New women’s roller derby team rocking out in
By Mike D’Agruma
NORTHEAST OHIO — When you’re
in a band, people really don’t know what to make
of you. You’re looked at with one-part admiration,
two-parts intrigue and one-part wariness.
And it’s perfectly understandable.
There are a lot of stereotypes associated with being
in a band and there are a lot of musicians out there
living up to them.
And there are a lot that don’t.
There are a lot who work in offices and mingle in contemporary
society that just love the release that comes with playing
— just being a guy onstage sans shirt with hair
in pigtails and socks on arms jumping around shredding
It’s the energy that draws
you. The fun, the insane level of camaraderie combined
with the synchronization of music blending into a rush
most will never experience.
It’s really a lot like
being a roller girl — an NEO Rock ’n’
The NEO Rock ’n’
Roller Girls are the Akron area’s first all-women
roller derby team — third in Ohio — and
were formed May 16 by 11 women brought together primarily
by a passion for the sport of roller
derby, according to team members. But don’t even
begin to picture the sensationalistic, scripted, WWE
wrestling-style roller derby of the 1970s. [For
more details on roller derby, see
sidebar below right.]
It’s 1980s punk rock meeting
ballet. It’s hardcore emotion, dedication and
aggression blending with grace, style and beauty. It’s
cute skirts and fishnet stockings; personalities that
are equal parts charm and attitude.
It’s sport meeting style.
It’s an interesting team.
Outside the rink, they have vastly different lives.
They are students and professionals, stay-at-home artists
and stay-at-home moms, girlfriends and wives, parents
In their skates and on their
rinks, however, they change. They aren’t sales
reps or assistant nurses or soccer moms. They aren’t
team members Becky Basilone, of West Akron, and Sara
Misconish, of Cleveland. They are roller girls “Free
Bird” and “Ruby Doomsday.” (Everyone
on the team has a registered pseudonym.) They are a
single entity, a sisterhood.
These are women you could spend
hours with at a coffee shop but not last seconds
with on a roller rink. Once you step foot on their practice
rinks at either the North Canton Skate Center or Springfield
Lake Roller Rink, you’re walking on holy ground.
That’s because derbying
is their element, their sport. And their sport seemed
to seek them out — through documentaries, fliers,
the Internet, word-of-mouth, open-skate nights or, oddly
enough, while installing or having cable installed at
And each of the 11 original members
chose to strap on their skates and helmets for various
reasons. They wanted to get in shape, get back into
skating, take out aggression, take back some of their
youth, follow a passion, follow intrigue, live the life.
“Somebody felt something
was missing and they found roller derby,” said
Akron resident Catherine Boesch (aka “Kitty Hellcat”).
“It’s a chance to get out of your normal
routine and it makes you happy.
“There’s just pure
joy in skating,” she added. “It’s
like Christmas and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny
all wrapped up into one.”
And the Women’s Flat Track
Derby Association, the
national federation the team hopes to be sanctioned
by when ready, has a 22-page tome of rules and regulations
to govern all of it. The team has new recruits sign
a waiver and buy the full arsenal of protective gear
— helmet, mouth and wrist guards and knee and
elbow pads — before allowing them to practice.
This precedes the numerous necessary forms needed to
be filled out if one becomes a full-fledged member.
The Rock n’ Roller Girls
have been having official practices and meetings for
about two months and will continue do so for at least
another 10 before they plan to begin bouting. Just as
one must learn to walk before running, the team is learning
how to skate before blocking. A good chunk of the two-hour
practices are spent perfecting more complicated skating
maneuvers. According to North Canton resident Elise
Koontz (aka “The Payback”), they’ve
only recently started learning how to block and move
in a pack.
“The group of girls we
have right now are very dedicated,” said head
coach Brian Phillips. “I think they’re going
to get this going, and I think they’re
going to succeed with this; I really
The team is still looking for
roller girls and volunteers of all kinds. Practice takes
place Sundays at 10 p.m. and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. at
North Canton and Springfield, respectively. Membership
dues cost $45 a month. For more information, visit www.neorocknrollergirls
The NEO Rock ’n’
Roller Girls are Northeast Ohio’s newest roller
derby team. Photo
courtesy of Alex Kidd