M. Stewart / Nashoba Valley Voice
M. Stewart / Nashoba Valley Voice
FITCHBURG — Are you looking for some exciting, hard-hitting sports action that’s a little different than the norm?
The Bay State Brawlers roller derby team might be your best bet.
The Punishers — the Brawlers’ elite travel team — are riding high after dominating the season. Both the Punishers and the Brawlin’ Broads — the Bay State B team — hosted their final home contests of the season this past weekend at the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg.
Now, focus turns to preparation for next season.
New skater orientation takes place in September, where those interested in the sport can join.
The format of roller derby is to have four blockers attempt to open up opportunities for the jammers to score points. Jammers score points by lapping the other team, and both teams are trying to score points and prevent the other team from scoring points at the same time. Checking is allowed, but there are restrictions on elbows and low checks.
Brawlers Vice President Heather Johnson, known as “Hydra-Gin Bomb” on the track, says that no matter the skill level or previous skating ability — or lack thereof — anyone interested can join and they will show you the ropes.
Turnout has been historically high as of late.
“Our growth has been exponential,” Johnson said. “We went from struggling to field two teams to adding a C team next year.”
The teams’ public relations director, Caroline “Hi-Jynx” Poser, is one of the new members of the organization and says you can come a long way in a short period of time.
“I just started skating last year, and this is my first year as a player,” Poser said. “I’m grateful that I made the team. It was something brand new to me that I could learn from the ground up, and I didn’t have any preconceived notions about it. The new skaters class teaches you everything, that’s how everybody starts. You learn to put on your skates, stand up, and you don’t do contact until you are ready for it.”
These athletes have been drawn to roller derby for a variety of reasons, whether it be for the camaraderie, or simply a way to stay healthy and active.
“It’s got that wrestling appeal and the glitz and glamour,” Johnson said. “But a lot of people join in their adult years looking for something athletic to do, and women like having a sport that’s just for us. I think it is fun for them to meet some similar, like-minded people. You’re not just joining a team, but getting 50 to 60 new friends right off the bat.”
The Punishers are inflicting a lot of pain on their competition this season, with tournament titles at competitions in both Maine and Pennsylvania. Heading into last weekend’s home finale, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing board overseeing the sport, had the Punishers ranked 118 out of 463 teams in the world.
“We went to Coastal Chaos in Rockland, Maine,” said Maggie Lavelle, whose derby name is Sylvia Wrath — a play on American poet Sylvia Plath. “It was round robin and we played three really competitive games. We fared well in Pennsylvania, as well. It was really wonderful. We won all of those games.”
The elite Punisher squad is second in the state, only behind Boston Roller Derby. The Punishers attribute their success to working hard outside the track, working on strategy, and the fundamentals of fitness which benefit their play in the sport.
“We cross-train a lot. On and off the track, we’re trying to stay healthy enough to play a full-contact sport,” Lavelle said. “This year the difference is we studied strategies and game scenarios, and it gave us a little bit of an edge that we needed, that we were lacking a little bit in the past. We have a lot of unspoken communication on the track.”
With local interest in roller derby on the rise, and another team on the way, chances are the Brawlers will only continue to grow stronger.
For more information about the league or to purchase tickets, visit baystatebrawlers.com.