June 4, 2015
As roller derby has evolved, so have the Carolina Rollergirls. From a recent logo change and rebrand, to growing into a new practice space, the Carolina Rollergirls have shown that flexibility, creativity, and tenacity are key to the success of this sport in any market. Learn more about the Carolina Rollergirls and their plans to continue to evolve in the next decade of derby.
Where are you located? Oak City aka Raleigh, NC
How does your season run?
We have a January to November season with summer and winter breaks. Our competitive season usually starts in March and continues throughout the year, though we slow down a little in the late summer. Currently our home team season usually kicks off mid-summer with the home team championship game wrapping up the year in November.
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Gosh, we have so many! We're very lucky to have so several leagues within four hours of CRG; Blue Ridge Rollergirls, Charlotte Rollergirls, Cape Fear Rollergirls, Greensboro Roller Derby that's just in NC. I'm sure there are more that I'm missing.
How many skaters/teams do you have?
I don't think we'll ever have enough skaters! We have about 35 active skaters, but like all leagues, we have a couple of injuries, so not everyone is currently on skates. We have a total of five teams.
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have two competitive teams: the Carolina All Stars, our WFTDA charter team, and the Carolina Bootleggers, our B team of which there is some expected crossover. We also have three home teams: Durham Crash, Chapel Thrillers, and Raleigh Ruckus. All active skaters are drafted onto a home team. Our league leadership is comprised of a Board of Directors and Captains and Coaches.
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you've played them?
Probably Blue Ridge. They're our biggest competition in North Carolina. Both our A and B teams have played many times over the years. They are tough competition but a fun group of ladies, and we always enjoy our match-ups with them.
Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We don't have any sister leagues, more of a brother league in Collision Men's Derby.
What are the individual challenges of your city?
We have a lot of well-known colleges with very successful sports teams; Duke, UNC, NC State - our schedule often competes with their schedules and rampant college fans rarely give up a chance to root for their Alma mater. We also have a former Stanley Cup winner, the Carolina Hurricanes, literally around the corner from Dorton Arena. The Durham Bulls baseball and the Carolina Railhawks soccer teams are also very popular, especially with the family market.
What are your biggest training challenges?
It's been challenging to find the right balance in training up our B team and fresh meat skaters while giving the appropriate focus to A team training. We have aggressive goals this year to rise in the rankings, so we've devoted a great deal of time and energy into training up our A team. We've also been in a rebuilding phase for a couple of years. CRG had a lot of veteran skaters from the early and mid-2000s retire at the same time. Between the end of 2011 and end 2013 the All Stars had 14 veteran and core skaters retire. Even with considerable training efforts it was a lot of turnover to recover from. We are also a fairly small league right now, though we are working hard to increase our size. We committed to training up our newer skaters to give them the attention and training they deserve to prepare to move up when senior skaters retire. As we increase the size of our league, this issue should resolve itself, but it's been quite a challenge thus far!
You recently moved from a roller rink into a large, warehouse practice space. How has the change of venue enhanced practices? What advice do you have for leagues looking to make the leap to a larger practice space?
We've been able to give more time focused on our All-star team, which has helped us rise in the rankings this year. We've also been able to offer basic skills practices, which has helped our league as a whole. Making our own practice schedule has been wonderful, instead of being forced to work around a busy rink's schedule. Taking on the responsibility and expense of a private space should not be rushed into. We looked for many years for the right space and analyzed what we could and couldn't afford. Any leagues looking to make the leap should have a long term plan in place and be prepared for some growing pains. It’s an adjustment and a big step, but completely worth it. Our biggest piece of advice would be to make sure you have an engineer or architect look at a space you are interested in. Renting a warehouse space usually involves a change of use permit with the city, and you have to comply with the appropriate building codes, at your expense. Don't sign a lease without being aware of these possible issues ahead of time.
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have a really robust practice schedule. We offer practice opportunities almost every day of the week. Our All Star team practices three times a week on skates, including weekly league scrimmage. We also do off-skates strength training as a team as often as possible. We have practice time dedicated to our B team, the Bootleggers as well basic skills practice for our fresh meat skaters and recruits. As the competitive season winds down we shift our practice focus to be more league centric for universal training.
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
Uncle Paul is our coach and while he's not really "behind the scenes" he is an incredible driving force and is a tremendous asset to our league. We are forever grateful for the time and energy he dedicates to CRG. XX Factor is an amazing penalty box manager and keeps us straight! She has been with CRG for as long as the league has been here and we can't imagine life without her. Dr. Stats Boy is literally a stats genius. He is the best Head NSO ever, but we might be a little biased. Joshua Craig has been our league photographer for seven or so years. He is also a great web designer and is responsible for our slick website. All of our refs, for obvious reasons. And of course all or our amazing volunteers who come out on bout day. They rock, so we can roll.
Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
We think all of our skaters are all stars, but there are definitely names that stand out. Aurora Thunder – an agile and very smart blocker, essential in lane 4. Also a very clean player, she’s won the squeaky clean award for lowest penalties at least three years in row. Ava Gore - a strong, agile skater who is a very adaptable all-around player with jammer and blocker skills. She’s a tiny might for sure! Deanne T Krist - an amazing teammate with a positive attitude. She is fierce on the track with incredible versatility and class. Elektra Q-tion - pack leader, great communicator, and a very smart player with incredible passion for all things derby. She also gets serious style points for her make-up. Ginger Clobbers - a fleet footed jammer with background in figure skating. When she isn't jamming, she's a pretty bad ass blocker. Grim Carrey - great at the offense-defense switch, fearless and aggressive regardless of what position she’s playing. And she always manages to look totally glamorous on the track. JoJo Gadget - she's a tough lady to move around, and lots of fun on the track. A JoJo hit is always one to remember.
You are actually celebrating your 11th season as a league, while the WFTDA celebrates its 10th anniversary. What are some of the major changes that you have seen in the sport with the evolution and growth of the WFTDA?
Style of play and rules. Roller derby has evolved so much in just the last three years, it's sometimes hard to remember "old school" derby from the early years. Roller derby has changed from a spectacle per se, to a recognized sport. As the rules have changed the sport has become more strategic and impacted play styles. While it used to be a game of big hits and fast scoring laps, slower, soul crushing walls are now the defense de jour. Hitting a jammer out and dragging her back has also become a more ubiquitous strategy compared to even 2011. One of best rule changes was the 30 second penalty. It has aided in lower score differentials and more interesting play.
In celebration of your 10-year anniversary last year, your league unveiled a brand new logo. What promoted the change and how has the new logo been received by fans and skaters?
We wanted to celebrate 10 years of derby and how our league has changed over the years. Like derby as a sport, CRG has grown and changed and it felt right to create a new logo that represented a new decade of roller derby. Fans and skaters alike have really embraced it. We will never retire our classic logo, it's so ingrained in our history that no one can imagine CRG without the Skully logo.
What can you share about the Carolina Rollergirl's participation in the "American Bible Challenge"?
It was exciting to represent CRG and the sport of roller derby in a forum the general public doesn't think of when they think "derby girl." We had the opportunity to illustrate the breadth and depth of the roller derby community. It seems like many people view “derby girls” as miscreants and trouble makers, when in fact we are PhDs, lawyers, scientists, moms, business owners, churchgoers, and so much more. We just also happen to play a very aggressive, physical, full contact sport. And some us of have tattoos.
Do you have any big bouts coming up that you're really looking forward to? Why?
We are participating in Beach Brawl in June. This tournament marks the end of a huge push in our competitive season. We look forward to performing at our best in Florida and then taking a much deserved mid-season break.
How does your league give back to the community?
We do a wide variety of community events. Our mission statement is to foster the empowerment and support of women of all ages. We have worked with the Pretty in Pink Foundation, Girls Rock NC, NC Special Olympics, the local food banks and back pack buddies programs just to name a few.
Do you have any big fundraisers coming up?
Like most leagues we are always looking for new ways to raise money. We are very fortunate to have a built a relationship with the local baseball team were we are able run concession stands for a percentage of the sales. It's not a traditional fundraiser, but it allows CRG to be out in the community, supporting another local sports team, raise funds and talk about derby.
Do you have a special message for your fans?
Thank you for 11 years of love! We play the game for you, as much as ourselves.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.