CHANNAHON, Ill. — In their first home bout at Skateland Recreation Center in Channahon Saturday night, the Southland Slashers women’s roller derby league made an impressive showing with both skaters and fans.
All the players, juniors and adults, are members of the Southland Slashers. For Saturday night’s interleague games, however, they split up into two home teams on each level. The juniors played for either the Southland Slashers or the Chicago Riots, while the senior women played for the Bayou Bombshells or the Voo Doo Dolls.
In front of a sold-out crowd, the junior league took the flat track first with players competing for control of the track and the opportunity to score the most points.
At the end of the bout, which consisted of an hour’s worth of fast paced skating, some rough hip checks and blocks, and more than a few skaters sliding across the floor, the Slashers beat the Riots 196 to 167.
It was a great time for the junior players because it was their first sanctioned game since they pulled the team together. There aren’t many opportunities for juniors to play league games in the area.
Junior Slasher Badittude, 11, of Bolingbrook, started practicing with the team just two months ago.
“My (older) sister started. I had no idea what it was about,” said Badittude. “After I saw, I wanted to do it. I love it.”
Team members take on a league sanctioned name, and with it a persona, said senior Voo Doo Doll player Abby Sessive. Most teammates likely don’t even know each others’ full names.
Along with the names, players add to their uniform to fit their personality, going as far as to rip and tie sections or make slits up the side of the t-shirts. Some add tutus or belts, and everyone has their own style of leg wear — from glossy tights to fishnet stockings. Even painted faces show up on the track.
“It kind of becomes your alter ego,” Abbey Sessive said. “Before this, I was much more reserved.”
But don’t let the outfits fool you into thinking roller derby is any less of a sport. It’s a full-contact sport that requires a lot of endurance and athletic training, said Voo Doo Doll Wylde Lil, who has been with the team since its inception.
“Roller derby has had a negative connotation in the past; we want to dispel a lot of the negativity around it,” said Wylde Lil. “I think it takes an adventurous mindset. It’s not for everyone. It’s empowering for women that they can play such a demanding sport.”
Being a member of a roller derby team is like being part of a family, said Abby Sessive. Many husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, even dads and daughters, or moms and daughters, play the sport.
Typically men aren’t allowed to play with women, but they can when there’s an interleague bout like Saturday night’s.
“What better way to have a home opener than to have the men playing,” said player Rocky Whorror.
Rocky Whorror had to stop competing due to multiple concussions, but she still attends every game and helps in whatever capacity she can. Hers isn’t a typical scenario, she said. She blames it on her height, which is 6’ 4” in skates.
“It’s way farther to the ground for me,” she said. “If I didn’t have children, I would still be out there.”
When the senior players hit the flat track, the competition increased along with the action. The penalty box filled up more often as blockers tried to stop their opponent’s jammer from getting through the pack and scoring.
Just before halftime, Bayou Bombshells’ player Rowdy Rah Rah got her seventh and final penalty, which got her tossed from the game for the remainder of the night.
She left the rink, arms thrown in the air, unsure of how she racked up so many penalties in less than the first half hour of play.
“The last time I knew I had three (penalties),” she said. “I didn’t realize it was that many.”
When the three seats of a team’s penalty box are all taken, a penalized player stays in play until a seat is open. At that time, she is called to serve the penalty.
“They called me to come and I didn’t hear it. It gets noisy out there,” Rowdy Rah Rah said. “You get caught up in the game. I’ve never been kicked out before.”
When the game ended, the Voo Doo Dolls won the bout 193 to 135 over the Bayou Bombshells.
Now that the Southland Slashers have found a second home in Channahon, they plan to schedule more bouts in addition to their weekly practices. Their other home rink, where the team originated from, is in Godley.
The Slashers are sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. They travel all over to play regular league games, including Peoria, Ottawa, DuPage, Bloomington, Wisconsin and West Indiana.
Most players have an innate love of skating and once they get a taste of roller derby, they can’t seem to get enough.
“I have been on skates my whole life and love it,” said Wylde Lil. “(Roller derby) intrigued me and I am still there.”
For more information or to check out the Southland Slashers, see their website at www.SouthlandSlashers.com.