Skates. Pads. Helmet. Friends. What more could a 15-year-old feminist need? For Ayanna “Ayannic Storm” Ravia of the Tucson Derby Brats, the answer is not much. With practice three days a week during the school year, and having ruled out other sports (“I did soccer and softball, but I quit them,”) she’s found her calling in youth roller derby. “It just stuck,” Ravia says. “It’s really good to blow off steam at the end of the day.”
On a flat outdoor multipurpose court at Catalina High School, 3645 E. Pima St., that’s just what’s happening as Ravia and five other girls on wheels practice team formations after warming up by running the nearby bleachers. Coach Pauline McKindley is as committed to the sport as her players are; she rolls with the best herself as “Midnight Crasher” in the adult Tucson Roller Derby league. “There isn’t a whole lot of spare time,” McKindley grins in between blasts on her whistle while leading drills.
She doesn’t go easy on her junior counterparts. They can take it. Their track size is equivalent, and bout rules of engagement are nearly identical to standard TRD play. A pack of ‘blockers’ accelerates ahead in a group, while individual ‘jammers’ follow behind and then attempt to score points by lapping members of the opposing team. In matches requiring considerable athletic skill and grit, the Tucson Derby Brats have clashed with and held their own against teams from Phoenix, the San Fernando Valley and Las Cruces.
TDB Board President and parent Michele Ream sits trackside as her daughter “Madeline Bootyfly,” 12, glides past – powered by the ease and grace of experience. She was quick to join in 2008 two years after this, the first youth roller derby league in the world, was founded (2006) and is now its longest-playing member. Ream speaks appreciatively of the fierce bond the girls share. “They always talk about how close they are,” she says. “The jammers are joking with each other, hugging each other and then take off and…!” As Hallye “Haldoll” Becker, 17, puts it, “Everyone has their share of injuries. The travel team involves more hitting.”
Despite Becker’s bravado and the glee with which she speaks of bruises and other harm (“neck sprain, knee sprain, two minor concussions”) the skaters of the “totally parent-run” Tucson Derby Brats’ two teams, Tenacious Teens and Vile Juveniles, stay safe and focus on fun. The girls pay dues and fund raise through bake sales, just like players of other sports do. The track they currently use is shared with a soccer organization. Ream’s latest goal for the group is to secure a dedicated space. Donations toward that purpose are tax-deductible through the national Junior Roller Derby Association; see JuniorRollerDerby.org.
“We consider ourselves sisters and wives,” insists two-season co-captain Ayannic Storm before high-fiving her comrade Haldoll as practice wraps up. Young women are encouraged to try out; no skating skills required. The Tucson Derby Brats are always looking for dedicated skaters aged 8-17. Fees are $75 per season including uniform jersey.
For more information, registration forms, and September bout dates visit TucsonDerbyBrats.com.