Only On 6: Roller Derby In The Falls

Wichita Falls Derby Dames

A physical trainer, a professor, a waitress, a senior buyer, a curator and more make up the roster of the Wichita Falls Derby Dames.

"We call each other derby sisters," they said.

The Dames first got together in August 2011, becoming a non-profit league formed for lawful charitable purposes and amateur sports competition.  Word spread through social media and word of mouth, drawing a variety of people with a variety of experience.

"I'm a rink rat," Angela Shoop said.

Shoop's grandparents owned a skating rink in Nebraska.

Nicole Larsen, a senior buyer for Defense Support Services for Sheppard Air Force Base, had derby experience with a team based in Mesquite. While watching her kids play hockey in Dallas, she glanced over to another rink and saw roller derby.

She was hooked. Once she heard of a possible Wichita Falls team, she was in.

Others, like Stacie Flood, a curator at the Kell House museum and Larissa Loyd, who works at an AT&T call center, thought it would be fun to try.

Anna Jentsch, a physical trainer, grew up watching roller derby on TV. She and the other ladies are quick to say, "this isn't roller derby from the 1970's."

Most of the women had to learn a sport from the ground up, learning how to skate, stop and fall.

"It's like a second job," Larsen said. "We put so much effort into making this grow. We want it to stick around. We want people to experience it."

The Dames are funded by player dues, sponsorships and good old-fashioned fundraising. Ten percent of proceeds from every event go to a local charity.

While players pay for all their own gear, they also give up tons of time, practicing twice a week and three to four times a week when a bout is near.

"It's tough," Flood said.

Flood, the president of the league, says they've lost a couple girls because of work schedules. Many of the girls are supported by other family members, whether they come to practice or volunteer during bouts.

But through the journey of their first year together, the Derby Dames have been united by their common cause.

"It's amazing how fast we've all bonded and become our own family," Flood said.

Flood says some of the best times together are grabbing dinner or drinks after practice.

"You're creating friendships with girls from all different walks of life, all different careers," Shoop said. "It's really fun to get to know every single one of them in a different way."

The Derby Dames have four bouts remaining, two at home. They'll host the North Texas Derby Revolution on July 28th and a team to be announced on Sept. 22nd.

Red River Roller Derby

Similar threads can be found in the story of Red River Roller Derby, a second Wichita Falls roller derby league formed in November of 2011.

Molly Turner, a 24-year-old from Burkburnett, is the team's newest member, joining two months ago.

"When I told my friends and family, they laughed first off," she said.  "I have always been the artistic, music-type. I sing all time, (now I'm) going to derby."

Like the Derby Dames, a diverse group of women make up the roster.

Lindsey Walker cooks for a living, a caterer during the week. She attended the first team meeting and has been hooked ever since.

"It always pushes you to do better. You're always getting stronger.  Every time you master something, there's always one more step," she said.  "You've never completed roller derby. You keep going. You keep getting better. That's just amazing."

The team has lots of time to get better, with 14 bouts scheduled this season. They started in February and wrap up in October. Team captain Michelle Urioste says they scheduled a long season because they simply didn't know any better. The team is learning as they go.

That applies to the game too.

No player on the team had prior derby experience. Every player learned through trial and error. But, the team received a big break when a professional coach signed on to lead the women.

After some back and forth calls with Urioste, Jay Warren of the Dallas Deception, the state's only men's roller derby league and nationally ranked in the top ten, led the way.

"He's been great for us," Urioste said.

Like the Derby Dames, Red River is a non-profit league. Skaters pay dues to play and pay for their own gear.

"It's kind of ironic," Walker said. "I pay to get to beat up every month."

Out of the skates, the women focus on community service. They've raised $7,100 for various causes and charities in the Texoma area. Many of the girls say that's the true purpose of their team. Roller derby  is a bonus.

"Our motto is a group of women empowering women to make a difference in the community," Walker said.

The team is on the road for their next two bouts to start August, then returns home to face the Abilene Derby Dames on August 18th.