It’s been a busy summer for Twin City Derby Girls. Since the league’s inaugural May 21 bout, interest from the community has grown. According to Boneyard Bombshells skater Liz Lerner (known on the rink as Bear Kylls), “We had a lot of women inquire immediately afterward, my sister being one of them — which is really cool. She’s a professor at the UI, so it’s good to see someone in that position skating. We had a lot more buzz. More people know what we’re talking about now when we mention Twin City Derby Girls.”
In fact, open recruitment of skaters ended July 1 and women who want to skate for a league team will have to try out on September 11 (see the TCDG website for details). Lerner explained, “Starting September 11, we’re going to have tryouts, but tryouts are basically just to make sure that people can skate, be steady on their feet; you’ll have to do a crossover and some really basic stuff. If someone starts now they’ll be able to pick up the basics. And we’ll have another tryout in November.”
The league — which now has around 60 skaters — is not trying to discourage potential members. Rather, TCDG is just trying to start new skaters at the same time so that they will be more at the same level in terms of skills. Lerner said of the situation: “It’s a good problem to have.”
The recently formed all-star league travel squad, The Twin City Travelers, will go on the road for the league’s first away bout on August 21, when they will compete against the St. Chux Derby Chix of St. Charles, MO As of this writing, tickets are not available, but check either the St. Chux Derby Chix or TCDG website for information as it is made available.
The travel squad recently went to Indianapolis to scrimmage against the Circle City Socialites. Lerner, who is on the travel squad, said the team went into the scrimmage not knowing what to expect: “A lot of the women thought we could easily get killed.” So, it was a shot in the arm for the Travelers to actually win the scrimmage 106-100.
What else? The league is now an apprenticed affiliate of the national derby governing organization Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. This, according to Lerner, is an honor, especially since the league just got going in recent months: “It’s a pretty big deal, actually. I don’t know of any other league in this early of a stage that has gotten an apprenticeship.”
One of the biggest league developments this summer is that a new team, the Damagin’ Dames, has been introduced.
The new team will be taking on existing league team The ‘Paign at the Savoy Recreational Center on August 27. Some of the money earned from ticket and merchandising sales will go to support homeless shelter Center For Women in Transitions in Champaign. Tickets will go on sale August 12 on the league website at 7:00 p.m. Be at your computer at that time if you want to go; tickets for the first TCDG bout sold out in just a few hours and this will likely happen again.
Lerner said most of the derby girls are more excited about the upcoming interleague bout than about the Missouri one. She said of the upcoming local bout, “it’s the debut of the new team. I have no idea who is going to win; both teams are really solid. The Dames don’t have as many months together as The ‘Paign, but they have camaraderie and the skating.”
Meet a Damagin’ Dame
Damagin’ Dame skater Sydney Bobo, 24, (see picture) said she is attracted to derby because “It’s got nothing to do with sitting in a library,” although she “actually found out about it from a library bulletin board.” Bobo, who is a student at the UI College of Veterinary Medicine, joined TCDG just before the league’s first bout on May 21, which she watched from the sidelines. As she explained it, “I saw the first bout and I was still pretty new. I was pumped. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, someday that’s going to be me.'”
Bobo said that since she started playing soccer when she was four, she has pretty much always been involved with some kind of organized sport. But as she got older she found that there weren’t as many opportunities to do so and she missed being on a team. Then she discovered TCDG. “The great thing about this league is that it doesn’t matter how old you are,” she said. “You don’t have to be in school; you don’t have to be in a certain profession.”
On the Dames, it has yet to be determined exactly what position she’ll be at. She explained: “Since we are still a new team we are still trying to figure out positions, but I would say my main position is jammer, but I also do some blocking.”
She explained how being a derby girl is different from playing intramural soccer. “The thing about derby is that there are a lot of little extras that go into it, such as the team name and colors, and your derby name, profile and persona. But it’s still the same organized, competitive kind of thing — except for it is more aggressive and there’s the showmanship aspect.”
Bobo said that she knows how to channel her own aggression: “In general, I have a very competitive spirit. When I have a goal I try to do whatever I have to do to accomplish it, so I’m that kind of aggressive — not like ‘randomly trying to beat people up on the street kind of aggressive.'”
Although she hasn’t officially bouted yet, Bobo has seen plenty of injuries on the rink. Recently, she witnessed a teammate take a serious spill. As Bobo described the incident, “All of a sudden, out of the blue, she just falls. We were like, ‘Are you OK?’ and she said ‘No, I’m not OK.’ We looked down, and there’s a bone sticking out of her ankle. She ended up breaking her leg right below the ankle and below the kneecap just from the way she fell.”
The teammate is in good spirits after the accident, Bobo said: “She’s doing well. She’s a trooper. She’s itching to come back, but she’s got a metal rod in her leg.”
Bobo claimed that the incident didn’t turn her off skating: “I knew what I was getting into when I decided to do derby. When you put on the skates, anything can happen to you, but you love the sport so much you’re willing to take the risk. Your heart is broken that your teammate is on the ground, but you have to keep skating even though it could happen to you. Maybe it’s part of the thrill. It’s just life. Anything could happen. You might as well do something you enjoy; it’s worth the danger.”
Bobo’s family has been supportive of her becoming a derby girl. In fact, “My mom wanted to join a league herself,” Bobo laughed.
Bobo is from the Chicago area originally. When asked to compare C-U to Chicago, she responded, “it’s definitely not Chicago.” However, she said of Champaign: “It’s got its cute little downtown areas. It’s kind of enclosed a little bit more so you can get to know people in the community better.”
She’s said she’s still figuring out exactly what type of Veterinary Medicine she’ll be practicing, “I think I’m going to go into Pathology — dead animal kind of stuff, because it’s not my fault if they’re dead. Let’s be honest.”
Off the rink this summer, she’s also training for the Chicago marathon in the fall, but said the hot weather has been discouraging her from getting her long runs done.
As for her own derby name, Bobo said she is still thinking about it: “Everyone is on me about that,” she said. “It’s a major decision.”