By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Journalism senior Sabrina Fladness doesn't even count her bruises anymore. Three months after joining the Tucson Roller Derby League, her body is constantly covered with scrapes and bruises from practice. The 24-year-old, known as Knuckle Sandovitch, says that's all just part of the game.
One of the newest members of the Iron Curtain team, Fladness said she joined the league because she loves playing highly aggressive competitive sports.
"It's a great and legal stress reliever," Fladness said.
With four practices held every week beginning in February and running through September, it's not surprising that everyone has their fair share of injuries, even though the league goes to extensive lengths to minimize injuries - including aggressive drills focusing on how to fall properly. Skaters are strongly encouraged to fall forward rather than falling back.
Each skater is required by the league to have safety equipment - helmet, knee, elbow, mouth and wrist guards. Some women have gone a step further, strapping on a butt pad underneath their professionally lettered Dickies dress.
The most common injuries are bruises, sprains, knee and ankle injuries as well as the occasional black eye. Each woman is required to carry her own health insurance policy.
The rules for roller derby are simple.
Each team is composed of five skaters: a pivot, three blockers and a jammer. The pivot sets the pace for her three blockers and herself as they form a "pack". The jammer's sole job is to pass members of the other team's pack.
Each two-minute period starts the same way; the pack starts skating at sound of the referee's whistle. A few seconds after the first whistle, the jammers sprint to catch the pack.
For a jammer to score points for her team, she must skate past the other team's pack and lap back around. On subsequent trips through the pack, she scores a point for each adversary she passes. Members of the pack use several tactics to stop them.
One tactic commonly used is to slow down the jammer and then force her out of bounds.
Kim Kysar founded the Tucson Roller Derby League in late 2003. The 34-year-old started the league after a close friend formed a successful league in Phoenix.
The Arizona Roller Derby league founder, Denise Schubert, tried to convince Kysar to a form a team in Tucson. Schubert wanted this team to play in the Arizona Roller Derby league with the two Phoenix-based teams, but Kysar was reluctant.
"I didn't have time for anything like that, as fun as it sounded." Kysar said.
Kysar eventually agreed to start a Tucson-based team, hoping to hand it over to someone else to run.
"I agreed to gather up some girls and hold the first meeting, hoping someone else would show up and take (it) over and I could just skate and enjoy," said Kysar.
Eighteen women attended the first meeting in December 2003, and Kysar convinced those in attendance they just needed to learn a few skills to form a roller derby team.
Kysar, 34, was successful in her pitch to form a team. The first Tucson Roller Derby team, the Furious Truckstop Waitresses, was established that day. A second team, the Iron Curtain, was founded in 2004. A third team, VICE squad, recently formed.
The Furious Truckstop Waitresses started skating the following week after their initial meeting. Most women could not skate very well and many fell over and over again.
"We were total babies. We didn't have anyone to guide us," Kysar said.
Kysar, known as "Kim Sin" to her teammates, said accounting issues and general business disagreements with Schubert pushed her to form the Tucson Roller Derby League.
Kysar is proud of the league and how it has grown.
"We're living the dream we all had when we were little girls watching Roller Derby on Saturday mornings. We're kicking serious ass," she said.
Schubert, known as Ivanna S. Pankin in the league, says she loves her sister league in Tucson.
"Playing them is much like playing teams in our own league," Schubert said. "We love them."
A match between the Iron Curtain and the Bruisers will be held at Bladeworld, 1065 W. Grant Rd, on July 17. Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 on the day of the match. The match starts at 7 p.m.
This will be Fladness's first official game, and her first chance to try out her new crimson red Dickies dress. Fladness has decorated her dress with a black racing stripe, a faux fur trim and several Russian patches acquired by one of her teammates. Her uniform will also sport her team number U-238, the atomic number of uranium.
Fladness is looking forward to the game, despite a hard fall last week at a scrimmage that aggravated a previous injury.
"My right knee is really, really sore, but it always is. I just take a lot of Ibuprofen and limp around," said Fladness. "You just have to get back up and keep skating."