all walks of life - from librarians to corporate employees to teachers. When they don their purple and black uniforms though, each takes on a new persona. 

The names of their skater alter-egos range from intimidating to downright hilarious. Fast readers will catch names like ‘StarSpangled BanGRR’ and ‘Rosie Cheeks’ on the backs of skaters’ jerseys as they fly around the track.

A different sort of league

The CLTRG “league” differs from most sports leagues because the athletes do not compete against each other. They all represent the same jersey, yet are divided into two teams: an A-team for the most talented and a B-team for the ones still developing their skills. Each team skates in bouts against other cities’ teams of the same caliber. 

The teams host their counterparts at the Grady Cole Center, at 7th Street and Central Avenue, or travel to meet them across the country. The first bout of the 2012 season brought Charlotte’s A-team, The Charlotte Roller Girls All Stars, to Indiana to face Demolition City. 

Everyone has ownership

Because the entire CLTRG operation is skater owned and operated, the women wear multiple hats (or helmets as the case may be). Those who aren’t managing the team may help to lace up skates; and those who are skating one day will have other tasks within the organization when the bout ends. 

“It really takes up your time,” said Renee Sikes (Addie Infinitum on the track). Sikes runs the marketing committee for CLTRG, and is a jammer (the point scorer) who skates other positions for the CLTRG B-team, the B-Dazzlers. 

“It’s really our organization (structure). That gives us flexibility but it also requires a lot of time and dedication,” she said. 

The league is managed by a board of 14 skaters. All of them, save the president, vice president and secretary, lead one of the 11 committees in charge of different tasks off the track. For example, the marketing committee handles sponsorships, the events committee plans promotional events, and there’s even a committee responsible for cleaning the league’s warehouse, a place they bought for practice in the heart of NoDa. 

National recognition

The Charlotte Roller GirlsIt’s this type of teamwork that has helped the team grow into a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The team gained full membership to the organization in June 2011, which means they are now recognized nationally through a ranking system and have a say in any rule changes or other decisions for the ever-evolving sport. 

“It really does give you a voice within the WFTDA to be able to network and bounce ideas with other leagues,” said team member Rosemary Gardner (Rosie Cheeks).

Team members credit Gardner and Samantha Drum (Tammy Faye Breaker) for working overtime to get the league a spot in the apprentice program in March 2010 that eventually led to full membership. 

“We have a lot of input on the growth of the sport and there’s always something to be excited about,” said Drum. 

CLTRG’s first WFTDA-sanctioned match was against the Carolina Rollergirls, a team out of Raleigh that prides itself on being a founding member of the WFTDA. Prior to that match, Carolina was the only WFTDA-sanctioned team in North Carolina, and now there are four. Drum and Gardner both serve as skater reps on the WFTDA board and Drum’s job within CLTRG is to be a mentor to an apprentice league. 

Giving back

Drum is not the only one on CLTRG lending a helping hand. Working with Charlotte-area charities is one of the league’s main activities, and a large part of the money from their bouts is donated to different organizations. Every year, the team chooses one group on which to focus most of its philanthropic efforts, and this year it is working to support Girls on the Run (GOTR), an exercise-based youth development program aiming to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls

“We are really excited about this,” said Jessica Otto, council director for GOTR. “We are really focused on empowering girls and to team up with an organization that’s all about female empowerment makes for a really fantastic alliance.” 

CLTRG will have a strong presence at the Girls on the Run Spring 5K May 12, with skaters wearing their uniforms as they volunteer and cheer on the runners. And the GOTR group will return the favor, rooting on the skaters during Charlotte Roller Girls Weekend Sept. 21-22. CLTRG will compete three times over the course of two days - their last home bouts of the season. Proceeds from the skaters’ home bouts this year benefit Girls on the Run. 

A fervent following

The GOTR cheerers will likely be joined by many more, as the team is a true success story with a strong following. At their 2012 home opener on St. Patrick’s Day, a full house of green and purple spectators turned out for the doubleheader. 

Dia Browning (Bad iDia), CLTRG treasurer and blocker, was impressed by the St. Patty’s crowd, but said she had seen better. 

“It’s not uncommon for us to sell out,” she said, of the 3,000-seat venue. “We’ve had to turn people away. We don’t like to, but we’ve had to.” 

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Tags: Charlotte Roller Girls, roller derby, athletics, skating, girls on the run

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