Off the track, the women from the Derby Revolution of Bakersfield (DRB) are mothers, teachers, and business owners; but once they've suited up for a match, their alter egos take over, and they turn into fierce competitors. Once considered an underground sport, roller derby is undergoing a modern revival. Thousands of amateur, self-organized, and all-female leagues have popped up across the nation.
DRB skates against teams from Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz, and many others from California. In March, DRB hosted its 6th annual Dustbowl Invitational where 10 other teams competed for top awards. The team members also keep active in the community with parades, charities, and other events.
Warren says, "DRB is more than just a roller derby league, it's a family. At practice, the kids and husbands are just as involved as the players. You'll see kids running around playing with each other and cultivating lifelong friendships."
"It not only gives the skaters freedom of expression, but the community is women supporting women," she says. "A lot of people seem to find roller derby during a trying time in their lives. It has pulled me through some really tough times."
Roller derby is a contact sport with two teams of five players on each side skating in the same direction around a track. To earn points, the team's designated jammer has to lap members of the opposing team. Playing both offense and defense simultaneously, the blockers try to stop the other team's jammer while helping their own get through to score.
The majority of women on DRB did not grow up playing a sport. For many players, this is their first competitive team experience. Some players didn't even know how to roller skate prior to joining the league. KCFM interviewed some of these extraordinary women.
Founded in 2008 by Tonya "Tonka Toy" Warren, DRB stands as one of three leagues in Bakersfield. DRB participated in 17 games last year, held seven scrimmages, and practiced two times a week. DRB is under the international governing body, Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). For more information about DRB, please visit www.myderbyrevolution.com.
Tags: Featured Story, Parenting
Name: Tonya Warren INCLUDES PHOTO
Nickname: Tonka Toy
Career: physical education teacher at Sequoia Middle School, co-owner of Tonka Snax Skating: since 2006
Injuries: broken ankle, cracked rib, black eye, separated shoulder
Tonya "Tonka Toy" Warren grew up playing softball and always loved her competitive side. In 2006, as a single mother with two small children, she watched a roller derby special on A&E and it piqued her interest. She sought out a local league and began her career skating in 2006. She was so dedicated to her sport that she even brought her infant daughter with her to games and practices so she could take breaks to nurse her. Her kids, Jett, 12, and Roxy, 9, have grown up with roller derby as part of their lives and even skated for DRB's junior league before it disbanded.
Warren founded DRB in 2008, and she acknowledges that setting up the league was a lot of work. But, she says, "I did it because I love the sport, and I just wanted to skate with people I knew."
On the track, Warren is "all business." Having grown up a competitor, she takes the sport very seriously. "We can go out listening to music and dancing. But, when we're skating, you are not a friend on the track," she says.
She suffered her worst injury on the track last March when she broke her ankle and had it surgically repaired with a plate and seven screws. She missed eight weeks of work and was back on skates in 12 weeks. Her kids, family, and roller derby team took care of her. When asked why this didn't end her skating career, she says, "I want to retire on my terms, not because I'm hurt. I will retire when I know I am done."
Name: April Ahart INCLUDES PHOTO
Nickname: Ahart WreckHer
Position: team manager/blocker
Career: administrative assistant at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County
Skating: since 2011
April "Ahart WreckHer" Ahart didn't grow up playing sports. In fact, when she started with DRB, she didn't even know how to roller skate. A group of veteran skaters taught her how to skate and play the game. "When I first strapped on skates, it was really intimidating and scary, but that's part of the accomplishment. Now I can say, 'I did it!'" she says.
In 2011, after watching a game to support her friend's sister-in-law who was on the team, she wanted to figure out a way to play. "It wasn't your normal woman's sport. It's a lot more action-packed. You got to be on skates and hit people. I was in," she says.
Loving not only the sport but the community, she takes her job blocking very seriously. "The strategy is going, going, going - always moving, always thinking, always having a purpose. Everyone on the track has a job to do. My job is to help the team as much as I can."
Off the track, she also has another job for DRB. She is their team manager in which she resolves conflicts and takes care of team finances.
She embraces her alter ego. "It's a mental escape. You get to dress up how you don't normally dress and be a heavy-hitting derby girl."
Thankful not to have had any injuries, she says she still skates pretty cautiously and isn't a competitive person. "I don't take the risks and am not as much of a daredevil," she says. "The fear of getting hurt is always in the back of my mind."
With her husband, Justin, and their kids, Michayla, 14, and Victoria, 4, she feels lucky to have such a big support system. Michayla even skated on DRB's junior team until she turned her full attention to playing volleyball.
Name: Alandra Evans INCLUDE PHOTO
Nickname: Twisted Hippie
Career: language arts teacher at Sequoia Middle School
Skating: since 2008
Injuries: bruises, 3 broken ribs, dislocated finger, a bone bruise
In 2008, Alandra "Twisted Hippie" Evans had a two-year-old son, Jaxon, and was looking for something that was just for her. Luck would have it that a friend was starting a roller derby league. That was the beginning of her skating career.
For the Evanses, roller derby is a family affair. Her husband, Artie "Major Woody" Evans, coaches DRB. He coached his older son, Nicholas, in football, which shares similar characteristics to roller derby. He decided to embrace it and do it together as a family. Even Alandra's mom puts all their games in her calendar. "We learned the game together," she says. In fact, many times their games spill over into their home life. "Sometimes we have to stop ourselves and talk about something else," she says.
She grew up roller skating and competing as a freestyle figure skater, but she has learned that derby skating is completely different. She has had to "re-train" her brain. "I've had to accept that it's okay to fall," she says. Her husband/coach will often tell her, "Quit skating so pretty and quit pointing your toe." She also has to slouch, which goes against her figure-skating training, because for derby games, you need to have a lower center of gravity.
Jaxon, now 10, who is famous himself as Yahoo's Kool Aid Kid of 2013, looks forward to practice and games, because it becomes a play date for him. He's become so well versed in the sport that he could be a referee. He calls out people's mistakes even before the official referee does.
"I skate as a way for an escape, a release. Some people think it's an underground culture with all colored hair, piercings, tattoos, but we're not all like that," she says. "You have to find where you fit in. Every team has a different personality. At roller derby, I can be myself in a way I just can't be anywhere else."
Name: Carly Young INCLUDE PHOTO
Position: team captain/jammer
Career: Stay-at-home mom
Skating: since 2010
Injuries: bumps, bruises, a broken rib, a concussion (or three)
Carly "Corndog" Young was working at a vending booth selling corndogs at a tournament when she started watching it and fell in love with the sport. This is the first sport she has ever played. She started in the "newbie" program where she learned a certain set of skills and the game's fundamentals before she moved up to practice with the team.
Roller derby takes strength, speed, and agility. "You have to keep your head calm among the chaos and think one step ahead and listen to everyone," she says. "It's like playing speech and chess while bricks are being thrown at you."
Three of her biggest fans include her husband, Kevin, and kids, Alex, age 10, and Lily, age 7. In fact, her kids are sad if they miss practice, because it's a chance for them to play with their "best friends."
She even coached the DRB's co-ed junior team, "Bratz," where her son Alex skated before it disbanded. One of her other biggest supporters, her father, Robert Bray, coached DRB when they were in between coaches. "He trained us and got us in shape," she says.
As a jammer on the track, she has the responsibility to score the points for the team. She spends her time during the game searching for a hole to break through, and how she can manipulate the other teams' blockers, and who can help her. "My pack keeps me safe and makes it so I can do what I need to do."
With the support of her blockers, Young has not suffered any major injuries but she knows it's a possibility. She stays in shape running and doing yoga, and playing outdoors with her family. "I try to take good care of my body off the track. If I'm fit, I won't break," she says. "I plan on doing it until my body won't let me do it anymore."
"Roller derby is something that is just mine - all for me. I get out everything that I need to get out for the week," she says. ""Through roller derby I have met the best friends of my life. It has opened my eyes to a whole new world."