WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Women's Roller Derby Team Growing in Quincy

Jan 26, 2012

People  find different ways to relieve stress.

Some take a trip to  a spa for a bit of rest and relaxation. Others curl up on the couch  with a good book.

A group of women from the tri-states have  a slightly unorthodox method.

They lace up their roller skates  and beat the daylights out of each other.

Among them is Heather  Kath.

By  day, "Miss Heather" is the children's programmer  for the Quincy Public  Library, organizing activities such as story  time and summer reading  events.

"It's amazing, it's a great,  great job," says Kath, "we always say we get paid in Hi-Fives and  Hugs."

By night, Kath becomes Felony O'Connor, #20-To-Life.

Kath  is a founding member of Quincy's first women's roller-derby league:  the  Dark River  Derby Coalition.

"It's  really the most fun I have ever  had doing anything," says Kath, "I have  a great group of friends  and a really good support group. These are  just things you would  never even think would come along with this."

The DRDC, as  the team is more commonly known, is wrapping up its first season.

The  idea of forming the team came out of a Quincy Not-So-Fine-Arts Society  meeting in the summer of 2010.

Kath has been involved from  the beginning, but her desire to derby goes back to the 2005 television  series: Rollergirls.

"You  know, the powerful woman and  the getting to have an alter-ego," says  Kath, "especially since  work with kids and since I work at the library.  It is nice to  not be Miss Heather sometimes. It is nice to be Felony  O'Connor  sometimes, especially when I don't want to be very nice."

Roller  Derby seems to be the perfect outlet for women who don't want to  be  nice because it is a full-contact sport without scripts or  pre-determined results.

The  60-minute bouts are split into two 30-minute periods.

Each  team is allowed five skaters on the track at one time during a JAM,  which is when points can be scored.

Teams score points each  time their "Jammer" usually a small, quick skater, gets past an  opposing player.

The opposing team does not just stand around,  though, and let the jammer go free.

That can lead to vicious  hits, multiple trips to the penalty box and some scary collisions.

 Crystal Clark is a mother of two from Monticello, Illinois.

She  is a professional photographer who has been a member of the  Vice Quads derby team out of Champaign-Urbana for about a year  and a half.

Clark is not an imposing figure, standing 5'2"  and weighing about 100 pounds.

She was the jammer during  a recent bout between the Vice Quads and the DRDC.

As  Clark  was coming around a curve in the track, she saw two DRDC blockers  converging on her, so she tried to skate to the outside.

"And  it  was working, but, and I don't remember because they totaled  knocked me  out," says Clark, "which is probably why people come  to roller derby and  I am fine now, so that is OK."

The  collision left Clark with a mild concussion and a dislocated shoulder.

"I  guess I should be happy that it knocked me back because I don't  think I  would have wanted to feel that. Putting it back in was  extremely  painful, so I will just take one end of that."

Clark  says even after a hit like that, it is not a question of if she  will return to the track, but rather when she will return.

"This  is an opportunity that I know I will get once," says Clark, "so  as soon  as I can get back out there, I will take every minute  that I can."

JJ Magliocco with the DRDC completely understands  where Clark is coming from.

"Roller  derby is not just a  sport or a fad," says Magliocco, "roller derby is a  lifestyle.  It is a way of living and a way of being. It has taken  over  my entire life as I eat, sleep, and dream derby."

Magliocco,  AKA the Scarlet Slamurai, says the DRDC is a grass-roots effort.

The  team shares the duties of scheduling bouts, organizing practices,  promoting the team, and recruiting new members.

Magliocco  says the DRDC is also breaking down stereotypes, especially the  ones  that say women should not be involved in a contact sport.

"As  far  as, you know, derby girls are this, that and the other," says  Magliocco, "first of all, we are women. We are derby women, not  derby  girls and we are strong and independent and we are here  to kick some  butt."

That mindset continues to spread.

There  are now  several hundred women's roller derby leagues throughout  the United  States. Some international leagues are even starting  to pop up.

The more teams there are, the more fans there  are.

Heather Kath with the DRDC says it was early on in her  first match when she realized why she was taking hit after hit.

"There  was this little girl on the side," says Kath, "who said, Don't  give up  hope Felony, never give up,' and that is when everything  clicked for  me. While we are out there, we are not doing it for  ourselves, we are  doing it for everyone out there."

That  includes Abby Freier, 18, who came to the last bout to watch Kath,  who she knows from the Quincy Public Library.

Freier says  as soon as she is 21, she is signing up for the DRDC.

"I  guess I am very aggressive and it is something that I just love,  the contact sports," says Freier.

The  Dark River Derby  Coalition hopes to find more kindred spirits as it  continues to  provide an outlet for women who are looking to have fun, be  competitive  and maybe blow off a little steam.

The DRDC's final bout  of the season against the DuPage County Derby Dames is Saturday  night at Scottie's Fun Spot in Quincy.