July 10, 2013
The Des Moines Derby Dames have quickly shown that they have what it takes to distinguish themselves from the pack, especially in a city with five roller derby leagues. Between working hard on the track to improve their rankings and win the hearts of local fans, the Des Moines Derby Dames are now taking on an entirely new challenge by hosting their first tournament this August: the WFTDA’s first ever Division 2 Playoffs tournament. Read on to learn more about the Des Moines Derby Dames, and what they have in store for skaters and fans at the WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs.
What city are you based in? Des Moines, Iowa
How does your season run?
Our bouting season is February through June and September through November. We take breaks during the summer and the winter holidays. In all, we practice during all but about five weeks out of the year.
How many skaters/teams do you have? We have 35 skaters filling two teams.
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
The Mid-Iowa Rollers would probably be considered our biggest rival. Any time we play, bragging rights for the city are up for grabs. The first time our teams met, there was a big storm rolling through the city. In the very first jam of the game, the lights went out in the venue for about five minutes. The whole thing was caught on video. Mid-Iowa won that game, 206-99. So far, the Des Moines Derby Dames are 0 and 2 against the Mid-Iowa Rollers.
Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We always send much love to the Omaha Rollergirls. Back in 2009, they were the league that helped get us on our feet when we were getting started. They are a first-class organization that we love dearly.
Please tell us about the relationship between the Des Moines Derby Dames and the local men’s league, Your Mom Men's Roller Derby. How does having a women’s league and a men’s league contribute to the profile of roller derby in Des Moines?
Our relationship with Your Mom is very strong. Our coach, Tony Muse (aka Peter Pan) is a star player for Your Mom and for the men’s Team USA. We also still get guidance from our former coach, Tony’s brother, Dante (aka Frank Not Sohotra). We have helped Your Mom since their beginnings. Our players often practice with them and we sometimes combine for doubleheaders. Your Mom put Des Moines roller derby on the map. We are so proud of them for capturing the 2012 Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) Championship and root for them at every bout. It’s up to us to live up to the expectations they’ve set for derby in our city.
What are the individual challenges of your city?
Des Moines is a derby-saturated market. In addition to the two WFTDA leagues, there are also Team United, Your Mom, and our junior league, the Des Moines Derby Brats. That’s a total of five roller derby leagues in a metro area of half a million people. We all fight for attendance. However, Des Moines is a very sports-friendly town. There’s also minor league baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer. This means every sports team in town gets a pretty fair shake at grabbing the fan dollar.
Congratulations on winning Des Moines’ Cityview Magazine's “Best Indoor Sporting Event” honor! That's amazing! What has your league done to ensure a quality experience for your fans?
Behind the scenes, our 2013 season was dubbed “The Season of the Fan.” We work tirelessly toward improving the fan experience. Our bout production is frankly the best in the Midwest. Our home teams are treated like rock stars when they hit the track. When you show that level of enthusiasm for your players, the fans respond in kind. We also take pride in being an affordable entertainment option for the whole family. That’s very important in our city with so many competing events happening.
We understand that your league website was also nominated for a Cityview Magazine award. Wow! In addition to all the great content, your website features excellent bout recap videos. Who puts these impressive videos together? How have your fans responded to the recaps?
Our website is the main portal for fans to learn about our league. Next to the skaters on the track, it’s the most important piece of our organization. In the beginning, our videographer Nick Strickland handled shooting and editing our videos. More recently, our players have taken the initiative to learn to edit so they can take more ownership in the product being delivered to the public. They have taken well to it and do a great job.
What are your biggest training challenges?
Our challenges are much the same as other leagues our size. We’re constantly looking toward the marquee leagues in the WFTDA and how their play is evolving and changing our sport. It seems like every tournament season brings new wrinkles to the game that teams scramble to learn the following year. Aside from that, our biggest challenge is getting all of our skaters on the same level when it comes to skating ability and game awareness.
What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We split our practice time between our home skating rink, Skate North Incrediroll, and our bouting venue, the 7 Flags Event Center. Skate North has a great skate court floor, while 7 Flags has a painted concrete floor.
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We practice three days a week, plus our skaters have the option to occasionally attend practices with Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby. Since we’re a smaller league, we don’t have to divide our teams for practice.
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who help your league run?
Our Board of Directors keep the ship headed in the right direction. Our league President, Jeremy Bingaman, handles all of our bout production. He’s a 20-year veteran of the radio industry, so he was naturally added as an emcee. Our Vice President, M.O.A.B., is the heart and soul of our team. She is the team mom, bout coordinator, skater, cupcake baker, and seamstress. She truly does it all. The endlessly crafty Al C. Cheaten heads up our officials. In addition to being a great official, he builds great things from scratch for us. He built us our own “Track Daddy” device for laying the track, and even built our own t-shirt cannon. Our lead NSO is NSJoe. This season, he oversaw our transition to a nearly fully digital season by integrating Rinxter into all aspects of our bouts. He set up the penalty trackers with iPads and had monitors at both benches and the emcee platform so our teams were better informed. He’s really a miracle worker for our league!
Who are some of your star skaters on the track? What makes them stars?
This year was a “rebuilding” year for D3 (our league’s nickname) with the retirement of our star player, Stella Italiana, at the end of 2012. However, we had several skaters step up and put the team on their shoulders. Smashwey is the first skater in Des Moines to graduate from the junior league to the big leagues. Within a couple of months, she was on the charter and performing beautifully as one of our strongest jammers. Experienced players like M.O.A.B. and Wackagewea are our true norths on the track. 2013 was also a breakout season for AJ2PR3TI. She has come on as a true leader of our team and league.
Do you have any big bouts coming up that you're really looking forward to? Why?
We recently completed our Spring 2013 season with a big upset of the Omaha Rollergirls. Next on our plate is hosting the WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs.
Congratulations on being picked to host one of the WFTDA's first ever Division 2 Playoffs this year, from August 16th to 18th. What made your league decide to take on this rather enormous task?
We’re so grateful to the WFTDA for entrusting us with the very first Division 2 Playoff. There is nothing our league loves more than to bring roller derby to the masses. Des Moines Derby Dames’ bouts are more than just games; they’re a labor of love. We also love our city. Visiting teams tell us time and again how much they love Des Moines. We knew that our city was the perfect venue to host some of the best teams the WFTDA has to offer. Our Board of Directors was instrumental in putting together the bid for the WFTDA Playoffs. Our Board always pushes us to not only do bigger and better things, but to think bigger. We don’t think like a DIY roller derby league, we think like a professional sports franchise. We don’t just think about the next bout, we’re thinking about the next year and where it will take our city and our team.
How is your league working to put on the first WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs tournament? Are there any “behind the scenes” people who deserve special recognition?
The D2 Playoffs tournament is going to be a full league effort. This event will be the largest ever attempted by the Des Moines Derby Dames. Our entire league was behind the bid and everyone is doing their part to make sure it’s a memorable experience. Instead of giving individuals special recognition, we want the derby world to know that it was the Des Moines Derby Dames that hosted this event.
What kind of things can the derby-verse expect from your tournament, and also your city? What are the “don't miss” sights and activities in Des Moines (besides the roller derby, of course)?
We’re thrilled to announce here that we’re having a WEDDING at the D2 Tournament! We’ll be selecting one couple to get married at halftime of one of the bouts. If you know a fun couple who would like to get married in front of the derby world, send them to our website for all the information. Otherwise, we’re so excited to welcome the derby world to Des Moines. Much like the sport, we think that if you see Des Moines once, you’ll love it as much as we do. The must-eat place in town is Zombie Burger. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds. There’s also the Iowa State Fair, awesome downtown nightlife, and we’ve got some fun after-parties in the works.
How does your league give back to the community?
Each and every bout has it’s own designated charity. This season, we’ve supported the USO, Children’s Alopecia Project, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Prevent Blindness Iowa, among others. Our league donates a portion of the profits from the bout to the designated charity for that bout. We also allow our charities to raise additional funds using donation jars and 50/50 raffles.
Do you have any big fundraisers coming up?
We have our very first blood drive coming up at the end of July. Fans can visit our home rink, Skate North, to donate blood and register to win a weekend pass to the WFTDA Division 2 Tournament. We are planning a shots night in July as well. One of our bar sponsors allows our league to pour shots and sell directly to customers. Our league gets to keep all of the money collected.
Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We couldn’t do what we do without the support of all our sponsors. The High Life Lounge has been with us since day one. Northern Lights Pizza has been great to us in providing food for our after parties. One of our great new sponsors is Mo’Rub. They provide delicious food for our VIP ticket holders. Finally, our bout photographer, Molly Rogalla does incredible work and makes us look fantastic. We hope to have all of these sponsors and more at the D2 Tournament. To learn about our other sponsors, visit: http://www.dmderbydames.com/sponsors/.
Do you have a special message for your fans?
There is nobody more important to the Des Moines Derby Dames than our fans. From the first time we took the track in 2010 to a sold out venue to our last bout just a couple weeks ago, our fans come out in force and give us all of their energy. Our fans have ensured that at the 7 Flags Event Center, we have a true “home field advantage.” Thank you to all of the fans for your love and support. The Des Moines Derby Dames hope to continue to make you proud.
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