August 11, 2013
Founded in 2005, the Fort Wayne Derby Girls have remained consistently competitive in one of the hottest hotbeds of roller derby. Since 2007, the Fort Wayne Derby Girls have been hosting teams from across the U.S. and Canada at their Fall Brawl and Spring Roll tournaments, and the combination of an amazing facility and league of dedicated and determined skaters has earned them a reputation as excellent hostesses. Read on to learn more about the Fort Wayne Derby Girls, their commitment to giving back, and what they have in store for the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs.
What city are you based in? Fort Wayne, Indiana
How does your season run?
We hit preseason training hard in August and continue with JUST training until December. Our game season begins in January and ends in June, averaging one home game and two to three away games per month.
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
The nearest WFTDA leagues include Naptown Roller Girls, Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls, Grand Raggidy Roller Girls, NEO Roller Derby, Ohio Roller Girls, Detroit Derby Girls, Windy City Rollers, The Chicago Outfit, and MANY more. We’re in the heart of great competition!
How many skaters/teams do you have?
We generally average anywhere between 30 and 50 skaters per season. We have three teams: Academy (our “C”/beginners team), SWAT Team (our “B” team), and Bomb Squad (our WFTDA chartered team).
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have three teams that only scrimmage each other for practice purposes. Academy, our beginners’ team, was formed to give new skaters a chance to play at a less competitive level and effectively learn the game of roller derby. SWAT Team is our “B” team that serves as a “feeder” team for our WFTDA chartered team, and also allows skaters who can’t fulfill attendance requirements to skate at a competitive level. SWAT always travels with Bomb Squad. Bomb Squad is our All-Star WFTDA chartered team, composed of our best and most competitive skaters.
We are a not-for-profit league and donate almost all of our proceeds to local women’s and children’s charities. Our league functions under WFTDA and is run by all of our active skaters.
What is the relationship between the Fort Wayne Derby Girls (FWDG) and the Fort Wayne Derby Brats, Fort Wayne’s junior roller derby league?
FWDG is incredibly proud of the Fort Wayne Derby Brats! A handful of active FWDG skaters, including FWDG and Brat’s co-founder Minx, share coaching responsibilities and FWDG skaters attend a handful of Brats’ practices to give the girls a chance to practice cohesively against another team. The Brats also play before many of our home bouts, including Spring Roll.
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
If this question were asked years ago we would be able to ramble off a list of teams we considered rivals. Our league has grown with the sport and now we enjoy having the opportunity to play anyone that loves the sport as much as we do.
Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We definitely want to give much love to ALL women’s and men’s league that have a passion for roller derby. We love being part of such an incredible community of such talented people that are so full of sportsmanship. The unity of roller derby as an entire entity sets this sport apart from any other.
We also want to give special shout outs to the South Bend Roller Girls. They have developed so much as a league in just the last season and we can’t wait until they graduate from the WFTDA Apprentice Program and are officially a WFTDA member league!
What are the individual challenges of your city?
Compared to some cities our population isn’t comparable to that of our neighboring leagues (like Chicago or Indianapolis) so our skater numbers can’t compare to that of the bigger cities. Also, we have been fighting for years for our local news stations to put us on their sports pages and features, but unfortunately have not been recognized. In Fort Wayne we have a baseball team (with their own stadium), a hockey team, a local university with various sports teams, and a basketball team that are all battling for fans.
What are your biggest training challenges?
Our biggest challenge as of late has been a dramatic change in coaching. After our 2012 season our coaching staff retired. In 2013 we received all new coaches, which meant a completely new coaching and training structure.
In addition, the sport of roller derby is still relatively new in comparison to sports that have been around for centuries. Because of this, the sport is rapidly changing and developing through trials and errors of rule changes, as well as strategy. As the sport changes and matures, we adapt just like any other league.
What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We are lucky to have great facilities that support us. We practice at a local skating rink and sometimes a hockey rink. Our bouting facility is phenomenal! We bout at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which allows us to seat thousands and gives us the ability to host our annual Spring Roll Tournament.
Your league has an amazing home following, with crowds of 2,000 regularly attending your bouts. Wow! What has your league done to cultivate and maintain such a large fan base? What advice would you give to leagues hoping to increase their fan attendance and support?
The major factor of our fan base is that FWDG is Indiana’s first women's flat track team, so we’ve been around the longest in the state. In addition, we are really lucky to play at one of the best event venues in the Midwest area, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Sponsorships are also a great asset to our league, and in 2012 we sealed deals with various radio stations, news stations, our public bus system, a local signs company, and our public access TV channel to provide FREE advertising and coverage to our league. We also reach out to our fans and try to get them involved and feel appreciated as much as possible
The best advice we can give to other leagues is to engage your fans as much as possible and reach out to local businesses for support. Roller derby is an exciting “new” sport, so media and fans will eat up what you have to offer them!
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
All three teams practice together three times a week. We practice for two hours on two of those days and for three hours on the other day. Sometimes the three-hour practice is divided between chartered team and non-chartered team skaters. We like having all levels practice together because we believe we can all learn and build with the help of every teammate, no matter the skill level. Ideally, we want all of our girls in the same mental and physical condition as anyone on our A-team.
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
There are so many people in our league that we would be lost without! We have a great board of directors that oversees the entire league and makes sure we’re always on the right path. We also have some incredible people that head all of our committees and spend countless hours making sure the league is running successfully.
A few people that really deserve recognition are our former president, Last Call, and our tech guru, Porch Moon. Last Call has been an integral part of this league from our early days all the way into her retirement. Even though she is now “retired” (or so she likes to say!) she is our tournament liaison for the upcoming 2013 Division 1 Playoffs in Fort Wayne. We’re also very lucky to have Porch Moon, who has become very well known in the derby community due to his work with Derby News Network and putting boutcasting on the map in the Midwest! He is also all about intros and makes FWDG skaters look awesome!
Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
Believing in teamwork as much as we do, it’s always hard to pick out the stars because we all work off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses! Here are some of our charter skaters and things that make them awesome:
Congratulations on being selected as the host league for this season’s first D1 Playoff tournament (September 6th to 8th)! What made your league want to host a WFTDA playoff tournament?
We love hosting tournaments! The next exciting step for us was a clear decision: we HAVE to host playoffs! Our league works very hard to always make any event we host upbeat and enthralling for everyone in attendance, so we had confidence that we could do the same if we were to host playoffs!
The Fort Wayne Derby Girls have a wealth of experience hosting tournaments. You have hosted teams from across the U.S. and Canada since 2007 at the annual Spring Roll tournament (formerly the Fall Brawl). How has your extensive tournament hosting experience contributed to your preparation to host this year’s D1 Playoff tournament? What are some of the similarities and differences between hosting Spring Roll and a WFTDA tournament?
We certainly have an idea of what to expect when hosting a tournament. In May, we hosted Spring Roll 2013 and were hostesses to 10 women’s team, 10 men’s team, four junior teams, and the Midwest Mega Team for a total of 34 games on two tracks in three days. When we do tournaments, we do them BIG! We also collect feedback through surveys from volunteers, skaters, coaches, and spectators to continue to improve our event and provide the best time possible for everyone in attendance.
The biggest difference is that we will have the WFTDA’s guidance and assistance, which is a blessing! There are also a lot of jobs to fill at playoffs, so we have been reaching out to surrounding leagues to fill in some positions. All in all, we are extremely stoked!
What are some of the exciting things you have planned for skaters and fans attending the D1 Playoff tournament in Fort Wayne? What are the must see and do sights and activities in your fair city?
We plan on having a sectioned area where any derby advocate, whether fan or skater, can relax and decompress at our 3 Rivers mobile lounge, play corn-hole, unwind on bean bags, along with other fun activities. We are also going to have an amazing henna and face painter for our younger fans. On Saturday night we will be hitting up downtown on the Landing. Located at the heart of Fort Wayne’s downtown business and government sector, The Landing Historic District represents one of the few remaining clusters of 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings, and still retains much of its integrity. There is a variety of entertainment for visitors to choose from. The Landing includes everything from the city’s best retro dance club and a brand new BBQ and Bourbon joint that offers over 57 types of bourbon, to underground New Orleans-style cuisine at the Bourbon Street Hideaway restaurant.
Some of the must-see sights and dos include our award winning Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, the River Greenway (a beautiful 24 mile bike trail through Fort Wayne’s pristine parks), TinCaps baseball games at Parkview Field, and Mad Anthony’s Brewery’s Oktobeerfest on September 7th. For more must sees and local to dos, check out www.VisitFortWayne.com.
How does your league give back to the community?
FWDG is always looking for ways to support our community that always supports us! We invite charities to apply to be benefactors and invite one charity per bout to benefit from our 50/50 raffle; 50 percent of the money goes to the raffle winner and 50 percent goes to the charity! Since 2005 we have raised more than $100,000 for local women’s and children’s charities. In addition to donations, we constantly try to show our support at local charity events. We have participated in everything from car shows that benefit Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, to our city’s Pride March/Festival to show our love for the LGBT community.
We understand that your league does an amazing job of fundraising and contributing to local charities. Your league has donated over $100,000 dollars to charity! How impressive! What types of fundraisers do you organize? And how do you choose the charities you support in your community?
We believe firmly in supporting the community that never ceases to support us! When a season ends, we put a call out for local women’s and children’s charities to apply to benefit from our following season. After our charity committee receives the candidates, our league votes on all of the applicants and choose as many charities as we have home bouts. At each bout we hold a 50/50 raffle, with half of the cash going to the winner and the other half going to the charity. If we don’t think we raised enough we kick in money straight from the league’s pocket. We always try to raise at least $400 for each charity, and have raised as much as $1,000 at one bout!
Please tell us about your involvement with Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana and their annual “Bust A Move” fundraiser?
Bust A Move (BAM) is our pride and joy of fundraising! We partnered with Cancer Services in 2007 to begin hosting an annual elegant evening and auction to benefit women with breast cancer in our community. For BAM, local artists, breast cancer survivors, and Fort Wayne derby girls volunteer their talents and their bodies to create unique, inspiring cast representations of the female bust and the emotions associated with breast cancer. Local artists modify the casts, using various artistic mediums, to create outstanding works of art. The art pieces are then auctioned at the event with all proceeds benefiting Cancer Services.
Do you have any big fundraisers coming up?
We will be hosting our annual Bust A Move in October.
Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
Pabst Blue Ribbon has been with us from the very beginning and we are always so excited to partner with them.
SportONE Ortho Northeast has also been exceptionally great! Not only do they sponsor us, but ONE keeps our beloved Jungle McLuvin’ employed and they have awesome doctors that fix up our badly injured skaters!
We would also like to thank local radio stations, Spiece fitness for helping keep our skaters in great shape, and DoubleD photography for making our skaters look so awesome. A full list of our sponsors can be found here.
Do you have a special message for your fans?
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! We would be absolutely nowhere without the incredible support of our fans. We genuinely love every single fan from the bottom of our wheels to the tops of our helmets.
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Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.