January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

January 6, 2013

Hailing from the capital of the United States, the DC Rollergirls boast an impressive 70+ skaters, four home teams, a B team, and their WFTDA chartered All-Stars who made quite an impression at the 2012 East Region Playoffs. They also have a wicked sense of humor and claim to effectively represent “one of the nerdiest cities in the U.S.” Can you help this month’s featured league in their quest to find a permanent and affordable home? Read on to learn more about the DC Rollergirls, who are impressive both on and off the track.

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

DC Rollergirls
Photo by James Calder

What city are you based in? Washington, D.C.

How does your season run?
Our home team season runs from October through May. Our All-Star season is typically most active between March and the WFTDA Big 5.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
We see a lot of the River City Rollergirls, Mason-Dixon Roller Vixens, and Charm City Roller Girls, but we’re also within reasonable driving distance of, oh, approximately a third of the WFTDA East Region (back when regions were a thing!).

There are a large number of WFTDA member leagues in your geographic region. What are the benefits and challenges of being in such close proximity to so many other WFTDA leagues?
It’s obviously nice to have scrimmage partners and nearby teams to bout – it helps everyone step up their game and sharpens our skills – but it’s also incredibly valuable (and just plain nice!) to have a derby community nearby. We attend each other’s clinics and bouts, see each other at open skates, and co-host events. Having many leagues around helps improve the sport’s overall profile, which creates a really supportive fan community in addition to the skater community.

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

DC Rollergirls' Skate of the Union Trophy
Photo by James Calder

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have our WFTDA charter team, the DC All-Stars; one travel B team, the Capitol Offenders; and four home teams, the Cherry Blossom Bombshells, DC DemonCats, Majority Whips, and Scare Force One. We have more than 70 skaters on the league. We also have a rec league!

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
Our home teams play each other twice over the course of the season, leading up to our “Skate of the Union” championship. The All-Star season overlaps some with the home team season, but the height of the All-Star season is during the home team off season, which keeps things from getting too crazy. We’re just happy as long as we get to play derby, whenever and however we can make that happen.

To keep things running smoothly, we have a Board of Directors with team representatives as well as a president, secretary, and treasurer voted on by the league. They help steer the league as we deal with expansion and raising our profile, and our various committees (creative, media, merch, bouting, etc.) help carry out that vision.

The DC Rollergirls’ four home teams have decidedly DC-specific team names. Please tell us a bit about how the teams were named, and how the team names are used in the league’s marketing/promotion.
D.C. is possibly the nerdiest city in the country (nerd cred: you’d be hard-pressed to find a league with more librarians than we have). Everybody and their sister here is somehow involved or interested in politics, so having politically themed teams makes us a little more accessible to people who might not normally think derby would appeal to them. They may not know the first thing about the rules, but they know what makes Scare Force One’s name so witty, which makes them feel an affinity with us. And then once they watch, they’re hooked!

And if Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice want to come meet their derby sisters, Nasty Pelosi and Condoleezza Slice, they’re welcome anytime!

Why have the DC Rollergirls made the decision to maintain a home team structure? What are the benefits to your league of having home teams?
We actually just expanded our home teams last year with the addition of our fourth team, the Majority Whips. Having home teams helps bring everyone’s skill level up, including All-Stars and skaters who may one day become All-Stars. It also allows more people to be a part of our organization. Without home teams, there would be a lot of women in the DC metro area looking for a derby home!

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

Majority Whips
Photo by James Calder

We understand that the DC Rollergirls formed a rec league this fall. What was the primary goal of forming your own rec league? What has the reception been so far? What are your aspirations for the rec league?
The rec league was a labor of love for DCRG – it took A LOT of time and effort, but it was worth it! Being a DCRG skater is a very intense experience. The rec league is sort of a double whammy for us: It gives retired rollergirls a way to stay skating and keep their skills sharp while simultaneously giving new skaters a way to build their skills and get scrimmage experience, all while learning from some of DCRG’s most experienced skaters (current and retired). Basically, it creates more derby for more people, which is always good!

We’ve had a few hiccups along the road – it took longer than we wanted to get it up and running, and our first session was shorter than we’d wanted, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive even with the occasional bump. Ideally, the rec league would become a feeder for new skaters into DCRG, drafting skaters right out of the rec league.

Who are the DC Rollergirls’ biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
We’ve long had a friendly rivalry with the Dutchland Derby Rollers, who are about two hours to our north. We played our first ever interleague bout against them and the game came down to one point! We’ve traded wins and losses with them over the years, and have always been pretty close in the rankings. Carolina Rollergirls and Maine Roller Derby are other teams that we hope to play every year because it’s always challenging and fun!

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We’ve developed a great working relationship with our neighbors to the north, the Charm City Roller Girls. We co-hosted the 2011 WFTDA East Region Playoffs with them, plus we get together for scrimmages, attend each other’s practices on occasion, and have done some fun things like having our home teams bout one another’s home teams. We also love our friends with the River City Rollergirls and visit each other often! And, while we unfortunately haven’t met on the track for a while, DC has always had lots of love for the ladies of Providence Roller Derby!

What are the individual challenges of your city?
D.C. is incredibly nerdy and political, which DCRG plays with very well, but it can be really difficult to get people just to find the time to come to a bout even if they love derby. We’re a city of workaholics!

It can also be challenging to find practice space in areas that are metro accessible and affordable. Many of our skaters don’t drive, making public transit accessibility a must for our practice spaces, but there are very few skating spaces that meet those requirements. We’ve been looking for a warehouse, but real estate in the city is incredibly expensive, making it extremely challenging. But hey, we’re derby girls – we’ve never been known to shy away from a challenge, and we’re not giving up!

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

Photo by James Calder

Vincent C. Gray, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, was your honored whistle-blower at your Season 7 opener in the fall of 2012. Why and how did you invite the Mayor? Was Mayor Gray a fan of the DC Rollergirls before then? Is he now?
We wanted to get a local elected official to blow the ceremonial first whistle for the season, sort of like throwing out the first pitch at a Nationals game. Since we're in D.C. and everyone has connections in government, we were able to get Mayor Vincent Gray to blow the whistle for the first time in 2011, for our Season 6 home opener. Now Mayor Gray is a big DCRG fan! We gave him his very own derby name: In-VINCE-able Gray. He couldn’t stay away and came back for our Season 7 opener as well. We hope to see him again for Season 8!

What are your biggest training challenges?
Location, location, location! Finding consistent, affordable space has definitely been a challenge for us. We’ve been lucky to skate in the DC Armory for the last few years, but things come up and sometimes we can’t schedule practice, which can be frustrating. Depending on location, it can also be really hard to have enough rink space for all our skaters when we have everyone show up at one practice. But that’s actually worked out really well as we’ve started adding off-skates and off-track segments to our practices, which has really paid off.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We practice and bout regularly at the DC Armory, which is a great space. We’re able to fit pretty much as many people as we can find at the venue, and we can set up multiple tracks at practices (so we don’t have 80 people on one track) and bouts (so we can have warm-ups and bouts happening at once). We also have supplemental practices at several local skate rinks and sportsplexes, where we occasionally bout as well, particularly in the summer when it gets uncomfortably hot in the Armory.

We understand that the DC Rollergirls are in the process of finding a practice facility. Good luck! How has your league approached the search for a permanent home? Has your league done anything creative to work toward your goal?
Initially it was just something that was nice to dream about, but we’re approaching it in a more organized fashion now that we’ve realized just how much it could mean for us. It would have a huge impact on our skill level and financial standing to have a dedicated practice space rather than spending the time and money organizing it week by week. We calculated that it would save us several thousand dollars a year just in the tape we use to mark tracks at each of our practices! We’re always keeping an eye out for places that might suit our needs, and we have a scouting committee responsible for evaluating any potential spaces we come across.

After seeing a couple of almost-perfect places, we realized that we need a larger financial cushion to get us started to help with the initial costs, so we started a Crowdrise campaign (like Kickstarter for nonprofits) to help us get started. We’re about a third of the way to our goal of $25,000 after about a month, which we’re damn proud of! The Crowdrise campaign has also been great in just raising the profile of our warehouse search. We’ve had a lot of people approach us who may not have money to contribute, but have ideas for spaces or media connections to help spread the word about derby and our warehouse hunt.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among the league teams?
We typically have league-wide practices between two to four times a week during our regular season (September to May), and a little less frequently during the off season. Individual teams also have their own practices a couple of times a month year round. During league skills practice, we try to mix the teams up so everyone can skate with people they don’t normally get to work with. We also have home team scrimmage practices as often as we can. The All-Stars have their own practices in addition to league and home team practices, usually at least once per week during All-Stars season.

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

Lenore Gore
Photo by James Calder

Who are the “behind the scenes” skaters who make your league run?
Everyone on DCRG does something that makes us function! We’re all required to put in a certain number of volunteer hours and participate on committees. But Velocityraptor, our league president, is an absolute rock star, and we would be lost without her. Maiden Sm’Akron, the Bouting Committee, and our amazing Pit Crew volunteers -- non-league members who generously volunteer their time to support us -- all keep us running smoothly even when things start to feel too overwhelming to handle. And most importantly, a huge shout-out to our refs and NSOs, without whom we would be just a group of girls on roller skates, not roller derby players!

Who are some of your star on-track skaters and why?
All of our skaters rock, but it was especially nice to see Lenore Gore nominated for DNN’s Breakout Star of the Year! Dual Hitizen is an incredible double threat on the track, and we like to tease her that she’s becoming derby-famous. Jersey Jill is always amazing to watch on the track – yes, she’s amazingly talented, but she always has this incredibly distracting huge smile on her face, no matter how many speed laps she’s done or how tough a wall is! Badass Maggie is a relatively recent D.C. transplant, but we’re already living in fear of her memorable hits (or at least, we would be afraid of her if she wasn’t so darn nice).

The DC Rollergirls had an incredibly strong finish at the 2012 East Region Playoffs, improving your ranking from #10 to #6. Congratulations! What were some of the key ways that your All-Stars prepared in order to see results during the tournament?
We were coming off a difficult 2011 season in which we just missed making the Playoffs. We started off 2012 with new team leadership and a lot of determination to improve. We didn’t do anything special, just put in a lot of practice time and played a lot of bouts over the course of the regular season. The team truly gelled on and off the track, and it was amazing to see that hard work finally pay off in wins over two teams that we had never beat before: Steel City Derby Demons and Carolina Rollergirls!

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

After defeating Steel City Derby Demons at 2012 East Region Playoffs
Photo by James Calder

How will the All-Stars’ success in 2012 influence the DC Rollergirls’ training for 2013?
We’ve gotten a taste of how far we can go with hard work and some confidence, so expect to see all that and more from us next year.

Going into the 2013 WFTDA season, the WFTDA will be organized based on Divisions rather than Regions. How are the DC Rollergirls preparing for this shift? How, if at all, has it affected the way you scheduled your 2013 season?
It seems to have given everyone the freedom to broaden their horizons a bit. We’ve scheduled games with some teams in the South Central and North Central regions that we’ve never had a chance to play before, but we think will be good match-ups for us. We know we’re going to have to step up our game to handle all the different derby-playing styles from different areas, but it’s definitely going to be fun to watch (and play). Luckily, we live so close to so many teams that we’re not anticipating any worries about meeting the minimum number of bouts, so there won’t be too much changing in the short run.

What next big bout are you most looking forward to and why?
We just selected a new All-Stars roster, so our trip to Florida the weekend of February 9th will be an exiting bout for the team! We’ll be playing a public bout against the Jacksonville Rollergirls and a private bout against the Gainesville Roller Rebels.

We understand that the DC Rollergirls have once again signed on to work with Bread for the City’s “Holiday Helpings” campaign. Please tell us about this campaign. What else do the DC Rollergirls do to give back to the community?
The Holiday Helpings campaign to bring holiday meals to low-income households is one of many incredibly valuable programs Bread for the City runs, and they anticipated serving more than 9,000 meals over the holiday season. Bread for the City is a really fantastic organization, and we’re thrilled to work with them again this year! Giving back to the community is a central part of DCRG’s mission, and we partner with several organizations to help out the community that’s helped us so much. Last year, we raised more than $17,000 for local charities – a number we want to top this year!

WFTDA January 2013 Featured League: DC Rollergirls

Photo by James Calder

Do you have any big fundraisers coming up?
Most of our focus is on our Crowdrise campaign right now, but we have a pretty entertaining fundraiser coming up this month. On January 25th, we’ll have one of our regular fundraisers at Rocket Bar in D.C. We’ll be selling Jell-O shots, arm wrestling, and challenging fans to a game of pool to raise money for the All-Star travel budget. If you’re in D.C. on January 25th, come say hi!

The DC Rollergirls have produced some fun derby-themed takes on viral videos, like “S*** Derby Girls Say” and “Call Me Maybe.” What was your league hoping to achieve with these videos? Have you been successful?
We mostly just made them for fun because we’re goofballs like that, but it was so exciting to see them go viral! Our resident social media guru, Scarlet O’Snap, was the visionary behind these projects, and we are fortunate to have lots of talented ladies on the league with the skills to quickly put these videos together. There are some pretty hilarious ladies in our league, and it’s nice to see that other people are as amused by them as we are. There’s more where that came from, so keep an eye out for more from us.

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We don’t play favorites! We love them all.

Are the DC Rollergirls bigger fans of arm wrestling or parkour? (We noticed a lot of photos and references to both on your Facebook page.) Is there an interesting/fun story about this?
One of our sponsors this year is a local gym that specializes in parkour training, so we did a fun social media campaign with them leading up to their halftime performance at our December home team bout. Parkour is essentially a creative way of negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, etc. One of our skaters, Marion Barrycuda, incorporates parkour into her derby cross-training!

As for the arm wrestling, we have found it to be a great way to get people’s attention, especially in spaces too tight for skates. It’s also an easy (and fun!) way to raise a few extra dollars at our events. We have our own arm wrestling table in league colors made by our very own Helena Handbag. There’s also a local group called the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, who we adore. One day, we’ll get an event set up with them, but our bout days and their event days always seem to coincide. Until then, we’ll have to settle for admiring from afar.

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