The Cornfed Derby Dames, Muncie’s women’s roller derby league, is hosting a new skater clinic from 4 to 6 p.m. at Gibson’s Skating Arena on Sept. 18. The clinic will mostly consist of teaching basic skating skills. Photo Provided // Matt Ruddick
Roller derby not just for the movies, Cornfed Derby Dames hosts skater clinic
For any fans of the movie “Whip It,” or those interested in sport, the chance to try roller derby is here. The Cornfed Derby Dames, Muncie’s women’s roller derby league, is hosting a new skater clinic from 4-6 p.m. at Gibson’s Skating Arena on Sept. 18.
Jessie Irwin, the inter-league coordinator, started with the Dames shortly after the league was founded in 2010. She heard about it from some of the people she knew who were also in the league and from Facebook posts.
“I had skated as a kid and been pretty good at it,” Irwin said. “I went to all the skate parties and skate nights. I wanted a way to meet new people and have fun.”
Cornfed Derby Dames New Skater Clinic
When: Sunday, Sept. 18, registration at 3 p.m., clinic from 4 – 6 p.m.
Where: Gibson’s Skating Arena, 2610 S Mock Ave. Muncie, IN 47302
Cost: $5 (cash only)
Registration: Attendees should pre-register by emailing email@example.com
Gear required: Quad roller skates, a mouth guard, a helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads
Cornfed Derby Dames Practice Information
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays- 8:30-10:30 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. - noon
Where: Gibson's Skating Arena
Irwin said the way the Dames skate is more structured than in “Whip It,” though the movie covered the basics. However, there are more rules than the movie depicts, she said.
“It’s way more strategy-based, not just wrestling on skates,” Irwin said.
That structure extends to the kinds of physical contact allowed on the track.
“You can’t just punch people in the face,” said Eliza Sandlin, a senior creative writing major and member of the league.
Sandlin had seen the movie and been interested but wasn’t aware Muncie had a league until her junior year.
“I didn’t know it actually happened in places like Muncie,” she said. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought I was going to skate around and hit people, but it takes actual athleticism.”
When the Dames compete, each team has 14 players. Only five players are allowed on a track at a time. One is the "jammer," who scores and wears a star on her helmet, and the other four are "blockers," who play offense and defense.
Blockers try to help their jammer score while also trying to prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring. A jammer gets one point for each skater on the other team that she passes.
The clinic will mostly consist of teaching basic skating skills, Irwin said. Attendants will have to stand up on skates and skate a lap. She doesn’t want anyone to be discouraged from going because they can’t skate very well.
“It’s to figure out how comfortable people are on skates, so they can see how practices are run,” Irwin said.
The clinic is the main way the league gains new members. Clinics are in the fall and January, and there has been at least one per season since 2011. Some members join after the clinic, but there’s more of a commitment if they join after.
The league has what Irwin calls a “fresh meat period,” where new members have to meet attendance requirements and pass skills tests before they can officially be part of the Dames, which is done by picking a name.
Irwin’s name is Juke Sky Blocker, a take on "Star Wars" and her predominant position as a blocker.
Sandlin is Ziggy Starthrust, like the David Bowie album. Sandlin paints a lightning bolt across her face during bouts as well.
The league currently has about 35 members, which means it has an A team and a B team. A team members have a 60 percent attendance requirement, and the B team has a 40 percent attendance requirement. League members also have to volunteer.
Irwin said passing the skills tests takes different members different amounts of time, so there’s no pressure to be the best right away. One member recently passed her skills tests after two years of being in the league.
Men are also able to attend the clinic, even though the league is for women. Men are allowed to be referees. The clinic is also open to those who might want to be non-skating officials.
“It’s not just for skaters,” Sandlin said. “People can still help at bouts. We need about seven referees and 10 non-skating officials to run a bout.”
Competition season runs from February to July, so the league is currently in its offseason. The league is ranked 114th in the world out of around 350 teams, and has traveled to Michigan, Ohio and around Indiana to compete.
The Dames practice at Gibson’s Skating Arena. Practices are three times a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 – 10:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – noon.
The clinic does require gear, including quad roller skates, a mouth guard, a helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads. Participants can borrow gear from the Dames. The clinic costs $5. Pre-registration is required by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.