August 2012 Featured League: River City Rollergirls

August 2, 2012

The River City Rollers were established in 2006, and have been working hard in 2012 to climb in the rankings with their travel team, Poe’s Punishers. The River City Rollers strive to reflect the multifaceted community they represent, mixing rowdy derby fun with a historic flair and donating their proceeds to charity all the while. They are especially proud of their biggest annual fundraiser, “Season’s Beatings” a fun, holiday-themed bout extravaganza that has become one of the most anticipated events of the holiday season. Read more about the River City Rollers!

River City Rollergirls with Billy Campbell
Photo by MBS Photography

Location: Richmond, Virginia

How does your season run?
Our regular home season starts at the end of February and runs until July. We have two additional home events: our annual Halloween bout “Nightmare on 3rd St.” and “Seasons Beatings” mixed scrimmage extravaganza. Additionally, we tend to travel in the fall.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Charm City Roller Girls, Rocktown Rollers, DC Rollergirls, New River Valley Rollergirls, Carolina Rollergirls, Dominion Derby Girls, and the Charlottesville Derby Dames of the WFTDA Apprentice Program.

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Dominion Derby Girls, Charm City Roller Girls, and DC Rollergirls have helped us in more ways than we can count over the years, and our lil’ sisters Rocktown Rollers are an up and coming WFTDA league.

What are the individual challenges of your city?
We have a lot of competing sports in our city. Our bouting venue is across the street from the Richmond Coliseum, the home of the Richmond Raiders – an indoor minor league football team with a season parallel to ours. Baseball, soccer, and hockey also draw in sports fans in the city. Plus, with a thriving festival scene, music and artistic events, there is a LOT to do in Richmond every weekend!

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have about 55 skaters and two travel teams: the All-Stars, the Poe’s Punishers, and our B-team, the Uncivil Warriors. We also just started home teams to accommodate our growth: the Carytown Cadets, Hull Street Horrors, and Hollywood Undertakers, named to represent notable areas and landmarks of historic Richmond, Virginia.

What is the story behind the name of your travel team, the “Poe’s Punishers”?
The Poe’s Punishers name came about at the end of 2008 and start of the 2009 season. We decided that we wanted our All-Star team to have a name that had historical roots in Richmond. Even though famous macabre author Edgar Allan Poe is often associated with Baltimore, Maryland, he grew up in Richmond and the Poe Museum is in the heart of our city. We decided by majority league vote on the name Poe’s Punishers for our All-Star team.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We are a 501c3 non-profit organization with a Board of Directors, Executive Board, Training Committee, and also three home teams and two travel teams.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We train at Rollerdome Skating Rink in Richmond, Virginia and we host scrimmages and home team bouts there. Our main bouting venue is the Greater Richmond Convention Center located in the heart of downtown Richmond, Virginia.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among the league teams?
We practice as a league twice a week. Each travel team has one travel team practice a week and the Punishers have an additional practice during the week, for a total of four per week for the All-Stars. The home teams rotate and have one practice a week. Fresh meat recruits practice twice a week. We also frequently attend open skate sessions at Rollerdome, for extra endurance and footwork practice. Skaters from other leagues visiting Richmond, Virginia are encouraged to contact Training Coordinator, Raven Darkhold ( and skate with us!

What are your biggest training challenges?
The biggest training challenge we used to face was time needed to practice. At our previous practice venue, we didn’t have enough of it. Now that we have switched practice venues that is resolved. Currently our biggest training challenge is structuring league practices so that they are balanced for everyone and challenge everyone in attendance. We encourage members of the Punishers to pair up with non Punisher league members as an encouragement buddy during practice. If you have someone next to you saying you can do it, it makes you want to push and prove them right.

It sounds like 2010 was a rebuilding year for your team after many of your veteran skaters retired. How did this affect the league? What steps have you taken with respect to recruitment since then? Please talk a bit about your experiences with rebuilding and where your league is now.
Yes, in 2010 we had about seven of our veteran skaters retire from our league. It was rocky as we rebuilt during the first part of the year. However, the new talent that came into the league at that time used the open spots on the Punishers as motivation, changed the way we held tryouts, and increased the competitiveness on the team. The amount and variety of talent that came into the league during that time was amazing. We now run boot camps before we open up our fresh meat training program, to ensure skaters entering the league start the program with basic skills. The fresh meat program that follows allows them to be more fully prepared to immediately join a team upon completion, with the necessary footwork, strategy knowledge, and gameplay skills.

Your WFTDA charter team, the Poe's Punishers, really made a splash at this year's East Coast Derby Extravaganza when Julia Bondage set a new record for points scored in a jam with 45! Wow! What strategy did the team use in that bout that helped rack up the points? (The final score was 328 for River City and 132 for Central New York Roller Derby.)
Indeed we came into ECDX ready to play and the results were even better than we expected. We have been working on speed control and staying together. Teamwork is the name of the River City game. Without teamwork the jammers do not have the confidence and support necessary to score. The Central NY game was a culmination of all our practice from the year and teamwork coming together at just the right time. This allowed for not only a final score of 328 to 132, but it enabled Julia Bondage to skate such a record-breaking jam. No specifics, though, as we are ninjas and we can’t divulge any secrets.

Has River City participated in many tournaments like ECDX? How does your league prepare for a multi-day event?
This is actually only our second major tournament! Our first was ECDX was in 2011. When it comes to preparing for multi-day events and multiple events in one day like this year, it comes down to conditioning and cross training. We increased the endurance portions of practice and worked out together outside of practice. Several members of our Punishers team run regularly and competitively, and others weight lift and engage in various other cardio activities. We often play multiple games in one weekend, as we are fortunate to have sister leagues in the area. Teams traveling to Virginia can get the most out of their weekend by playing a team on Saturday and a neighboring league on Sunday. We are hoping to host a WFTDA tournament in 2013; be on the lookout for news about our future involvement.

It looks like River City exclusively organizes double-headers for your home games. How long has your league been hosting double-headers? What are the benefits and challenges of double-headers for your league?
Because we have two main teams, at different skill levels, double-header bouts give both of our teams the opportunity to bout and we maintain relationships with teams ranked in the East Region of the WFTDA as well as local leagues. Virginia is a thriving derby state, and the Uncivil Warriors have no shortage of quality teams to bout. The benefits are that we provide a great value to our fans, admission ranges from six to twelve dollars, including both bouts! Skaters on both of our travel teams are extremely popular in the community and beloved by fans. Even though our Poe’s Punishers represent our league in sanctioned competition, it is important to us to give both teams equal exposure at home. It is challenging to staff both bouts in a double-header with volunteers, referees, and NSOs, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

Who are the “behind the scenes” skaters who make your league run?
Each skater and non-skating volunteer helps in a variety of ways, embodying the DIY nature of derby. President Pinky Tuscadero, Vice President Lucifer Ball, Treasurer Jo Jo Scarbuck, Training Coordinator Raven Darkhold, Events Chair KGBeast, Secretary Veronica Quake, Bout Productions Thistle Hurt, Interleague Coordinator and Marketing Chair Paris Kills, Fundraising Chair Julia Bondage, Merchandise Chair Honky Tonk Hellcat, Sponsorship Chair Quad Droon, EMT Facilitator Red White and Bruise-her, and the team captains are just some of the many skaters who help and provide the league with what it needs to run smoothly. As on the track, running the league is a total team effort. We hope we didn’t leave anyone out!

Who are some of your star on-track skaters and why?
Julia Bondage is a record-setter for a reason; she works harder on and off the track than most athletes. And this is only her first full year on the Punishers! She only gets better each time she plays – as a jammer and a blocker – expect more great things from Julia as her career continues. Raven Darkhold is a multi-positional threat. She is a powerhouse jammer as well as an intimidating and agile blocker. Forty Ounce Bounce joined the team in 2010 and has just proven to be a reliable, powerful player ever since. No one moves, jukes, and bounces quite like her. AABWS has blossomed into not only a powerful and surprisingly agile blocker but a strategically devious pivot and team leader. Paris Kills shows great skill as both a jammer and blocker. Her flexibility and speed allow her to both evade blockers and hunt jammers; despite her size, she packs a punch. Venus Vegas, Pinky Tuscadero, and Traumagotchi also provide consistent contributions. But, it cannot be said enough: all Poe’s Punishers victories are achieved through teamwork and coordinated strategic efforts from every player.

We hear you are very proud of the ethnic diversity of your team. What do you do to encourage participation by skaters from all backgrounds? Is the league's ethnic diversity a reflection of your hometown?
When we do awareness events and when we develop our marketing materials, we make sure to showcase the fact that the sport is for all races and body types. Anyone can do it, any size or ethnic group. Roller derby has often been perceived as an underground, punk rock, counterculture sport. We make sure to have a good cross-section of our league out promoting in the community and on our marketing materials. Richmonders see that derby is not just a sport for tattooed, pink-haired girls in fishnets, but black, white, Asian, professionals, mothers, and everything in between. We celebrate our diversity and actively recruit all interested parties, regardless of background. Richmond is not the most diverse city in the nation, but our fans certainly represent all walks of life.

You donate a portion of bout ticket proceeds to Feed More Central Virginia. How did your league develop a relationship with this particular organization? Are there other aspects of River City's community service commitment?
Each year we select a charity to donate a portion of bout profits to and to serve in other active ways. In years past, we have worked with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and animal rights groups, causes near and dear to our hearts. This year, we strive to combat the epidemic of hunger by partnering with Feed More, by volunteering our time, collecting canned foods at bouts and other events, and promoting their cause in the community. We also support a former skater’s battle with a brain aneurism, “Kill the Vein, Save the Brain”. We often volunteer at community events and participate in fundraisers for other Richmond non-profit organizations.

Please tell us about your annual “Season's Beatings” Christmas fundraiser, now entering its 7th year? What is this fundraiser and why is it so successful?
Season's Beatings is an extremely special event, and if you live anywhere near Richmond, Virginia, we hope to see you there on December 8th. Skaters pay a minimal fee to participate and fans from all over come to watch some of their favorite skaters. The teams follow holiday and other themes, like the Sleigh Belles vs. Santa’s Helpers or Superheroes vs. Villains. Skaters come from all over the east coast to mix in and play with others of a variety of skill levels. We also feature a wide variety of vendors (derby-related and otherwise), so it is a great place to do some holiday shopping. Season’s Beatings is a fundraiser for our league and charity, and one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Check out the Season's Beatings website for more information.

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We are fortunate to have the support of many Richmond-area businesses. Baker’s Dozen, purveyor of fine baked goods; World of Mirth, whimsical retailer in Carytown; BioRide, quality transportation; Roller Derby Virginia Beach; Two Turn Skate Shop; and more!

The East region – and all of WFTDA roller derby – has been so exciting this season! Who are the River City Rollergirls most excited to see play at the East Region Playoffs? Do you have any predictions for this year's Playoffs and Championships?
It is impossible to make accurate predictions, as derby is the kind of sport where any team can win on any given day. In the East, we are certain to see success from Charm City Roller Girls, Philly Roller Girls, Gotham Girls Roller Derby (of course), and Carolina Rollergirls. Our west coast sisters in purple, Rose City Rollers, are always exciting to watch, and Texas Rollergirls, Minnesota RollerGirls, and Windy City Rollers are teams we watch and study. With the advent of and the upcoming tournaments, any league can improve by watching the techniques and strategies of their more accomplished peers.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
Of course, most importantly, THANK YOU! Everything we do is to improve our game and your experience at events. Our next home bout isn’t until October 20th, but expect to see us around town, invading your favorite places, hosting a variety of fun contests and announcing our newest item for the Dedicated RCR fan, VIP Season Tickets to the 2013 season!

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.