June 2012 Featured League: Tallahassee RollerGirls

June 7, 2012

Faced with a transient population and limited practice time, these skaters have managed to build a very competitive and community-focused team. This year, they have fought their way into the South Central Region’s top ten, and their season isn’t over yet! In addition to working with numerous local charitable organizations, some of their members founded a charity that advocates for cervical cancer awareness in remembrance of a fellow skater. Read on to learn more about the impressive, “never say die” Tallahassee RollerGirls.

Photo by Ray Rodil

Tallahassee, Florida

How does your season run?
Our season usually runs from February to November every year for both of our travel teams. However, we have been known to skate all year round for a good match-up.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
The Jacksonville RollerGirls are definitely the closest full WFTDA member league being 2.5 hours away. The Gainesville Roller Rebels are a recent WFTDA apprentice league and they are also just over 2 hours away. We also have the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins and Atlanta Rollergirls, each a mere five-hour road trip away from us. Florida used to be a desert as far as WFTDA leagues were concerned, but we are really lucky now to have so many great leagues down here joining the organization.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have two teams that play under the Tallahassee RollerGirls. The first is our All-Star team, Capital Punishment, and the other is our B-Team, the Jailbreak Betties. Our league is completely owned and operated by the girls who skate, with no other management involved.

Who is Tallahassee RollerGirls' biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
Our biggest rival would have to be the Jacksonville RollerGirls. Our leagues started around the same time and we have pretty consistently played each other at least twice a year since 2007. The first few years, TRG won every game with one of the most memorable being our first really big win over a team (we won 145-12). Then, for the first time in 2010, they beat us. It was pretty heartbreaking because it was the end of our winning streak, but was exciting because it marked a turning point. From then on the games have been really intense, fast, and hard hitting with an unpredictable and usually close final score. You know…fun, exciting derby! 2012 is the first year that we are not scheduled to play them because we really wanted to reach out and play some different teams; however, we are really excited to cheer them on this year as they have been kicking some serious butt in the South Central region. Plus, something tells me that even though we aren’t scheduled to play them, we will eventually meet up at least once on the track this year.

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Tampa Bay Roller Derby is and will always be our big sister league. They have helped us so much over the past seven years and we really wouldn’t be who we are today if it weren’t for them.

Aside from that special shout out, Florida is an awesome place for derby. We are fairly green in the derby world and are an up and coming state in the WFTDA. Since we are so far away from so many other leagues, really all of the teams in Florida are our sister leagues. We have a great derby community and really do whatever we can to help each other out as much as possible. FLRD WHAT WHAT!!

What are the individual challenges of your city?
The shorter list might be, what aren’t the challenges of our city?! Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, but is a small southern college town. Recruitment and retention of skaters, refs, and fans has always been hard because the population here is so transient. Between the colleges and the government there are literally thousands of people coming and going every year. Not to mention we have to compete with both Florida State University (Go Noles!) and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Go Rattlers!). In Tallahassee if it isn’t garnet & gold or orange & green it usually doesn’t last.

Bout spaces and locations are also another thing that has always troubled us. We hold most of our games in either a very small warehouse at the fairgrounds or at our practice rink. We have definitely outgrown the fairgrounds for years, but don’t have much of a choice to move because the one civic center in town is way out of our price range. We are always on the lookout for warehouse space but most unfortunately are also way out of our price range.

Members of the All-Star Team, Capital Punishment pose with their announcer, Showtime, after a bout
Photo by Ray Rodil

You have a "Superfan" section on your league website that offers free wallpapers and is also the place to find information about giveaways and fan contests. What kind of contests have you held for your fans? Is there anything we should keep an eye out for in the near future?
First off we want to give a big shout out and high five to our amazing Superfans, many of which have been with us since the beginning! With so many amazing fans, we decided two seasons ago to offer a special Superfan package that included extra TRG goodies that change every year. For example this year, on top of a season ticket and early entrance into our bouts, they received a bedazzled personalized foam finger, personalized items handmade by our skaters, a signed season poster and 2012 calendar, and a thank you card signed by the team. Also, throughout the season, we like to treat our Superfans with small giveaways such as baked goods (we have some amazing bakers on the team!), free chance drawing tickets, and more.

As far as fan contests go we have had many different ones over the years. Our favorites have been the Fan Costume Contest, Best Fan Poster Contest, and the “What’s our color of the day” contest which we held on Facebook. We actually are planning something special for our fans toward the end of the season, but we want to keep it a surprise!

What are your biggest training challenges?
We are only able to practice twice a week at our current practice venue, which is not a lot if you want to stay competitive. Since we know many leagues out there practice four or five times a week, we really have to push ourselves and make our practice time count. To help make up the difference, almost all of our players do some sort of off-skates training.

Also, unfortunately we just found out that our current practice venue is not renewing our contract after this year. So not only are we losing our practice space, but also our only sanctionable bouting space. With very limited bouting venues in town, this is not the most ideal situation. However, our league has kicked it into overdrive and is in the process of trying to find a place we can call home at the end of this year. This can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but we are excited about the challenge because it is finally giving us the push we needed to get out and find a place to call our own. Not to mention, it is going to add another notch on the belt of things TRG has survived!

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
When we first formed in 2006 there was only one skating rink in town, and they unfortunately had a full schedule, so we were driving over the border into Georgia twice a week to practice at an old hockey rink. In 2009 the rink unexpectedly decided to close their doors, and we were almost left without any practice space at all. Luckily there was an older rink in town that someone had recently opened so we were lucky enough to move our practices in town where we currently are.

Our All-Star team, Capital Punishment, holds all their WFTDA-sanctioned bouts at our practice venue. We actually used to play all of our games in a warehouse at our local fairgrounds, but it does not meet the track requirements for sanctioned games since the walls are basically a foot away from the track on the straightaways. We do still hold our Jailbreak Betties’ bouts there since space is difficult to come by in Tallahassee and the fairground staff has been wonderful to us from the start. We do have a little bit of fun with the space, dubbing the straightaways the “Walls of Pain.” But don’t let the name fool you; the walls are actually not bad at all. In fact most girls love them because they keep you from falling down and give you something to catch yourself on when you go out of bounds. We do implement a no douche bag rule when we play there, and we haven’t had any injuries due to the walls in the six seasons we’ve played there.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among the league teams?
We practice twice a week every week. Our weekend practice is divided up into three parts. The first is our “Fundamentals Practice,” which lasts for two hours and is set up mainly for new girls who are coming to try out. We do, however, encourage all our league members to attend this practice since it’s a great time to work on basic skills that we may not get a chance to touch on during practice. Then the next two hours are general league practice for all qualified skaters, and the last hour is set aside for the WFTDA Charter only. Our weekday practice is a three-hour general league practice.

Spread the Love Charity was formed in memory of TRG skater Danger S. who passed away just before her 36th birthday on February 5th, 2010. We are so sorry for your loss. Please tell us more about this charity, and how Danger S inspired her teammates and derby wife to found it.
It was definitely pretty devastating for all of us to lose a dear friend and teammate to Stage 4 cervical cancer. Although Danger S. had been with the team for only a year, she made such a huge impact on all of us and is still very sorely missed. To honor what a special woman she was, Spread the Love was formed by her derby wife Nikki Nailer and many members of the Tallahassee RollerGirls to help build awareness about the risk and prevention of cervical cancer. We wanted to do this as a way to continue sharing our love and admiration for an amazing woman who was taken too soon by something that could have been prevented. We knew that if by sharing Stephanie’s – aka Danger S.’s – story, we could save one women (for example, by doing something as simple as getting an annual pap smear), we would be honoring her memory and doing what she would have wanted us to do. The team also wears patches that say “Danger S. Ones” on our uniforms as a reminder of our fallen teammate and friend. We also want to give a big thank you to all the other leagues that helped us during this and have kept her memory alive. To find out more about this charity please visit the website.

Tallahassee RollerGirls has continuous recruitment, and holds fundamentals practices every Sunday. How did you determine that this is the best way to recruit for your league? Do you hold any events through the season to help promote recruitment?
TRG has always been a very small league. We have never had more than 30 to 35 active skaters at one time, so continuous recruitment is necessary to keep our league running. We used to welcome new people to every practice, but over the past two years we modified it a little in order to properly train our Fresh Meat (or Sushi as we like to call them), and also ensure the proper training of our qualified skaters. Our sushi are welcome to come to fundamentals practice, which takes place on Sundays for two hours. They are required to attend a minimum of six of those practices before they are eligible for basic skill qualifications. Once they are qualified they become full-fledged skaters and are required to be at all league practices. So far this method seems to be working well for us.

We hold many recruitment events throughout the season. Since we talk derby all the time, pretty much every event we have has some sort of recruitment component happening. Besides giving out recruitment flyers and talking one-on-one, we’ve really made more effort in trying to integrate our newer skaters into the league by having a monthly “New Girl Meet & Greet,” which is a time for newer skaters to get to know our veteran skaters, and an awesome “Big Sister” program. With the “Big Sister” program, each new girl is given a big sister to help her with any questions or concerns she may have, but really act as a guide and mentor for her. For the older skaters, it’s really rewarding to see new skaters grow and for the newer skaters, it’s nice to know there is someone there to show you the ropes and to ask questions.

Tallahassee RollerGirls zebra crew having fun before a bout. Go Team Zebra!
Photo by Al Hall

Who are the "behind the scenes" skaters who make your league run?
We are really lucky to still have so many of our original skaters still on board making TRG run like a well oiled machine. Fat Ass Bitch and Professor McGonnakill have both held the wonderful title of President over the years and have really made TRG the class act it is. Although recently retired, The Terminatrix spent countless hours and dedication to help TRG become a member of WFTDA. Great Wall of Gina has been our media and communications guru for years and has really dedicated her time to making sure TRG is presented in the best way possible. Not to mention her website is the jam! Pixie Pounder, our last remaining founding member, has worn a million and one different hats in the league.

Stone Her has been fantastic at getting us new sponsorship and promoting the Tallahassee RollerGirls. Erin Breakabitch and Puertorrican Poison have each coached and led our league to what it is today. When we were left without a coach numerous times, both have stepped in and taken over.

Also, even though they aren’t skaters, it wouldn’t be right to not mention a few others. In particular our amazing announcer Showtime, King James, our photographers Al Hall and Ray Rodil, and DJ Ito. Last, but not least, our Ref and NSO staff have put in SO much work over the past seven years to make sure we are and always have been as knowledgeable as possible about the rules and learned to play the smartest and cleanest derby possible. If you can’t tell we are big fans of Team Zebra!

Who are some of your star on-track skaters and why?
In our eyes, all of our skaters are stars and have worked incredibly hard to get where we are today. We really wish we could recognize them all! Since TRG only has two skaters who come from a skating background, we really have had to learn roller derby from the wheels up.

Low maim gets low to deflect a block in a bout against the Big Easy Rollergirls
Photo by Ray Rodil

Catchup is definitely someone to watch out for on the track, pulling out some incredible moves as a jammer and blocker. However, low maim is the jammer that everyone knows. Her height gives her a huge advantage against most blockers because she is able to duck around pretty much anyone. She stays level headed the entire game and is just cool, calm, and collected. Not to mention she holds the current record for most points in a jam on Flat Track Stats (a whopping 43 against Northwest Arkansas Roller Derby.) On the blocking side, Titanium Whip is one of our hardest hitters. She actually smiles from ear to ear when she hears she just gets to hit, hit, hit. Vaginamite is also another one to look out for on the track. Although currently injured, she came out with a bang this year and we know she will be a threat once again when she is back on the track. Last but not least, LaVoodoo is one of our leaders on and off the track. With her big hits and cool demeanor she definitely leaves an impression.

Tallahassee Rollergirls are a member of the WFTDA’s South Central region. What do you think are the benefits and challenges of being in the South Central region?
We love being in the South Central and wouldn’t want to be in any other region. Southern hospitality holds true even in derby and our region really proves that. The SC has grown as a whole in the organization and we are all working really hard to prove ourselves competitively in the WFTDA. The one major challenge of our region is how large it is. It spreads from the East Coast all the way over to New Mexico and then up to Iowa. It has become a bit better as more teams have recently been accepted into WFTDA, but for many of us it usually takes at least a full day’s travel in order to play a game. Many of us have adopted the practice of hangover bouts and it isn’t unusual to see South Central teams play two or three games in one weekend.

Looking at your schedule, we see that you host a few of your bouts on Sundays starting at 1 p.m. This is unusual in the derby-verse, where most leagues host only Friday or Saturday evening events. What is TRG's reason for holding bouts on Sundays? How does your attendance compare to your Saturday bouts? Is this something you would recommend to other leagues?
Originally we didn’t plan to have any Sunday games, but had to change a couple of dates because of scheduling conflicts with our rink. We made the Sunday bouts a bit earlier in the afternoon so we could give the visiting teams plenty of time to get home that night. Attendance definitely isn’t as good as our Saturday games, but at the same time it has given us a chance to skate for a different crowd. Because our Sunday games are earlier in the day we have a lot more families showing up with smaller children, so it has been fun to skate for the kids recently.

One of your most recent fundraisers was a Disco Party held on May 8th at Midtown Filling Station. Is this a recurring fundraiser event or is it new? Please tell us how this fundraiser worked and, of course, who had the best Disco outfit.
This actually was a new fundraiser event for us and was a lot of fun. Midtown Filling Station, one of our great sponsors that have been with us since last season, asked us if we’d like to have a Disco Party to help us fundraise for the season. Organized by Bratknee Cole and Stone Her, we set up shop at the front door to take donations for the league. PBR, another one of our awesome sponsors this year, donated a couple cases of beer to the event. If you donated anything at all at the door you got a free PBR (who doesn’t like free beer?). Larger donations got you some TRG/PBR swag. Luckily for us, it wound up being a big hit. We also had themed shots named after some of our girls, and any proceeds from the shots went directly to us. This was the first one of these fundraisers we have ever done, but we are in talks to do it once a month now with a new theme every month.

Most of us looked absolutely ridiculous and had a great time with is, but I think there were several skaters that deserve some Disco outfit shout-outs. Wargasm took the cake with her glam shiny dress, while Fem Venomous and Sox Populi wore their skates and showed off their roller jamming skills out on the dance floor.

TRG has a commitment to charitable work and donations. Can you tell us about some of the charities that you’ve been able to help this year and how you’ve been able to contribute to them? How do you select charities to be involved with?
Sure! Our commitment to charitable work and donations has been something that we have always felt very strongly about since we started the league. With a community that has been so supportive of us, it only made sense that we also give back as much as we can. Basically since our first full season, each bout that we’ve had has had a charity tied to it and part of the bout’s proceeds goes to that particular charity. We’ve also put together a few derby charity bout fundraisers, item drives, volunteered at many events, and even held a summer roller derby camp day for the Oasis Summer Camp.

Some of the charities we’ve helped out so far this year include the Rotary Youth Camp, ECAH Animals Inc, Spread the Love, Children’s Home Society, Animal Shelter Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Tallahassee, Refuge House, and the Oasis Center for Women and Girls (of which we are a founding supportive partner). With such a diverse group of women, many of the charities that we decide to support are those that our group is directly involved with outside of derby and have suggested to us. We do have a committee in place though to help make the final decision about who we’d like to help that season.

TRG recently made a jump in Rankings: from 15th in the WFTDA South Central Region to 10th for the first quarter of 2012. Congratulations! So far this year your charter team, Capital Punishment, has a 6-1 win-loss record. How do you feel about your prospects of staying in the top 10, and earning your first trip to the WFTDA South Central Region Playoffs?
Thank you! We are so excited to be in the top 10 for the first time in our league’s history. We were all really shocked and excited when we got the news, and it has just made us push that much harder at practice. For the Q1 rankings we only had three games that we were ranked on: wins over Green Country Roller Girls, Northwest Arkansas Roller Derby, and Charlotte Roller Girls. Since then we have picked up three more big wins over Big Easy Rollergirls, Lowcountry Highrollers, and most recently the Oklahoma Victory Dolls. Looking at triangulations with teams we are competing with for those playoff invites, these next couple of games are going to make it or break it for us. We play Blue Ridge Rollergirls and Hard Knox Roller Girls this month, and we are hoping that if we make a good showing against those teams it will be enough to either keep us at #10 or move us up even more.

That being said, it is so difficult to predict whether we will be able to hang on to that spot because there is some tough competition in our region between the teams at #8 to #14. Everything depends not only how you do, but how other teams in your region are performing. We are working extra hard to get there, and we feel like if we keep up the work we have done the last few months we have a pretty good chance at making our first ever Big 5 appearance.

Frozen Tundra, Courtney Shove and captain Nikki Nailer form a strong three wall during a Jailbreak Betties bout against Panama City Roller Derby
Photo by Al Hall

TRG Capital Punishment’s only loss so far this year was a one-point bout (154-155) against the Columbia QuadSquad All-Stars, who are currently unranked in the WFTDA East Region. Can you tell us more about this obviously hard fought bout against this league who just earned their membership to the WFTDA this past March?
This was not only one of the most fun and exciting games we have ever played, but was also one of the best games we have played as a league. We were really excited to go in and play this game for two reasons. Columbia had beaten us the previous year when they came down to Tallahassee, so we were definitely looking for a win this time. Secondly, Columbia had just taken down the Carolina Rollergirls – who are currently #8 in the East region – in an unsanctioned game. We felt like if we could make a good showing at this game we had a real chance of moving up in our own rankings. The whole game was really intense and hard fought and the point spread was close the entire game. It came down to the last jam and unfortunately penalties put the nail in the coffin for us. The girls were great to play against and even better to party with. We have always prided ourselves on being one of the best after party teams out there, but Columbia definitely gives us a run for our money. We even had one of the most epic dance battles to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” that blew just about everyone’s mind at the after party. The next day we shook off the loss and traveled over to Charleston to play the Lowcountry Highrollers and skated away with a win. Columbia is a great league and they are really going to make a name for themselves not only in the East, but in the WFTDA as a whole. We wish them the best for the rest of the season and can’t wait to meet up again whether it is on or off the track.

What does TRG have in store for the remainder of the season (on the track and off)?
We still have quite a bit of season left to play. Capital Punishment still has seven scheduled games left this season including trips to Knoxville, New Orleans, and Ashville and a trip down to Tampa to participate in Franky Panky, and our Jailbreak Betties have three more scheduled games. On top of that, we have a whole bunch of fundraising to do in hopes that we do make it to playoffs (that charter bus isn’t going to pay for itself) and just constant promoting and recruiting. And of course…training for next season!

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
All of our sponsors are our favorite sponsors, but each is special in their own way. PBR is our newest sponsor this year, and we feel very lucky to have them join the family. Capital City Harley Davison is another one of our awesome sponsors. Not only have they supported us financially, but they have really given us a boost in our cool points as well with probably the most amazing skater intro ever. There is nothing like a whole derby team being pulled in around the track by a beautiful Harley Davidson bike. Not to mention the fact that we sport the same awesome color scheme. Those who know the Tallahassee RollerGirls know that we like to dance, and there is no hiding that fact. For years that has been the one thing our after parties were missing. Thanks to Midtown Filling Station we finally have an after party spot where we can shake it till we break it. Finally we have to thank some of our oldest sponsors: Greg Tish and GT entertainment for supplying us with our sound equipment for the last six years, Ledger Plus, and Trey and Jay over at Birds Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack. From after parties to fundraisers and meetings to just a place to hang out, Birds has been and always will be one of our biggest supporters. So thanks guys!

Do you have a special message to your fans?
We love you!!! Thank you so much for supporting us these past seven years. Like we said before, if you aren’t affiliated with a school here you usually don’t last very long. So it means the world to us that we have had such great support from the beginning and are still able to continue to do what we love…play roller derby!

Is there any other information that you would like to share with wftda.com?
Our league has withstood so many things that can cause a league to split or fold all together. From the death of a teammate to serious financial problems and everything in between we have been able to stick together and make it work. We have said that we really can survive anything because we are much more than just a derby league. We really are each other’s family. Most of us are not from Tallahassee, so we don’t have our families for our support systems. We have become not just teammates, but friends and family who would do anything for each other. That and our team motto: “Keep It Classy!!” (we have the tattoos the prove it :)!).

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Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.