Story by Lauren Schatz, edited by Ammie Bryant
Images provided by Lauren Schatz, Stillwater Roller Derby, and Jefferson Bryant
The Roller Dome, which opened its doors to the Stillwater community in 2016, is many things. To some, it is an ideal birthday party venue; to others, it is the perfect place for a fun night out.
To the Stillwater Roller Derby team? It is an opportunity. Thanks to the local roller rink, this small-but-mighty roller derby league has the opportunity to make its start.
The team, which has been skating together at the Roller Dome for about a year, is composed of around 20 members. It is divided into a men’s, women’s and junior’s team. Together, the team hopes to make its name known.
To do so, the team is preparing for its first game, which will take place on Feb. 17, 2018, at the Payne County Expo Center fairgrounds.
Lisa Vaughan – known in the derby world as “LOUD LISA” – is one of the founders of the Stillwater Roller Derby team. She founded it along with Laura Frye – known as “MisfiT” – and Tamara Roden – known as “Coach Twister” – who currently helps coach the team.
Vaughan said the team is dedicating its game to ex-captain Julie Jones-Grider – known as “Mad Maggie Bloody #8” – who lost her battle against breast cancer in August. Though “Mad Maggie” is no longer skating, her legacy lives on.
“’Mad Maggie’ was like the sister you never had,” Vaughan said. “She could always make your bad day a good day with just her smile and laugh. We are dedicating this to her because she was an inspiration and she has touched so many hearts from around the world because of derby.”
In preparation of this upcoming game, the team has been working hard at its weekly practices, which take place from 8 to 10 p.m. every Sunday and Wednesday. At the practices, the team members train to skate on the track. According to Vaughan, their main objectives are to “stay low, perform wide and hard pushes, perform crossovers and, of course, to believe in themselves.”
Since many members of the team are relatively new, they are also practicing to pass a skills test, which is composed of a written and skate test. This serves to encourage safety on the track – especially because roller derby is a full-contact sport.
The team, which has grown significantly in the past year, is constantly recruiting new members and strongly encourages people to attend its weekly practices.
“They can just come on in,” Vaughan said. “They can watch, or if they choose to skate, we’ve got skates.”
For those merely curious about the local roller derby team – practices are always free to watch. The first skating practice is free as well. The next skating practice costs $40, which covers membership, practicing space, a jersey and three free sessions every weekend at the Roller Dome.
Some people, both with and without prior skating experience, get “roller derby nerves” and are scared to give roller derby a try. Vaughan’s advice to new members: don’t be scared.
“There’s nothing to be scared about,” she said. “None of us started out professionally. If you have ever skated in your lifetime, even if it was 20 years ago, we don’t care. It’ll come back to you; it’s like riding a bicycle.”
One recruitee, Tony Smith – who is now known to the team as “Mischief Manager” – has involved his whole family with the Stillwater Roller Derby team. Many members of his family have been dubbed “Harry Potter” names – “Hufflepunk” being a prime example.
“We [Smith and his wife, Amy aka Exploding Bon Bon] used to skate in high school…back when skating was cool,” Smith said. “Then it kind of died off, and we quit skating. Then the Roller Dome opened, and we saw a flier for derby and wanted to try it. It’s kind of addicting; you get hooked once you start it.”
One of the team’s younger members, Lily Dickson aka “Tiger Lily” is definitely hooked. She, a self-proclaimed natural skater, has been skating since she was 6 years old. She said she enjoys being a part of the Stillwater Roller Derby team.
“We’re like one big family,” she said. “Everyone is nice to each other. If there’s anything that goes on, we solve it together.”
Vaughan, who has been involved in roller derby for almost 10 years, can attest to this.
“It definitely becomes another family,” she said. “It’s people like Mad Maggie, that I never would have met if it wasn’t for derby.”
Members of the Stillwater Roller Derby might join mostly to gain skating skills, but it’s clear that they stay for the tight-knit, fun-loving family they gain along the way.