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Meet the Lumber Jills
Get to know a few members of Plattsburgh's grassroots roller derby team.
A local blogger describes the derby experience from the stands.
NORTH COUNTRY LUMBER JILLS 2013 SCHEDULE
4/27 vs. Ottawa Ontario (Capital City)
5/18 vs. New Hampshire (Elm City Derby Damez)
6/1 vs. Troy New York (Herculadies)
9/28 vs. Buffalo New York (The Alley Kats)
10/26 vs. Central Vermont (Twin City Riot)
4/13 vs. Troy New York (Herculadies)
7/6 vs. Cortland (Royal Pains)
8/17 vs. New Hampshire (Elm City Derby Damez)
So what do people do for fun on cold, snowy nights in the North Country? Think fishnets, hot pants, red lipstick and tattoos; knee and elbow pads, helmets and roller skates. No, it's not just another Saturday night on Main Street. I'm talking Roller Derby! Last weekend was the My Bloody Valentine bout between the local Lumber Jills and the Royal Pains of Cortland New York.
Roller Derby is intense, fast and pulls you into the game from the start. The hour-long bout ticks by in two-minute intervals or jams. Five players from each team form a pack at the start of the track. Each pack has three blockers and a pivot, with a jammer who is positioned further back from the rest.
At the ref's first whistle blow, the pack starts skating. A double whistle sends each team's jammer sprinting through the pack and then they really kick out the jam. The blockers do the dirty work, hitting and shoving the opposing team. Though elbowing, slapping, head butting or any other nasty illegal moves result in penalties.
The first jammer to move through the pack claims lead jammer status and starts racking up points on each subsequent pass. This also gives her the power to call off the jam in order to keep her rival from scoring. So long as the jam continues, the jammers score points equivalent to each member of the opposition they pass. If they can pass, that is. The blockers do everything in their power to hold the opposition's jammer back, with crashes and wipeouts keeping the jam interesting. Though the blockers may choose to use some of their fierce energy to whip their own jammer like a human slingshot ahead of the pack.
The crowd is loud and energetic, adding to the fun of the event. I was rooting for the North Country Lumber Jills, an all female flat-track team based out of Plattsburgh. My friend, Bertha Victory, is one of the Team Captains. By day she is a mama and massage therapist and has a kind and gentle disposition. But her peaceful aura doesn't hold her back in a bout and with her confidence and grace on wheels, she's a determined and powerful jammer. Each time she broke through the pack and soared around the track the crowd went wild. The Lumber Jills had good competition though, with the Royal Pains living up to their name. The bout was close throughout the night and in the end the visiting team came out ahead.
Roller derby is an empowering, full-contact, demanding sport. The ladies practice three times a week and train to be strong, tough and hard working. By the end of a bout, they are surging with adrenaline, sweating and trying to catch their breath. The most appealing aspect of the sport is the sense of community the team has, encouraging, supporting and inspiring each other. Their camaraderie draws you in as a spectator. They're out there to accomplish something as a team and have a blast doing it.
My ladies night out was well spent watching Roller Derby. It's just plain fun. After the bout, the team invited everyone in the arena to join them for the afterparty downtown. But a few friends and I headed to Starbucks and I grabbed a coffee instead of a beer. By that time of night, I was feeling like an old, non-athletic mom and needed caffeine. Our friend from the Lumber Jills did let us know they're looking for new recruits. She assured us there are girls who sign up even though they can barely stand on skates. I think I'll stick to the bleachers for now.
There are some serious movers and shakers in this region and I'm truly inspired by the effort and commitment of my North Country neighbors. They skate like madwomen, milk cows, tap maple trees, grow their own food, run their own businesses, give back to their community, educate their children and more, all while honoring who they are as women, wives and mothers. I feel very privileged to get to know these cool chicks and I can't wait to see what they do next.
Contributed from the blog, http://upstatelyny.com/