What: First bout of the season. The Rollergirls will play a team from St. Peters, Mo.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Mid-America Center, 1 Arena Way, Council Bluffs
Admission: $10 in advance, $13 in advance for a floor seat; $12 day of general admission and $15 day of for floor seat.
Season tickets are also available.
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The Omaha Rollergirls are lacing up their skates and getting ready to rush the rink.
The team of fierce skaters has been rolling since 2006. Saturday marks the start of a new derby season at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.
Kathy Lewis, a six-year roller derby veteran, describes the sport as a combination of pinball and NASCAR. Two teams race around a flat oval track at top speeds.
Lewis joined the team after a woman from her church invited her. The 38-year-old was working from home at the time, and derby was just a fun way to get out of the house. But six years later, Lewis is still skating under the moniker Eblastagirl, based off the character of Elastigirl from Pixar's “The Incredibles.” She said it's just fun to be a different personality for a day.
Treightin Yates, who skates as Mae Kit Rain, played sports most of her life.
“It helped feed the competitive beast inside of me,” she said.
It's Yates' third season of derby, and her second year on the coaching staff. She's also on the team's board of directors. She serves as a jammer and a blocker on the track.
The roller derby team is completely self-run. In addition to attending practices three or four times a week, team members must take on other responsibilities, such as fundraising, selling merchandise and participating in events. Everyone is a volunteer, and the skaters pay dues to skate. Rollergirls say participation can be as time-consuming as a full-time job.
Yates, 25, said she thinks the sport is empowering. Many women who join are at first quiet, meek and unable to skate. Within a year's time, they become different people, with confidence in themselves.
“They've changed for the better,” she said.
Because of the physical nature of the sport, some people assume that bouts include fighting, Lewis said. They're often surprised to hear that the league has a pretty long rule book. They're used to older versions of derby, which was more about putting on a show.
“It's more about safety and athleticism now than if you saw it back in the '70s or '80s, when it was more about the show and the staged fights and that kind of thing,” Lewis said.
But there is an element of spectacle to the Rollergirls. That's part of what makes it fun, Yates said.
And what about men? Tony Staub founded a men's league, Big O Roller Bros, in late 2011 after serving as a referee for the women's league. The team has recently been accepted into the Men's Roller Derby Association, which is the international governing body of the sport. Most of their bouts are closed to the public because they don't have a suitable venue. But Staub, an electrical engineer by day, hopes to find a place to hold them soon.
There's also a league geared toward youth. Girls and boys ages 8 to 17 can join the Omaha Junior Roller Derby, which is coached by current and former Rollergirls. It's designed to prep young men and women for someday joining the Rollergirls or Roller Bros.
But the mother of Omaha derby is the Rollergirls. On Saturday, these fast-flying athletes will whip around the track again.
Roller Derby 101
When a woman joins the Rollergirls, she starts by learning the basics. There are three different kinds of roles in derby: jammers, blockers and pivots. They all play very different parts.
During a roller derby bout, most of the skaters travel in a pack. Jammers skate quickly around the rink, separate from the pack, and try to pass members of the opposing team. A jammer wears a star on her helmet and earns points for her team for every person on the opposing team that she skates past. Blockers try to prevent the opposing team's jammer from passing and scoring points. They will also help guide their own team's jammer through the pack so she can score points. Pivots act as a normal blocker, but the jammer can take the star off her helmet and pass it to the pivot, who then becomes a jammer and can score points.