Whoosh! An exhilarating breeze filled the air in the Waldorf Roller Skating Rink as military members and their dependents coasted over the high-shine wooden floor during tryouts for the Freedom Belles roller derby league on March 14.
Air National Guard spouse, Veronica Cecil, founded this Class 3 Modern Athletic Derby Endeavors (MADE) flat-track rookie league.
According to www.skatemade.org, the mission of MADE is to serve as a modern implement of roller derby; to protect and promote athletes while providing spectators with an organized and entertaining experience.
“The Freedom Belles roller derby league was established primarily for military members and their families; however, civilians are welcome to tryout as well,” said Cecil. “When my husband, Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Cecil, Air National Guard superintendent of recruiting and retention, and I were stationed at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan for a year and six months; I was on a league there. That’s when I found that I loved this sport so much that I couldn’t live without it. So I decided to start my own league here.”
Cecil evaluated participants on balance and comfort level on skates during the tryouts and said a more in-depth assessment of crossovers, falls and other derby techniques will occur during an upcoming six-week clinic.
People trying out for the league ranged from experienced derbies with athletic prowess to novice skaters.
“I was pretty intimidated at first because I haven’t really skated since I was ten,” said Melissa “Tripsy Sparkles” Fowler, Freedom Belles Army spouse. “I’ve been at it for about four months and it’s a fun, really good workout.”
The school of hard knocks seems to be the best teacher when it comes to learning the heart-pounding, fast-rolling sport of roller derby.
Falling is part of the fun, as noted by the chorus of applause and cheer from teammates who are there to help you get up and rolling again should you fall.
Those who make the cut must be up for a challenge, have a taste for adventure and thrive on camaraderie.
“Roller derby is really fun and keeps you fit,” said Airman 1st Class Kevin Pertuit, 779th Medical Squadron medical logistics technician.
“The sport is not violent like it once was. It’s still a contact sport but we are like family.”
Pertuit has participated in the league since its inception in August 2011. Initially, the team utilized his extensive medical knowledge as support for the team in case of medical emergencies, said Pertuit.
Eventually, his friends in derby jammed him into the game.
The inspiration to get into this game is multifaceted. Not only are these empowered individuals building relationships, getting fit and having a blast, they have the ability to harness innovative, confident identities.
During scrimmage, the players rotated the positions of pace-setting pivots, lead-seeking jammers, impenetrable blockers and lead referee as they suspended their identities and let their alter egos reign supreme on the rink.
“As a spouse, everything is about my husband’s career,” said Celia “Cici” Joseph, Freedom Belles vice president. “In roller derby, you can create an alter ego, come out on the rink and just have fun.”
Carolina Hershey, Freedom Belles secretary who takes on the persona of “Sinisher Gates,” means business on and off the rink.
“It’s really different being on both sides of the business of derby,”
said Hershey. “We have been working really hard to be professional and get positive information out to service members, their families and civilians about the Freedom Belles roller derby league. You never realize until you become a part of it how big this sport really is,” she said.
The next Freedom Belles bout is slated to be held at the Dulles Sports Complex at 6 p.m. on April 7.
For further information on how to take advantage of an opportunity to make friends, get fit and have fun check out the Freedom Belles roller derby open tryouts Facebook site.