If you’re not sure about roller derby, prepare to become addicted.
At least that’s what happened to Angie Herron, of Rochester.
A little over a year ago, Herron didn’t care or know much about roller derby. She only went along one night to be a good friend. “I went with a friend of mine who had joined a team,” she said. “I wasn’t super interested in joining the team, but then I said, ‘That looks like a lot of fun.'”
So much fun that Herron quickly signed up and started re-acquainting herself with the roller skates she had left behind in childhood. She took part in the MedCity Mafia team training camp starting in November 2013 and skated in her first bout, or match, last spring.
Now Herron is all-in, and will be skating for the Mafia when the team hosts its home opener Saturday at Mayo Civic Center.
There are 27 women on the team, although only five skate at a time. Most of the women have nicknames (Herron’s is “Knock Knock Knuckles”) and nearly all have experience in sports. “There’s a lot of athletic backgrounds,” Herron said.
Indeed, a look at the brief bios of team members on the MedCity Mafia website finds skaters who participated in track and field, softball, volleyball and other school sports.
It’s a new experience for Herron. “I’ve never done a team sport before,” she said. “For me, it’s like a social community, a physical outlet, and I love learning new skills. It’s just a great group of women.”
The women on the team handle all aspects of its operation, from public relations (Herron’s job) to getting sponsorships, booking venues and, of course, teaching others the sport.
“We have really rigorous practices,” Herron said. New recruits have to survive a three-month training boot camp before they join the team for matches.
As for those matches, they’re played according to the rules of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which revived the sport after the pro wrestling-style charades of the ’60s and ’70s tarnished its reputation.
“I think the public’s idea is based on the older game in the ’70s, when things were staged,” Herron said. “We have rules and referees. You can’t just punch people or clothesline people.”
That doesn’t mean this is a sport for the faint of heart. Speed, bodies jostling for position and tumbles on hard surfaces can make for nasty combinations. “There definitely are injuries,” Herron said.
And there’s definitely a lot of excitement, as anyone who has become addicted can attest. “The crowds really get into it,” Herron said. “It’s a lot of fun and there’s a lot of enthusiasm.”
If you go
What: MedCity Mafia vs. Fox Cities roller derby match
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE
Tickets: $10 advance, $12 at the door for adults; $7 in advance, $8 at the door for kids ages 6-12 and senior citizens; kids five and younger get in free; 800-745-3000.
The Arc of Minnesota is the MedCity Mafia’s sponsored charity for the opening match. The organization will receive all the money from “Bout Shouts” (spectators purchase a shout out made by the announcer to the crowd), 10 percent of merchandise sales and proceeds from halftime activity.