Derby success inspires, empowers females

The Twin City Derby Girls, or TCDG, Champaign-Urbana’s flat-track roller derby league, kicked off its 2012 season Saturday against Evansville’s Demolition City Roller Derby.

Each roller derby game, also known as a bout, consists of two 30-minute periods and a halftime. Each period is made up of a series of two-minute jams. In each jam, five skaters from each team — one jammer and four blockers — take to the floor to compete. All 10 players then begin to skate around the circular track. A team scores when their jammer passes members of the opposing team. The role of the blockers is to prevent jammers from passing by using any official check.

The TCDG traveling squad, known as the Twin City Travelers, plays against competing leagues at the David S. Palmer Arena in Danville. The local games, against three Champaign-Urbana teams — The Boneyard Bombshells, The ’Paign, and The Damagin’ Dames — are held at Skateland Savoy. In its first year, TCDG membership shot up from 7 to more than 80 members, making it one of the fastest-growing leagues in the country.

“Being a grown woman, it’s hard to find a way to work out and be competitive. This is kind of the answer for a lot of women,” said Chelsea Norton, TCDG public relations and community outreach chair, also know by her skater name Chiquita Bandita.

Part of the attraction to derby is that skaters frequently take on fictitious “derby names” – such as local skaters “Delta Badhand” and “Terror Misu.” Skaters also commonly don unusual attire like fishnet stockings and colorful knee socks.

“In just two years, TCDG has exploded onto the C-U sports scene,” said TCDG president Tina Davis in a press release. “We are well on our way to becoming one of the most competitive leagues in the region.”

“Tina Davis”:, president of the league, also known as Terror Misu, said roller derby will be popular for a long time.

“(For our own league,) the trick is finding a balance between being competitive nationally and locally,” Davis said. “We are cognizant that the league meets different needs for our members, and I think our success will be in providing the platforms for our league members to meet their own goals in the sport.”

Norton said the league was founded on the belief that roller derby is not just about winning games.

“By empowering and inspiring women and girls, we can make our community — and our world — a better place for everyone,” she said in a press release.

In February, the league was accepted as a full member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, or WFTDA, after a comprehensive application process. The traveling squad will now compete for rankings within the WFTDA, an international association of more than 200 roller derby leagues.

“It means we can now play against other full WFTDA leagues to qualify for regional, and eventually, national tournaments,” said “Cari Rich”:, vice-president of the league. “In baseball terms, we’ve graduated from the minors to the majors.”

The league has also made a commitment to giving back to the community by teaming up with local non-profits. TCDG donates a portion of the money it raises from events to local charities.

This year, the league partnered with Rape Advocacy, Counseling, and Education Services, or R.A.C.E.S, a group of rape crisis centers.

“The work they do is extremely important to our mission of empowering women and girls locally,” Rich said. “Proceeds from our home bouts will help them provide services in the community.”

As the size of the league continues to grow in Champaign-Urbana, so does the support. Fans now come in support of their favorite teams and players — even asking for the occasional autograph.

“From the hardcore athleticism and strategy of the game to the crazy ‘boutfits’ and derby names, there’s something for everyone at a derby bout,” Rich said.