As students peruse the many clubs and activities available to them at Virginia Tech, some may be surprised to discover Virginia Tech’s Roller Derby Club. Students who have chosen to try roller derby say they have found the sport to be a fun and challenging way to stay fit, take part in a team sport, make connections to the community, and meet new people both on and off campus.
The Roller Derby Club strives to promote the sport of roller derby, bringing awareness to the Virginia Tech community that roller derby is a growing competitive sport. Through a local league, New River Valley Roller Girls, students, faculty, staff, and members of the Virginia Tech community are able to participate.
“Derby is such a different way of staying physically active,” said Sarah Liu of Roanoke, a sophomore majoring in human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Liu also serves on the league’s board as a public relations officer. “It doesn’t feel like exercise at all, just like a regular night at the skating rink with a little more adrenaline involved. Every time I go to practice there’s a new challenge waiting, but with the support of an entire team, they help me achieve it.”
While roller derby traces its origins to the hard-hitting, banked track derby from the 1940s. Modern day flat track roller derby has evolved into a safer, more controlled game with women’s athleticism and strategy at its core.
One of the most interesting aspects of the sport is that it draws interested participants from a wide range of ages with no prior experience with roller derby or roller skating. For new skaters, practices consist of basic skating skills, ways to fall safely, stops, footwork drills, balance, teamwork, and endurance and strength training to help them become more comfortable on skates.
Once more experienced, skaters learn advanced footwork, blocking, agility, and strategy, and also begin to scrimmage with other league members.
“Joining derby also allowed me to meet a lot of different people and become more involved with the community,” Liu added. “I’ve had the chances to be at Summer Solstice, Steppin’ Out, holiday parades, you name it. Also, since there are teams that play across Virginia and even in other states, it provides a chance to travel to other cities and meet skaters on other teams, which I find unique compared to most clubs on campus.”
The New River Valley Roller Girls is a competitive full member league of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing organization for women’s flat track derby, and has both a travel team that competes with other WFTDA leagues from various states and a B team that competes more locally. The league is also a section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that makes charitable contributions to serve the community.
“Every year, our goal is to partner with several charity or community outreach events,” said Stephanie Beeman of Fulton, N.Y., a doctoral candidate at the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. She also serves as the president on the league’s board of officers. “In the past, we have hosted charity bouts for the United Way and for the Deriek Crouse Memorial Fund. We also set up interactive booths at community festivals and events, such as Summer Solstice and Steppin’ Out.”
– Kim Bassler.