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Kerry Collins, Published May 06 2009

Sock and style: Fargo-Moorhead group hopes to supply area with female roller derby team

Another contact sport could be firing up in the Fargo-Moorhead area. But this time, it’s for ladies only.

Roller Derby has been creeping back onto the national scene over the past few years, and a group of women want to bring it to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

A recruitment party for the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls is set for 3-6 p.m. May 16 at the Aquarium.

“There are so many organized sports around here for men, but there’s nothing for women other than something like golf or tennis,” said Nicole Guidry, treasurer of the FMDG. “Roller Derby has a little bit of a shock factor.”

For the past couple years, a handful of local women have been trying to get a league going in the area, but the movement couldn’t get any traction.

Enter Athena Funk, a Grand Forks, N.D., native who moved to Fargo with experience playing Roller Derby in Minneapolis and Las Vegas.

“I moved back here and thought I would see what I could do to continue skating,” said Funk, who is the president of the FMDG. “I’m just trying to help them do what they need to do to organize it and run it successfully.”

After clearing some of the hurdles on paper – like getting the league set up as a not-for-profit organization – the FMDG is ready to get some more skaters.

“We were all so new at it that we didn’t know where to go with it to really get it started,” said Robyn Dial, vice president of FMDG. “Athena had the experience and really got it going.

“We don’t want to be just a fly-by-night group.”

Roller Derby is not the hard-core, little-or-no-rules spectacle it was in the 1970s. The sport is now played on a flat track, and bouts don’t have scripted outcomes.

The contact is still there, but there are also major and minor penalties for infractions like fighting or tripping another player.

“It’s evolved even over the last nine years,” Funk said. “It is physical, and because it is a contact sport, tempers can flair up.”

The rules are simple, but scoring points is not an easy venture.

Each team has five players on the track – a jammer, three blockers and a pivot.

The jammer is the only player that can score points, and does so by passing players from the other team.

The blockers try to prevent the opposing jammer from passing, and the pivot directs the blockers.

Women have to be at least 21 years old to play. People interested in joining don’t have to be well-versed in all of the rules, and don’t have to be expert skaters.

At the recruitment party, the FMDG will be ready to sign up anyone that’s interested from skaters to referees to coaches to volunteers.

“I’ve never hidden the fact that I think derby is a lifestyle. Like anything else, you have to want to do it,” Guidry said. “There’s practice and bouts and fundraisers. Like anything, some of that stuff takes time.

“You don’t have to have experience. We can teach you to skate, and if you want to volunteer and help out with other stuff, that’s great, too.”

The FMDG will try to set up a viable league for a year, and then they can become part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

From there, the group can send a traveling team out to national competitions.

Funk said each local league usually comprises four 20-person teams. The top 20 players from those four teams are used to make up a traveling team for national and regional competition.

“For women that want to compete, it’s a fun opportunity,” Funk said. “And it’s fun to go out and skate. We’re just trying to get the word out.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com