Derby Cats take to the track
When Samantha Campas, a roller derby enthusiast, started teaching her friends the basics of the sport, she had no idea it would take off and become something bigger. Campas is now the founder of the Derby Cats, the university’s first roller derby club.
“It’s really surreal,” the creative writing senior said. “I mean, when I first started it I just thought, ‘Oh, I’ll get a couple girls out here and we’ll have fun with this sport,’ and all of a sudden it’s kind of exploding. It’s a great sport for people who don’t really think traditional sports are for them.”
Campas said she first began skating with Tucson Roller Derby, but injured her knee and eventually had to say goodbye to playing the sport.
Campas started teaching the sport to a handful of her friends in August of last year, and the group began testing its skills on the UA Mall. As the team grew, it moved its practices to Catalina Magnet High School.
Cole Malham / The Daily Wildcat Katherine "Leonardo decapitaed" O'Donnell, a member of UA Derby Cats,shows off the cut on her hand she received during her club's scrimmage on Sunday night at Catalina High School.
The game consists of two teams, five players each, skating around a rink. During a round — known as a “jam” — teams designate a scoring member, called a “jammer,” three “blockers” and the fifth member, called a “pivot.” Teams score points when a jammer laps the members of the opposing team, avoiding its blockers. Pivots function as leaders of the team during a jam, take a position at the front of the pack and serve as the last blocker to an opposing jammer.
The sport is largely comprised of women players, but Derby Cats has been advertising as a coed team in an effort to get more people involved, Campas said. Eric Bondra, a referee and team player, said Campas approached him a year ago at a Halloween party and asked him if he would like to learn how to be a roller derby referee. Bondra agreed.
“I was just like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great idea, spend my evenings with 12 awesome women. Sure, why not?’” Bondra said. “And I have been to every practice since.”
Bondra said anyone could learn the sport, no matter the skill level. After about two to three weeks of training, he said members will be thrown right into the fire of a scrimmage, depending on their comfort levels.
Cheyenne McChesney has been playing for the team since the beginning of the semester. McChesney said she prefers the blocking position because she’s able to hone her skills and likes hitting people.
“It’s just really fun to play something that’s so different from what I’ve ever done before, and it’s fun because it’s a contact sport but it’s not so traditional,” McChesney said.
The Derby Cats will compete with teams from Northern Arizona University and the Phoenix area, where competition is finally starting to sprout. McChesney added that she is looking forward to playing Phoenix rivals, noting that Arizona State University has also started a roller derby team of its own.
“I think it’s really exciting that the other college that would be starting a roller derby team is our rival, so that we can get into a big bout about it,” McChesney said.
For some, the sport is more than just an outlet and an excuse to strap on a pair of skates.
“It takes a lot of skill and endurance to skate for roller derby,” Campas said, “It makes you feel really capable and kind of in control when nothing else really seems to be going that way.”
The Derby Cats’ first jam will be against Safford Roller Derby on Jan. 18, 2014 at Tucson Indoor Sports Center, 1065 W. Grant Road.
Follow Casey Knox @Knox_Casey