Renegade roller derby brawls into town

By MIKI JENNINGS

Renegade Rollergirls of Tucson is the city’s newest all-female roller derby league.

It’s also the most violent, with no penalties for fighting. Renegade bouts have “brawl breakers,” but no referees. Thrown elbows, punches and pulled hair quickly send players into scuffles.

Players skid across the track, entangled with opponents. Depending on a player’s intention, she can usually get in a few hits before getting pulled apart and sent back into the game.

In gameplay, a jammer from each team earns points by skating past the opposing team’s blockers. Bouts are half the duration of non-renegade leagues, such as Tucson Roller Derby.

Head coach Suzi Berrie started RRoT last summer.

“Sometimes we will pull the opposing jammer down and just sit on her,” Berrie said. “It is mistaken for a fight because our brawl breakers have to break it up, but we’re just doing it so the other jammer can’t make points.”

Berrie has been involved with both renegade-style groups and TRD. What’s the difference? Renegade roller derby has no rules except “don’t be a douche bag.”

“And if you are, expect it back,” Berrie said. “Because you will get it back.”

Audience members sometimes take a risk by merely sitting in the front rows. Players’ fights can extend past the track boundaries and come dangerously close to spectators.

Players know that a renegade league requires lots of strength and courage to handle potential fights and injuries.

“In RROT we don’t have rules, just a guideline: “do to others as you want done to you,” said Kimberly Simpson, who plays as Kimikaze. “If you dish it out, be ready to get it back, sometimes worse than you gave it.”

RRoT newbie Dainty Sanchez stressed the importance of recognizing the physical risks of the contact-based sport.

“You will get hurt,” Sanchez said. “No one is out to get you, no one wants to hurt you, it just happens. We are a no-rules league and you need to be prepared for that.”

Pima Community College student Tashua Spiess broke her leg while practicing for RRoT under the name Vye Brator. She is now on their injured list, and focusing on recuperating.

“When they told me I needed surgery, my first question was ‘can I skate again?’” Spiess said. “They said yes, so I’m counting down the days.”

RRoT’s last bout was against the renegade team in Phoenix. Next, RRoT will be up against LARRG, from Los Angeles.

“There’s only seven renegade leagues in the United States and we all play each other because other peeps aren’t very open to playing renegade,” Berrie said with a laugh.

For those who find a good fit, renegade derby offers several benefits. Players gain a second family and can be part of a new community. Among other things, contenders find a way to release stress.

“I had no outlet; derby gives me an outlet,” Sanchez said. “I don’t have to put on my fake smile or be polite, I get to let loose. It’s a group of girls who really don’t give a fuck, but at the same time will always have your back.”

Jennifer Thornton, who plays as Jenna Fur Burger, was on a speed skating team for six years. Roller derby was always a dream and she said joining RRoT was her “best decision ever.”

“It feels so great being part of such an amazing team with amazing people,” Thornton said.

Spiess found lots of support from fellow rollergirls after her leg injury. Teammates contacted her husband to check on her, and came to visit after her surgery.

“When you join RRoT, you join more than just a team,” Thornton said. “You join a family.”

The team welcomes those who might be interested in joining. They recommend checking out bouts and a few practices before committing. Members will train newbies and even teach them how to skate.

Joining the league is free, but you must buy your own equipment.

“Knee pads are your Jesus,” Berrie said. “Don’t go cheap on those bad boys. Padding is everything!”

For more information, visit http://rrot.weebly.com or facebook.com/RROTucson.

 

NEXT BOUTS:

 

TRD

When: Sept. 28, doors open at 7 p.m.

Where: The Wreckhouse (1145 E. Valencia Road)

Tickets: $8 (brownpapertickets.com/event/267958)

 

RRoT

When: Sept. 29, doors open at 7 p.m.

Where: Las Cazuelitas Event Center (behind Las Cazuelitas restaurant and the Hampton Inn), 1365 W. Grant Road

Tickets: $10 at the door

 

Photo by Alethea Do

 

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