OHIO VALLEY — The local female empowerment movement is on a roll, literally.
This movement doesn’t involve marches but roller skates.
Roller derby has made a comeback in the last couple of years, even here in the Ohio Valley with the Silver Bridge Bruisers team. The team held its first informational meeting in July 2015 and its first official bout last February in Huntington against the Poison Apples.
Heather Blazer, of Gallia County, Ohio, is the team’s founder and coach. Blazer said the team is comprised of around 15 skaters who live in Gallia, Meigs and Jackson counties in Ohio and Mason County, W.Va. The team practices every Monday night from 6-8 p.m. at the armory in Point Pleasant, W.Va. and has an “all skates” practice from 6-8 p.m. every Wednesday at GDC in Gallipolis, Ohio. Both are open to the public and anyone can show up to find out more about the team or becoming a part of it.
Blazer said she never saw herself as someone who would try out for a roller derby team let alone coach one. She started out as a team member for the Appalachian Hell Betties team in Athens, Ohio, and then moved on to found the Bruisers.
If you’ve ever wanted to shove someone out of the way but didn’t want to get yelled at, roller derby may be for you.
Of course, the main component to roller derby is confidence, whether it comes before, after or during a career in the sport.
“It’s (roller derby) very empowering,” Blazer said. “You’ll see people come in and be meek and mild, like I was…roller derby gives you confidence and you realize your body is something important. You can use your body to knock people down…your body isn’t something you hate anymore because it’s your tool, it’s your weapon.”
Blazer said it’s rare to get a person who tries out for the team who can skate well right from the “get go.” She said, most people haven’t skated since adolescence but there is a starting place for all skill levels for those who want to try out for the team.
“Anyone can be a good skater if you just stop being afraid,” Blazer said.
There is also a place for everyone in roller derby, whether on the team, referees or non-skating officials who work the clock and penalty booths.
“We can find places for everyone,” she said about the need for volunteers.
Right now, what the Bruisers need, is a home. They have been unsuccessful in finding a place to host home bouts in Gallia, Meigs, Jackson or Mason counties. They have held scrimmages at the armory, such as the one held last weekend against the Hell Betties, but it was an exhibition and there’s not enough room for a large audience.
Blazer said the team, which carries its own liability insurance, recently booked the armory in Millwood, W.Va., for a “home bout” Sept. 30 where bleachers will be available. However, prior to that bout, the Bruisers will be busy with the following bouts: Feb. 12 vs. Poison Apples, 5 p.m., Roll-a-Rama, Huntington, W.Va. for an event being called the Sweetheart Slaughter; April 22 vs. Roundtown, Circleville, Ohio, address and time to be announced.
Blazer said bouts are also being set for May and June and explained, roller derby doesn’t necessarily have a set “season” and the Bruisers pick up bouts where they can. The only month they plan to take off this year is August, she said.
Blazer said she hopes to find an additional location for the Bruisers to call home for their bouts and welcomes members of the public to try out for team positions or to fill volunteer slots. She said, joining the team is also a good way to get physically fit.
“It’s really physically intense,” she said. “People get in the best shape of their lives. Roller derby works it for you.”
To find out more information, contact the Bruisers on Facebook or email them at [email protected]