If you think you’re tough, you should try your hand at roller derby.
The Acadiana Roller Girls welcomes all women, ages 18 and older from anywhere, to join their roller derby league.
“There is no box or label that anyone has to be to skate,” said Tiffany Zass, 37, vice president and interleague coordinator of the roller derby league. “The little teeny tiny girl to the big ol’ girl with the big ol’ booty, it doesn’t matter; anyone can play derby. Two feet and a heartbeat is all you need.”
Zass, a roller derby veteran, has been with the Roller Girls for three years after moving to Louisiana from Canada, where she started her derby career.
In a sport that is not lacking in the physicality department, Zass said derby was a way for her to meet new people and cultivate friendships she otherwise would not have had.
“If I didn’t have derby, I don’t know what I would have done to try to meet people and make friends,” Zass said. “It’s like a social network and an extended family. These are your friends and your derby sisters.”
The Roller Girls are Lafayette’s first women-only, flat-track roller derby league. It was the only team in the league until the Vermillionville Sirens joined in 2013. The two teams compete with opponents from other leagues in nearby cities, which include Alexandria, New Orleans and Houston.
Worried about not being able to skate, or just want to test it out? Zass said they have you covered.
Anyone interested in joining the Rollergirls will be entered into what is called the “fresh meat” program.
According to Zass, the fresh meat program consists of four levels. Each level has a set of skills that each person has to master to advance. There are 30 skills between the four levels. The player will then need to complete 27 laps around the track in five minutes as a test of endurance. For a speed drill, the player must complete the lap in under 13 seconds. Next, the player must complete a written test with 50 questions and score 60 percent or higher to pass.
The Roller Girls have free gear to lend out to those wanting to try out derby before they fully commit.
Alexis Guidry, 20, a senior exercise science major at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, has been a member of the team for a year and said she learned a litany of skills, despite not skating much as an adult.
Guidry said joining the team also raised her “bad ass” meter.
“I’ve always played some kind of sport,” Guidry said “When I started at UL (Lafayette), I played intramural flag football. I played soccer and softball growing up. I’ve known Katelyn (Richard) since high school and I saw on Facebook that she was playing roller derby. She was this cute cheerleader in high school and I thought if Katelyn could do something bad ass, I could do something bad ass. Katelyn inspired me to join.”
Katelyn Richard, 21, a senior at UL Lafayette, has been a member of the team for three years. She said she initially didn’t believe roller derby was for her, but years later, she’s happy she decided to try it.
“It’s totally worth it,” Richard said. “Becoming family with a group of girls. They are almost like your sisters. You hate each other and beat the crap out of each other every day, but at the end of practice, you’re going to hug each other.”
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The Roller Girl All-Star team is scheduled to have 13 bouts this season, with the final bout coming Oct. 17 in Alexandria. The team plays two 30-minute halves in a bout and once a player decides to join, they are given a rulebook to sharpen up on game knowledge.
Zass said derby is grueling physically, but it also is a strategic sport.
“It is about strategy; it’s a difficult sport,” Zass said with a smile. “People think ‘aww, you’re just skating around in circles. It’s easy. You’re wearing fishnet and hot pants and looking all sexy.’ It’s becoming more recognized as a sport.”
A few derby girls have sustained injuries, including broken legs and collarbones, Zass said, but added that injuries occur in every sport. People interested in trying the sport shouldn’t let that stop them from taking a chance on the flat track, she said.
Anyone interested in joining the Roller Girls can go to Top Shelf Sports, located at 1616 Youngsville Highway, when the team practices Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-10 p.m. Also, you can leave a message on the team’s Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The membership fee is $40 while in the fresh meat program and it drops to $35 monthly after you become “seasoned meat,” according to Zass.
“If you’re interested, just come try it,” Zass said. “You’ll either love it or hate it. It is a huge commitment. It takes up a lot of time, but it’s worth it. Small, short or tall, we like ‘em all.”