October 2013 Featured League: Cherry City Derby Girls

October 15, 2013


Boasting approximately 150 skaters, four home teams, two travel teams, and a junior league, the Cherry City Derby Girls have a robust league with a promising future. With the support of other Oregon-based WFTDA leagues, the Cherry City Derby Girls have been able to learn from the best, while building a fan base in Salem, as well as the larger roller derby community. The Cherry City Derby Girls are committed to their local community, and they support a variety of charities each season. Read on to learn more about this month’s featured league.

What city are you based in? We are located in the capitol of Oregon, Salem.

How does your season run?
Our four home teams bout from October through June, culminating in a Season Championship bout (scheduled on June 21, 2014). Our two travel teams have bouts and practices throughout the entire year, although our home teams do take a break from required practices in July.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Sick Town Derby Dames (Corvallis) is the closest league at 38 miles away. Rose City Rollers (Portland) is 44 miles away, Emerald City Roller Girls (Eugene) is 66 miles away, and Lava City Roller Dolls (Bend) is 130 miles away.

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We typically have about 150 skaters depending on recruitment timeframes (recruitments are held quarterly). We have four home teams: Dolls of Anarchy, Panty Raiders, Rydell Belles, and Thrill Kill Kittens. The 30 best skaters from all home teams make up two All Star travel teams: 8 Wheel Assassins and Boneyard Brawlers. And we have a junior league called the Cherry Blossoms.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
Cherry City has a Level One group that is made up of our newest recruits who are learning basic skating skills. Our Level Two or Fresh Meat group begins to work on strategy, and this group may test to become scrimmage eligible. Then, there are Level Three (draft eligible) and team skaters. And the best of the team skaters try out to join the two travel teams.

The Board of Directors manages the league and its volunteer committees. The BOD is made up of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Director, Events Director, and Development Director. Our most active committees are the Training, Membership, and Community Outreach committees. Cherry City has numerous volunteer positions such as Interleague Coordinator, Fundraising Coordinator, Photo Coordinator, Merchandise Coordinator, Public Relations and Publicity, Website Coordinator, Facilities Coordinator, Security Liaison, Safety and Medical Coordinators, etc.

Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
Lava City Roller Dolls and Sick Town Derby Dames could both be considered rivals, due primarily to proximity. We have played each other several times; trading wins and losses back and forth, and there have been some close scoring bouts. Although we have this rivalry, we also consider them to be great friends off the track.

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Rose City Rollers, Lava City Roller Dolls, Emerald City Roller Girls, and Sick Town Derby Dames have always been super supportive and we owe a lot of gratitude to these teams for helping us along the way.

Please tell us about your relationship with Salem Men's Roller Derby. Have you found it beneficial to have more roller derby played in Salem?
Absolutely, we love our brothers at Salem Men’s Roller Derby (SMRD)! Many of the SMRD skaters were our refs, officials, husbands, boyfriends, friends, and superfans prior to starting their own league, so we are very supportive of their efforts. Adding another league to the Salem area certainly brings more visibility to the sport. We enjoy occasional co-ed scrimmages and bouts, and the men bring a style to the track that offers a different perspective. The boys versus girls’ scrimmages create a fun rivalry.

What are the individual challenges of your city?
The biggest challenge we still struggle with is getting the word out about roller derby in a small community. There are fewer than 160,000 people in Salem, and many people still do not know that roller derby exists.

We understand that each of your four home teams has adopted a local charity to support. How does each team choose their charity and raise funds?
Each home team renews their commitment to a local charity each year based on the teams’ personal choice. So far, no team has ever changed their adopted charity, because they all have such a connection and commitment to their choice after the initial selection. The charities are: Dolls of Anarchy – Liberty House; Panty Raiders – YWCA; Rydell Belles – Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Services; and Thrill Kill Kittens – Salem Friends of Felines. The Level One and Two skaters support an adopt-a-street program and the league also donates to the Marion-Polk Food Share. One hundred percent of the funds raised for raffle ticket sales during bouts are donated to the team charities. Throughout the year, there are other opportunities where teams help fundraise for their charity, and they attend their events and help promote the organization.

What affect has aligning your home teams with local charities had on the profile of the Cherry City Derby Girls in Salem? What advice do you have for other leagues who are interested in developing their community involvement?
Initially, we were struggling to get an adequate number of volunteers at our charity events and we brainstormed how to get skaters to feel more personally invested. Since the teams were able to choose a non-profit that aligned with their values, we have seen the volunteerism increase by leaps and bounds, and we have raised a lot more money for our charities. We would certainly recommend this structure to other leagues who may be struggling with participation at events. Not only has the change helped us with our non-profit status, but it has helped league morale as well. It feels really good to serve the community and the teams have really stepped up to organize their events and invite the rest of the league to participate as well.

What are your biggest training challenges?
Our biggest challenge is often adapting to changes in skill level for our new recruitments and recruitment size. Cherry City accepts new skaters at all skill levels from toddlers to transfer skaters, and all new recruits are accepted into the league. Following a new recruitment, we have a full track and it can be difficult to meet the needs of all skating abilities and provide good individualized coaching to all levels. Our solution has been to split the new skaters into three groups on the track in order to meet the training needs of each skater.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We rent a warehouse on Madison Street, affectionately called The Mad House, and that is where most of our bouts and all of our practices are scheduled. Our occupancy is only about 300 people, so the bouts are small and intimate. Our larger bouts are typically scheduled at the Salem Armory Auditorium.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
Teams have three practice days scheduled each week. There is a shared team and Level Two endurance practice and a scrimmage night, and then each team has a private practice time. Travel team has one additional practice each week, so their total is four practices. The new Level One skaters practice separately three times each week and the higher level skaters often help participate in their coaching. The junior league also practices three times per week.

The Cherry City Derby Girls played host to the final WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs of 2013. Congratulations! As a relatively new WFTDA member league (having graduated to full member status in December 2012), what made you decide to take the plunge and host a WFTDA tournament?
Our members took notice when the Rose City Rollers hosted the West Region Playoffs in Portland a couple of years ago. We were impressed by how well it went and how great it was to have a WFTDA tournament nearby. We really wanted to give back to the roller derby community and show our appreciation. We love Salem and thought it would be a perfect fit.

What were some of the exciting things you had planned for skaters and fans attending D1 Playoffs in Salem (for those of us who were sadly unable to attend)? What should the WFTDA-verse know about the Cherry City Derby Girls as tournament hosts?
The scavenger hunt was a big hit on Friday night, as well as the after parties on Saturday at Santiam Brewing and Sunday at the Southside Speakeasy. All of the visiting teams received care package gifts that were a big hit.

How will the Cherry City Derby Girls be celebrating your tournament hosting success? We will take one giant collective sigh of relief and, then, go back to skating on Monday (in hopes of making it to Division 2 Playoffs next year!)

What was your experience with hosting WFTDA Playoffs, and what lessons or advice would you have for other leagues who might be exploring the option of hosting in the future?
Preparing for hosting the WFTDA Playoffs was a roller coaster at times. As with any large event, there were some surprises and it required many, many reliable volunteers. It was exhausting, rewarding, and surprisingly successful. Preparing for the event definitely tested our league and we found our members rose to the challenge. If your league is considering hosting, I would recommend developing a communication plan early and ensuring your members are committed to volunteer many hours over several months. This would especially be a challenge for a smaller league. Our event leadership team faced some stressful moments, but it is very rewarding in the end.

Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
Our league President s’Xbox ThreeSixty (Heather Coakley) is an incredible asset to our organization. She has the management, policy, and conflict resolution experience that has launched our league to the next level. It is very difficult to run a league and she has done an extraordinary job.

Our Event Director, Brian The Hitman Hart, has volunteered for the league for more than two years and he brings a professionalism and dedication that is out of this world. He does everything from bout production and sound, fundraising events, designing posters, to producing our promo video.

Aside from being a phenomenal skater, Six Foot Fetish (Stephanie Dempsey) coaches the Panty Raiders and the men’s league, is captain of the travel team and former Vice President, and puts her heart and soul into making the league great. It is rare to see her without skates on her feet, but when you do, you can spot her by her four-inch heels.

Tim Gonzalez is a professional photographer for the Statesman Journal (local newspaper) and a league photographer. His work is incredible and he does an awesome job of capturing the sport of roller derby for the fans and skaters. We love him for it!

HP Shovecraft (Sean Swearingen) has been our Interleague Coordinator and is the announcer at every bout, often traveling on the road with teams. Most recently, he was one of the WFTDA Division 1 Tournament Directors in Salem.

Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?

  • Six Foot Fetish (Stephanie Dempsey) – It is rare to see her without skates on her feet and it shows! She takes every opportunity to practice or scrimmage with other teams and she has coached or mentored every skater in the league at one point or another.
  • Va Voom Va Vet (Yvette Massinger) – She is a beautiful skater in ability, appearance, and sportsmanship.
  • Edie Disorder (Susan Klein) – She is a fan favorite and social butterfly.
  • Dirty Martinez (Celina Martinez) – Dirty is a triple threat with awesome jamming and blocking skills as well as being a super person.
  • Lucy Skates n’ Diamonds (Ashley Larson) – She has fast tracked her way to the top as a jammer for the travel team and has worked hard to get there. The fans love her, because she is gorgeous to watch, and she seems to have no trouble warding off blockers twice her size.

Do you have any big bouts coming up that you're really looking forward to? Why?
The entire league is buzzing about a rookie bout coming up on October 12th. It will be the first bout for many of these ladies and it is a fundraiser to collect peanut butter for the Marion-Polk Food Share called the P B & Jam.

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We certainly don’t have favorites, because we love ALL of our sponsors! BUT, if we had to pick, these three sponsors are the most tied to our derby community:

Do you have a special message for your fans?
Thank you so much for your support over the last four and a half years. We’d like to send a shout out not only to the fans, but also the refs and officials, volunteers, families, and partners, etc. for supporting us and allowing us to play the sport we love!

Would your league like to be the WFTDA Featured League of the month? Have you had an extraordinarily successful season that you'd like to share with the wftda.com fans? If you are a full WFTDA member league and have the authorization to speak on behalf of your league, we'd love to hear from you! Or nominate your favorite league and tell us why they should be featured on wftda.com! Please contact webmaster@wftda.com.

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.