Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby recruits at skills camp


Skaters demonstrate the game of roller derby at Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby's skills camp on Monday. Michael Williams and Michael Williams Buy Photos

There’s pushing, shoving, falling and bruising. All the skaters consider it a full contact sport. It’s roller derby.

It’s more than entertainment, provocative nicknames and an alluring theatrical element, said Savannah “Bipolar Curves” Simmons, the Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby’s player and coach.

“This isn’t like the 70’s, we aren’t in costumes, and this isn’t the WWE,” she said. “It’s not an issue where we come in and talk about what fishnets we’re going to wear. We train like anyone else would for any other sport.”

The Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby hosted a skills camp Monday evening at Western Skateland. Patrons were shown different skating techniques and given a basic tutorial about roller derby.

They laced up their skates, strapped on kneepads and fastened the straps on their helmets. Then the Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby entered the track and scrimmaged for camp attendees.

“Today, the goal is to present a completely no pressure environment,” Simmons said. “It’s a chance for people to check it out and see if they want to return.”

The event isn’t only good for bringing in new skaters.

“It’s a huge recruitment tool,” Michelle Melhouse, Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby Marketing Director, said. “We use it to attract skaters, officials, volunteers and fans. Some people come and realize skating isn’t for them, so they become volunteers or fans.”

Melhouse said she hopes the skills camp influences people to personally invest in roller derby.

“We want people to fall in love with it enough to purchase their own skates and eventually gear,” she said.

Camp participant Dani Brown, an IU junior, said she enjoyed the day.

“I learned a lot about the sport, what it takes and about the people involved,” she said.

Brown said she loves the physicality of roller derby.

“I’m a competitive person,” she said. “I really like to get knocked around a lot. I’ll be back 100 percent.”

Simmons said most people underestimate how difficult roller derby can be.

“People don’t know that we work out hard,” she said. “We come run, we do core, we lift. We train like anyone else would for any other sport.”

Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby is a part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), an international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby. Bleeding Heartland rollergirls compete to earn rankings with teams from all over the world, Melhouse said.

Melhouse said the league’s goal this year is to qualify for the WFTDA tournament. The top 40 teams in the world qualify.

Simmons said she hopes that the participants leave with a better understanding of how roller derby works but most importantly that they have fun.

“We’re hoping they see that it’s really fun,” she said.

Simmons encouraged all participants to be patient and persevere if they’re 

“Our whole point is to show you that you can do it,” she said. “It’s just baby steps. We were all there before.”

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