GRAVENHURST - Names like Val-Unkind and Kenya Move Me are getting ready to crush some bones this year as roller derby season begins.
ROUND AND ROUND.
Roller derby players skate around the rink during practice in Orillia on Sunday, Mar. 17.
A rough and tough sport, roller derby attracts players that are often unexpected.
Val Ceschia-Hart, known as Val-Unkind on the roller rink, is the organizer of the Supper Club in Gravenhurst and a real estate agent. Shelley Pratt, also known as Kenya Move Me, is a stay-at-home homeschooling mom who helps her husband with his construction business and loves camping.
“This is completely out of my realm, usually I’m very quiet,” Pratt said.
Since she hit the rink just under a year ago, the league of nurses, vet technicians, educational assistants and tattoo artists has become her second family.
“Everyone you’re playing with keeps you wanting to go back,” she said.
The game sounds easy by description. Two teams skate in circles on a roller rink, four from each team skate together in a pack. Behind them, a player on each team, called a jammer, tries to break through the pack while the opposing team tries to block them. If they break through, they score a point each time they lap a player on the opposite team. Roller derby is played on a flat track and even though no punching is permitted, the game draws blood and breaks bones, which is reflected in the names of the teams and the players. The South Simcoe Rebel Rollers have two teams, the Ghoul Guides and the Boneyard Betties.
In the year she’s been playing, Ceschia-Hart, who plays for the Ghoul Guides, has seen players with a broken ankle, broken fingers, tailbones and concussions, but she has kept her own injuries to rink rash and bruises.
Pratt, who plays for Boneyard Bettys, injured her knee, but is now fully recovered and back on the rink.
Ceschia-Hart describes herself as outspoken, but said she was timid when she started playing.
“I had never played on a team sport, let alone a full contact one,” she said. “It took me a long time to come around.”
She googled the nearest roller derby league on a whim after seeing the sport on breakfast television. She passed the 10-week training period for new players at the roller rink in Orillia and began playing in Dec. 2012.
Now she uses the sport’s aggressiveness to her advantage.
Though she’s not a violent person, she said “it’s an excellent way to get rid of frustrations.”
For the past year she has made the trip to Orillia once a week during the winter and twice a week during the game season from May to September.
Both women are also on the travelling team and have played in games throughout Ontario and in other cities like Montreal.
Though there is a high turn-over rate of roller derby players, both women are hoping to stick with it for awhile.
“You make new friends and you get to hit them,” Ceschia-Hart said.