Somewhere in Baton Rouge, there’s a group of women who have honed their roller-skating techniques and are ready to show their skills whenever they get the chance.
Red Stick Roller Derby has existed for four years in Baton Rouge, and its members can’t get enough of rolling around a small track and trading blows with opponents.
“I didn’t know how to roller-skate when I joined, and now I love it,” said Nicole Staudenmaier, a Red Stick Roller Derby competitor/referee for the past two years.
Red Stick Roller Derby, an apprentice league in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, is split into two teams: The Diables Rouges, the A team, and the Capital Defenders, the B team.
The two squads compete against teams from across the South — Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Florida.
A derby competition can resemble more of a brawl than a fun time on skates.
Each team has a “jammer” who skates around the track and attempts to pass as many opponents as possible, earning a point for each person passed.
A group of blockers for each team tries to knock down the opposing jammer, or clear the way for its own jammer.
“It’s a full-contact sport,” said Caroline Ficara, a member of Diables Rouges for about three years. “It’s probably more comparable to rugby than football.”
The concept seems easy: Knock down the person in front of you so your jammer can move ahead and score points.
But there are rules. And plenty of them.
The head can’t be used to block. You can’t use your hands to grab, hold or push. Use the point of your elbow for contact and you’re in trouble.
“It’s all about having good form and knowing how to hit,” Ficara said of the rules.
They practice three or four days a week at Leo’s Rollerland. Members are also encouraged to work individually by doing cross-training and outdoor skating.
“These girls train,” Staudenmaier said. “They do something every day of the week.”
All that training culminated at Red Stick’s doubleheader on June 18 at the Baton Rouge River Center.
The Capital Defenders faced the East Texas Bombers in the first match, while the Diables Rouges faced the Torpedo Bay Rollergirls in the second.
At the beginning of the first match, all the blockers sat bunched together before the first whistle blew. Then they took off. The jammers followed after the next whistle.
The women were barely halfway around the track when one Capital Defender effortlessly knocked a Bomber down to the ground.
In the next turn, a Capital Defender went flying after she encountered almost full-body contact from a Bomber.
Audra Jones, a Diables Rouges member, said she didn’t find the June 18 match to be too difficult, but she did have some lingering soreness.
“I have some bruises on my hip. My shoulder is sore,” Jones said. “I don’t know how or when any of that happened.”
Sometimes the injuries are more than soreness and bruises: One woman broke her leg, and another broke her collarbone at the match.
“That’s not usual, but it does happen,” Ficara said.
There is some protection provided to the competitors: helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, mouth guards and wrist guards — which helps them at the River Center where the floor is made of concrete and there are no guard rails. The track is only marked by tape, with lanes no more than 15 feet wide.
“We train, actually, really extensively on how to fall,” Ficara said. “Sometimes you can’t really control it, or sometimes you have to do a barrel roll.”
The competitors, when out on the track, seem to have alternate personalities that make them rough, tough and ready to rumble, which might explain their stage names.
When derby girls compete, they aren’t introduced by their real names. They go by their roller derby names.
There’s “Glock Strap” and “Moxie Balboa” on the Diables Rouges. For the Capital Defenders, there’s “Mauley Rinkwyld” and “Schexorcist.”
Each competitor has a “derby wife,” or best friend, that helps her out during practice, Ficara said.
Ficara, or “Heidi Volatile,” is the derby wife of Staudenmaier, also known as “Panda Scare.”
“I wouldn’t stick around if I didn’t like the people in it,” Staudenmaier said.
Some women don accessories, ranging from fishnet stockings to face paint.
But most of the women say while the accessories and names are fun, they play because they love the game.
“I would go out there and play roller derby with a real name, a number, black shorts and a T-shirt,” Jones said.