03/08/2007 – ABC40
Roller derby is back and it’s back in a big way. But it’s not your father’s or mother’s derby of years ago. Roller derby is a lot more than a bunch of people going around a track knocking people over, too. But make no mistake about it, it’s a full contact sport.
Here’s how it works. Roller derby involves two teams of five skaters. Each team usually consists of four blockers and one jammer. The blockers start skating first, then the jammers catch up to the rear of the pack. Scoring happens when the jammers lap around the pack and go through a second time. One point is scored for each member of the opposing team that the jammer passes. Blockers try to stop the opposing jammer and make openings for their own jammer.
ABC40’s Jim Cline takes a look at the roller derby comeback right here in the Valley.
The game took off in the 1930’s. Today’s game is quite similar, minus the shenanigans. It’s all legit this time around, but it can still get a little rough. “I think it’s all in the waiver we sign when we sign our lives away at the first practice. They’re pretty upfront. You’re going to get hit a lot, you’re going to work your butt off, and skate like crazy and in the end you might end up with a broken leg,” says Renee Forzano. “It’s a fairly rough sport and everyone looks at me and says, ‘How can someone your size… don’t you get hurt?’ But when you’re out there playing, it is just a mindset,” says Kristen Ahearn.
Sarah Lang and Jake Fahy started the league about a year ago. “They went to Providence and saw their friend play for Providence Roller Derby and said we have to start this, this is incredible, we have to have roller derby in Western Mass,” Forzano said about Fahy and Lang. “We got hooked right away and said, ‘Holy cow, this is so much fun, and we have to bring this up to the Pioneer Valley.’ We knew it would go over well here and we knew we would have a good time doing it,” said Fahy. “It’s so fast paced and it’s so fun, it’s like no other sport I have ever played. I got really excited about it,” stated Lang.
The first thing a lot of the players had to do was learn to skate. They were into roller derby but they didn’t know how to skate very well. Others were born to skate. Renee Forzano goes by Big Vinny’s Kid after her late father. “He skated derby in the 50’s and 60’s before he married my mom. The two of them met roller skating. She was a figure skater and he did his speed skating and roller derby. They met at the rink, fell in love, had kids and never skated again, I guess,” said Forzano. Renee never saw Big Vinny skate, but this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. So it’s fitting she’s competing in the second go-around of the sport.