April 2015 Featured League: Kansas City Roller Warriors

April 2, 2015


With over a decade of experience under their wheels, the Kansas City Roller Warriors know what it takes to keep a roller derby league running. From intense tournament play, working with their junior derby league, and launching a new "underground game" structure to entice fans, the Roller Warriors' ability to innovate and keep their community engaged has been pivotal to their success as a league. Learn more about our featured league and what this decade of roller derby has meant to them.

Where are you located?
We are Kansas City’s original women’s flat track roller derby league. Fun fact: The Kansas City metropolitan area consists of cities in both Missouri and Kansas, but we’re actually based out of Missouri. In other words, we’re not “Kansas.”

How does your season run?
Our season generally kicks off in February and ends after the WFTDA tournament season ends in the fall.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
The closest WFTDA leagues are No Coast in Lincoln, Nebraska; Omaha Rollergirls in Omaha, Nebraska; Arch Rival Roller Girls in St. Louis, Missouri. There are also smaller leagues close by, including ICT Roller Girls in Wichita, Kansas; Mo-Kan Roller Girlz in Joplin, Missouri; Springfield Roller Girls in Springfield, Missouri; and CoMo Derby Dames in Colombia, Missouri.

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have four home teams, two travel teams, four juniors teams, and a wRecK league program. We currently have around 200 skaters, staff, and volunteers.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
Our four home teams are the Dreadnought Dorothys, the Victory Vixens, the Black Eye Susans, and the Knockouts. New and transferring skaters are drafted to our home teams, which compete against each other at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Missouri to work toward our home championship game, Rink of Fire. We also have our travel teams: the KCRW All Stars, a WFTDA internationally ranked team, and Plan B, which competes regionally. Skaters try out for the travel team; 32 are chosen to represent the KCRW travel team and the top 20 skaters are placed on the WFTDA charter. Our four juniors teams are split into intermediate teams, Starry Fright and Rolling Thunder, and advanced teams, Sonic Boom and Twisted Sisters. We also have a wRecK program, which provides training for new skaters and provides alumni and other leagues an opportunity to come skate and work on skills and drills. And we have a partnership with the Kansas City’s men’s league, the Cowtown Butchers, who now practice with our travel team. Our Board of Directors consists of 5 elected members who manage, plan, and make business decisions on behalf of our league. Each oversees the committees needed to run KCRW: business, bout production, finance, human resources, and marketing. Like other leagues, our skaters head up the committees that see to the day-to-day activities, which includes practice planning, marketing, WFTDA insurance, advisory council, ticket sales, and so much more. We also are incredibly grateful for a dedicated team of refs and NSOs who represent KCRW at home, on the road, at events, and even on WFTDA Valentine’s Day cards.

Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you've played them?
We don’t have huge rivals, though the teams that used to be in the South Central region are probably the closest thing to a “rival.” Our most memorable moment comes from the early days of roller derby. In February of 2006, KCRW sent an All-Star Travel team to play in the first National Flat-Track Roller Derby Championships in Tucson, Arizona. KCRW placed 6th in the nation out of twenty participating leagues. In a 10-minute bout on the first day of the tournament, the Roller Warriors faced off against the source of their original inspiration, the mothers of all-female flat track derby — the Texas Rollergirls. KCRW lost. By one point. Since then, KCRW has only beat Texas once: in the 2010 South Central Region Playoffs.

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We’d like to give love to the teams we just played at Clover Cup: the Dallas Derby Devils, Northwest Arkansas Roller Derby, Oklahoma Victory Dolls, and Houston Roller Derby. The Dallas Derby Devils are going to be the ones to watch this season! And we’d like to give a shout out to Fountain City Roller Derby, which is a MADE league here in Kansas City. They give us tremendous support and offer us added talent each year.

What are the individual challenges of your city?
Kansas City is a vibrant, creative city that is known for its jazz, blues, and barbecue. Our people also have deep pride for all of our sports. We’re home to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, the MLB’s Kansas City Royals, as well as a number of minor league and club sports. Because of the loyal fans to major sporting events, we have to carefully plan our events so conflicts don’t steal away our audience. We frequently attend First Fridays, volunteer at city-wide events, advertise in our events magazine (The Pitch), and try to find new ways to appeal to fans of full contact sports. Still, we’ve found that there’s an untapped market that still doesn’t know roller derby exists in Kansas City. The more we hear this, the more we look for opportunities to promote the Roller Warriors — and hunt for skaters and volunteers — and cross promote with other teams and events that are happening throughout the city.

What are your biggest training challenges? Our biggest training challenge is probably location. For us to remain competitive, we have to travel pretty far away. We’re also a fairly small city, so finding and retaining skaters can be a huge challenge. We’re fortunate to have a core group of skaters and volunteers who keep us going. And our fabulous coaches, Short Bus, Annie Maul, Bella Fire, and A Clockwork Ref, motivate us to work hard and keep our nose to the grind so that we stay competitive and have the best skills possible.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We host bouts at Municipal Auditorium, a historic venue located in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. We practice at Winnwood Skate Center in North Kansas City, which has a 15,000 square foot rotunda wood floor that is to die for. It’s been home to the Kansas City Roller Warriors for nearly 10 years.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have opportunities for skaters to practice nearly every day during the week. Home team practices are held for 2 hours on Sundays. We have league skills and drills practice for 2 hours on Tuesday nights and home teams scrimmage for 2 hours on Wednesdays. During home team season, travel teams practice for 90 minutes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Juniors have practices for 2 hours on Mondays. wRecK League has additional practices on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
Like any other league, we have several members who are critical to making our league function smoothly. Raia Sunshine! has been a huge asset to us this season as she oversees bout production, serves as interleague liaison, and just brings overall fun and happiness to us at all times. We know when we need to get something done, Raia will be on it. Anya Neezenbeg tirelessly works with our juniors and heads up our charity committee. Our juniors adore her and look up to her on so many levels, which had helped lead to a stronger program. And on the charity end of things, she’s helped get us into a number of opportunities that have helped us spread the word about KCRW while also giving back to the community. On a level of planning and organization, both Baby Buster and Mayhem Myers have been amazing assets to our league. To use the words of Mayhem Myers, they do “all the things” seamlessly behind the scenes and they don’t get nearly enough credit for all that they do. And we have to give a huge thanks to our head NSO, Doc Skinner. He tirelessly works with our league, hosts training sessions for officials from across the region, and travels all over the country for WFTDA because of his love for roller derby. We don’t know where we’d be without him — and all of our other refs and officials.

Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
Bruz-Her is our most veteran skater. She’s been with KCRW for nearly 10 years, and the knowledge and skills she has to offer is invaluable to the league and all of our skaters. Enigma is another skater who brings depth of knowledge and incredible ability to our league. She’s, without a doubt, becoming a household name among the derby community. Noogies may be the nicest, most shy skater you’ll meet off of the track, but on the floor, she’s a force to be reckoned with. And this year, we’re thrilled that we have Track Rat and Case Closed back in our family. Both of them have been members of KCRW’s strongest teams and their skills have helped us tremendously as we fight our way back up into Division 1.

April 2015 Featured League: Kansas City Roller Warriors

Photo by Randy Pace

Tell us about your new "underground bouts" that you have been hosting this year! Where did the idea originate and how have the bouts been received by fans?
Our underground bouts were an idea that our Board of Directors developed as a way to give our fans more opportunities to watch their favorite home teams and skaters compete. The idea was conceived after we had some scheduling conflicts and we realized that we’d have two months where fans wouldn’t get the opportunity to see the Roller Warriors play at home. These Wednesday night bouts count toward our Rink of Fire Championship rankings, so the bouts are exciting and highly competitive. While it’s still starting to catch on, our most loyal fans are still there for every underground bout. We have to give big shoutouts to our favorite fans — Turn Three Fanclub — who always show up with the most amazing posters and big cheers, even though it’s hump day.

Share with us the success of your junior roller derby team and how your league has worked to support and develop junior derby in Kansas City.
We are so proud of the success we’ve had with our juniors. With the four teams, we’ve seen tremendous growth from skaters as they mature and develop before our eyes, and we’re also proud of the confidence we’re helping instill in them. We’re constantly encouraging our skaters to attend events and support the junior teams as much as possible since they look up to us as role models. But we also look to our juniors as the future of our league. We’re thrilled when our juniors graduate out of the program and are able to join the adult league. We proudly have two former juniors skating on our home teams this season. We welcome them all with open arms.

Founded in 2004, the Kansas City Roller Warriors have seen a LOT over the past decade of derby: what have been some of the biggest challenges that your league has faced during those years?
The Roller Warriors have shared in a number of struggles that any league can understand. We grew quickly and were a highly competitive league that claimed wins early in our legacy. But like other leagues, we’ve struggled with very derby-specific situations. How do we remain competitive with turnover? How do we shift the approach to our sport as roller derby forges new paths of its own? What happens when everybody is burnt out? How can we bring in new skaters and volunteers who will carry KCRW until the next decade? These are concerns we continue to have and that we’re working to find solutions for so we can be stable as well as be an inspiration to other leagues out there. And the past two years have been particularly hard — especially after we had invested money into a practice space, Warrior Alley, which we ultimately lost in an electrical fire. It killed morale for a long time as we looked into ways to recoup our loss. We held our ground, though, and this year, we’re coming back stronger. We like to shout, “Family” in our travel team practices, because we really do believe that we’re better when we work together as one family.

As a founding league of WFTDA, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the sport? Where do you see derby going in the next decade of WFTDA?
Remember when roller derby had literal cages as penalty boxes? Yeah, so do we. We lived through that, through poodling, and slow derby. We were there when the pivot line was a main strategy, before teams braced walls, and when tall socks and tutus were the norm. It’s obvious that the next decade of roller derby is going to grow competitively by leaps and bounds, since we’ve already seen it come so far. With so many junior skaters being integrated into the sport so early, it’s easy to see that the experience level of skaters joining leagues is going to play a tremendous role in its evolution. We look forward to being a part of it.

Do you have any big bouts coming up that you're really looking forward to? Why?
We’re actually still looking for bouts for our season. So please, contact us! We're hungry for sanctioned play. For now, the entire travel team is heading to Chicago in April to play the Outfit, which is always fun for team bonding. And we’re off to Spring Roll in May for more tournament action.

April 2015 Featured League: Kansas City Roller Warriors

Photo by Randy Pace

How does your league give back to the community?
Part of our mission statement states that we believe in being active contributors to our community. We’re proud to call Kansas City home, so we love giving back to charities like the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, the Special Olympics, Bikers for Babies, Hope House, and the Girl Scouts, just to name a few. We’ve also formed partnerships with the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and have hosted events for members. We’re not sure if it’s more fun for them or us.

Do you have any big fundraisers coming up?
We have smaller fundraisers throughout the year. The travel team just hosted a BINGO night that was a big success. We’ll also likely have a silent auction later this year.

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We wouldn’t be here without some of our sponsors/advertisers. We’ve had a longtime partnership with businesses like Boulevard Beer, emfluence digital marketing, White Dog Painting, and All Around Construction. This year, we’re thrilled to have new sponsors who are bringing new excitement to our league. Hair Lovin’ prettied us up for our team photo shoots this year. Urgent Care Chiropractic is keeping our backs in check. And we have a new photographer we absolutely adore: Kelsey Kimberlin Photography.

Do you have a special message for your fans?
It’s been 11 amazing years. Absolutely unbelievable. Thanks for all of the love you’ve sent to us — from our hometown to across the world. Where would we be without you?

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.