Quad skates blazing, shoulder checks to the chest, and crashing bodies into the hard rink is how the East Texas Bombers roller derby team has started it’s season.
The Bombers play Roller Derby at Skateland USA in Jacksonville, Texas, the only skating rink in East Texas Big enough to house the games, or bouts as they are called. The team travels as far as north of Little Rock, Ark. for away games.
Roller Derby is a technical sport and, like all sports, has many rules and penalties. “You have five people on the track at the same time. Four people are in the pack, those are your blockers. One person is your jammer and they have to wear a star on their helmet. They’re the ones who score points. Get your jammer through the pack; so basically your jammer is the ball,” explained Amber Ramsour, Homoci-Doll, the team leader of the Bombers.
The jammer has to complete one lap through the blockers before they can score points, and each blocker they pass within their second lap is one point, Ramsour said.
While the game is as rough as a hockey match there are ways to get put in the penalty box for at least two minutes. Players are not allowed to hit the extremities, use anything below the elbow, hit from the back, or intentionally trip other players, but everything else goes.
With hip and shoulder checking, these girls take each other down with persistent ferocity. One player falling down often takes one to three other girls down with her, surely making them grateful for the knee pads that they are required to wear.
Before the bout the referee makes sure to check all the girls gear on each team to make insure that it is secure and tightly fastened.
The rink in Jacksonville is illuminated by multi-colored Christmas lights around the ceiling and alternative music thunders throughout the bouts. An entertaining announcer talks throughout the game explaining the rules and making continuous comments and cracks to keep the crowd in tune with what’s going.
The best seats in the house by far are the suicide seats which are on the rink floor itself. Bodies crash on to the rink floor right in front of the cheering spectators, who need to hold tight to their drinks and snacks.
The East Texas Bombers are personally funded and partially funded by local businesses. Each member has their own unique job and life but spends time and money of their own to play the game. They are firefighters, nurses, and even tattoo artists, but in the rink they are all teammates supporting the game that they love.
“I love to skate. I was a figure skater in the eighties, this is a lot more fun,” said Angel Sherman, aka Dottie Van Damage.
Ramsour said, “I just love being around the girls.”
Skill is definitely involved in this aggressive sport that involves much more than just knocking opponents to the ground.
“I just like to skate, that’s the basis of roller derby, skating,” Allison Preston aka Alli-Get-Her said. “If you don’t have skate skills, you’re not going to do very well in the bouts, you can’t learn strategy if you’re concentrating on keeping your balance.”
For tickets, souvenirs, events dates, and locations visit easttexasbombers.com