'Be Annoying! Be Loud! Be a Menace!' The Cincinnati Rollergirls Reflect on Long Journey Back to the Rink

After the pandemic halted competition, the local roller derby team is rebuilding its roster, reputation and spirit ahead of its fall season.

click to enlarge Cincinnati Rollergirls - Photo: Jason Bechtel
Photo: Jason Bechtel
Cincinnati Rollergirls

In less than a month, the Cincinnati Rollergirls (CRG) will be playing their first game in over 2 years since being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in March 2022, the CRG was gearing up for tryouts when it was still unknown whether the season would start back up.

At The Place skate rink and arcade in Colerain Township, the “Duties & Responsibilities of Roller Skaters” are displayed on a tin sign and hung near the restrooms. 

They are, in summary: Maintain reasonable control of speed; heed all posted signs and warnings; maintain a proper outlook; accept responsibility for own ability; and refrain from acting in a manner that may cause the injury of himself or any other person.

The CRG have their own duties and responsibilities. 

“Be annoying! Be loud! Be a menace!,” Kostasaurus, CRG skater, bellows during a CRG boot camp in March 2022.

“It’s something that a lot of folks as they play roller derby kind of grow into. It isn’t something that we’re always taught to do in our regular lives,” CRG Head Coach Wheezy says about being annoying, loud and a menace.

During a March 2022 CRG boot camp, the group skates around the rink, doing drills and knocking each other out of the lines with hip bumps. A disco ball hangs above the rink, unmoving, and during certain drills, the CRG’s skates sound like heavy hail on the shiny maple floors.

This boot camp is one of CRG’s first of the year – of the past two years, actually. CRG’s most recent official match was February 16, 2020, though it was closed to the public. In early March 2020, CRG was shut down for play by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), which governs CRG. While other sports like baseball, tennis and even football continued in 2020 with little to no regulations, WFTDA instituted staunch regulations. The team has held inconsistent practices and boot camps since early 2020 due to changing WFTDA and state and local regulations.

Over the last two and a half years, CRG has lost skaters, battled to keep morale up and counted down until competition could begin again. This boot camp feels like a restart, a rebuild from halfway above the ground. At the time of the shut down, CRG had 34 WFTDA-level and 8 people in the training program, which has two levels: the Developmental League or ‘Nati Lites. Currently, there are 27 WFTDA-level skaters on the team, with 13 people in the training program.

Now, with two recently announced games coming up on Sept. 10 and Oct. 8, it seems like the rebuild is moving in the right direction.

Jackie the Ripper, CRG skater and founder of the Cincinnati Skate Collective, is excited for the upcoming season. “The Roller Derby community knows how to have a great time, and it’s family friendly so this is an event that people really don’t want to miss,” she says. “We are all just really looking forward to getting back on the track again.”

For other skaters, like Sailor Scary, who has been playing roller derby since 2008 and has served as a coach of the Jr. Cincinnati Rollergirls since 2014, the return of public games is bittersweet.

In May 2022, Scary visited family in France. When her cousin mentioned that they would be moving out of their beloved apartment, Scary saw an opportunity. The CRG community wasn’t back to what it was, best friends had moved away and she’d lived in Cincinnati for years…why not make a change?

Quickly, Scary secured the apartment, a new job and tenured her resignation as a children’s librarian. Then she received a message from a fellow skater, telling her that she should probably move her flight to France, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 10, the date of the first CRG match in two and a half years. 

“I’m equal parts stoked and devastated,” she says.

Scary will miss coaching the Jr. Rollergirls the most. “The juniors have literally kept me alive through the pandemic…when I didn’t have anything else,” she says.

She might see them sooner than expected, though, since the 2023 Junior Roller Derby Cup is in France. “Everything has fallen into place,” Scary says.

She has since moved her flight to the next day, so she will play her last CRG match on Sept. 10 and then fly out less than 24 hours later. “I’m going to play really hard but not get ejected,” she says, laughing.

Scary will miss the CRG community, but hopes to continue playing roller derby in France.

That community Scary, Ripper and other skaters rely on was damaged because of the pandemic, and Coach Wheezy hopes that it all comes together again.

“[The pandemic] was really hard,” Coach Wheezy says. “We had played one game and it was one of the best versions of CRG that I have ever played on. Everyone on the team was ready for the season. Like we were absolutely going to go in and knock it out of the park. Then the pandemic came and wiped us out. As the pandemic carried on, folks have kind of drifted away. I’m not sure who’s going to wonder their way back.”

The two upcoming CRG games will be on Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Xavier University Cintas Center and Saturday, Oct. 8 at Sports Plus in Evendale. 

Tickets for the Cintas Center game are on sale now and cost $15 in advance for adults and $20 at the door. Tickets for children ages 3-12 cost $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Those 2 and younger are free. There are also group discounts and discounts for college students, faculty and staff. Purchase tickets at xavier.evenue.net.

Doors open at 5 p.m. for the Sept. 10 game and play begins at 6 p.m.

The team says tickets for the Sports Plus game on Oct. 8 will go on sale soon.

The Cintas Center is located at 1624 Musketeer Drive on Xavier University's campus.

Learn more about the Cincinnati Rollergirls at cincinnatirollergirls.com.


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