Competition meets camaraderie at Lynwood Roller Rink
by Josh Bootsma
LYNWOOD, Ill. (October 9, 2018) – The Lynwood Sport Center draws all types of people to skate at its roller rink. Come in on Friday nights and you’ll see a teenage hangout on wheels. On Tuesdays you’ll witness a family pizza night. On Wednesday mornings you’ll enter to the sound of organ music accompanying adults making their way around the wooden floor. But enter on Monday or Wednesday nights, and you’ll meet a different type of crowd—the Illiana Derby Dames.
While most people are at home resting from their work, about 35 women are doing the opposite: they’re putting on pads, helmets, and skates before getting physical on the racetrack. With derby names like Eve Iscerate, Scare N Dippity, Karma Kazi, and Lady TERRORdactyl, the Illiana Derby Dames are serious about the work of beating their competition.
But only practice makes perfect, and that’s what draws them to the Lynwood Sport Center on weeknights. Practice starts with a number of drills to improve endurance, footwork, and speed before the Dames start their intra-squad scrimmage.
A roller derby bout (the derby term for “match”) consists of two 30-minute periods during which two teams try to outscore the other. Ten women are allowed on the track at a time—five from one team and five from the other. One of a team’s five skaters has a star on her helmet and is called the “jammer.” The jammer’s job is to score points while the four “blockers” create the space for her to do so, while also blocking the opposing team’s jammer. A point is scored whenever a jammer laps a member of the opposing team, which can be done multiple times during a two-minute “jam.”
“Because roller derby doesn’t a have a ball, it’s hard to follow,” said Dames coach Ron Chesko, who has been the team’s coach for about six months, “so basically you have to keep an eye on the person with the star on their helmet—they’re the ones that are scoring.”
“I feel like a lot of people watch the first half and are confused, and then after halftime they’re like ‘Ok, I’m catching on,’” said three-year team member Gnarly Quinn.
Though a bout might be hard for others to understand, the Illiana Derby Dames know exactly what they’re doing—on and off the racetrack.
The Dames are a registered nonprofit and take great pride in using their bouts as a means to benefit different charities.
“Every month we pick a charity to give all of our proceeds to and we have them come and set up a booth…to just get their name out there,” Quinn said.
Each bout raises around $1,000 for charity. Last month, the Dames donated to the Cancer Support Center, and this month they will donate to INFEAT, an organization dedicated to helping those with autism.
“We do it for our charities,” said Dames veteran Scare N Dippity. “We try to get people in here not to watch us skate but so we can raise as much money for them as we can.”
Benefitting each other
As much as the Dames enjoy giving to those in need, they get plenty out of the experience themselves as well.
“This is a family. I’ve never been closer to a group of people in my life—and I was in the military. I kind of joined derby because I was seeking out that kind of camaraderie again,” said Eve Iscerate, a captain on the team.
The group’s website states the team’s mission and includes the following: “Our goal is to empower every team member to not only embrace their strength through sport, but to also embrace their power to positively impact our community with volunteer work and charitable donations. We strive to give women a place to feel welcome in a fun-filled, action-packed environment.”
“This is my tribe,” Eve said, “I click with these people so well. …It’s been like a dream come true.”
Growing the group
Interested in joining? The Illiana Derby Dames recruit new members year-round and offer two boot camps every year to help new skaters learn roller derby. No prior knowledge of skating or roller derby is needed.
“In the end of January or February we’re going to have another boot camp session where we teach a whole fresh group of people what derby is, let them try it out, and see if it’s a good fit for them,” Eve said.
Those who are interested can get more information at:
Seeing the action
Want to watch a bout yourself? The Dames’ final home bout of the season takes place at the Lynwood Sport Center on October 14. The doors open at 6:30pm, and all proceeds will go to INFEAT. This month’s bout is Halloween-themed and features a costume contest for kids.
“Our tradition here is to do a costume bout for the last bout of the year…it’s always our best one,” Eve said.
Lynwood Sport Center is located at 2030 Glenwood Dyer Road in Lynwood, Illinois.