Skating into the ‘heart’


Alyssa Smith

USI alumnae Jolie DeVries and Cassie Kahn work on drills during practice for the Demolition City Roller Derby League Tuesday at the Metro Sports Center in Evansville.

Jenn Horn is a USI English intructor by day, but when she puts on her skates she becomes Belleboa.

Horn is a Dame skater for the Demolition City Roller Derby, a league under the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

“I’m the only person in my family crazy enough to try roller derby,” she said.

This is Horn’s first season with derby. In the spring of 2015, Horn finished Fresh Meat, a practice where beginner skaters go to train and learn new skills before being able to skate with the league.

Roller Derby isn’t what people often think it is, she said. It’s not just elbowing and flipping people over banisters. It’s a sport.

Horn said she got into roller derby after seeing Bleeding Heartland’s team in Bloomington when she was a grad student. Because she learned late in life, she said it has been a challenge to do what she needs to do for the team.

“I started my first Fresh Meat and I did not make it through the first session for some personal reasons,” she said. “I had a surgery, so I couldn’t actually finish out, but I probably would have had to do a second Fresh Meat anyway because I started so late.”

Horn said her friends and family helped pick her name Belleboa after she knew she was going to pass Fresh Meat.

“My mom definitely didn’t help. She was like, ‘I don’t understand why you can’t just be Jenn,’” Horn said, laughing. “I was like I can’t be Jenn because Jenn doesn’t wear short skirts.”

Horn said one of the things she loves about roller derby is the sense of community.

“They don’t care what your athletic ability is or what your size is or what your shape is,” Horn said. “If you’ve ever felt like an outcast, we will find a home for you. If you feel like you belong, we will find a home for you.”

The roller derby has more than eight USI alumnae and students in the league.

Sophomore economics major, Kit Stoddard thinks of Roller Derby as a sisterhood.

Stoddard, also known as Pretty Kate Machine, is a Non-Skating Official (NSO) for the league.

Stoddard said her derby name is a play on the album “Pretty Hate Machine” by Nine Inch Nails.

“The album came out in ’89, which was the year I was born,” Stoddard said. “It’s my favorite Nine Inch Nails album, so it really fits.”

Stoddard has been involved with Roller Derby for eight years as a volunteer and a Non-Skating Official (NSO), this season she decided to try Fresh Meat.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” Stoddard said. “I know it’s going to take me a couple Fresh Meat sessions to get through it. In the meantime, I’m still going to NSO while I work on getting better at skating.”

Stoddard said anyone can get involved, whether they want to skate or just learn the rules. She said even though she had a hip replacement, she still participated as an NSO before trying to skate.

Stoddard said she has been in a sorority before and she never felt as close with them as she does with the derby members.

“I remember one of the Fresh Meat sessions I did and I was having a really difficult day. I was falling more than usual and it was one of those holding back the tears moments and I felt like such a failure. I  felt like I couldn’t do it even though I wanted it so bad,” Stoddard said. “Right at that moment, one of the league members said ‘Keep going, I am proud of you,’ and it gave me the strength to finish that practice and keep coming back.”

Amanda Risher, a doll, also known as Slaughtermelons, said the one word she thinks of when it comes to derby is heart.

“When we were in Bloomington, there was a transgender skater who committed suicide and we did a huge rally around them,” Risher said. “Everyone wore ribbons to raise awareness and it said, ‘Do it for 57,’ which was her number. There is so much love in the derby community.”

Risher, a 2013 alumna, said it doesn’t matter who someone is, or what they are like in derby, and that’s what she loves about it.

“When you join derby you gain 30 sisters,” Risher said. “I’ve usually had trouble making friends, and then I found derby and I was like ‘Wow, I found my people.’ You have so much love. It’s great.”

Love is what makes derby special for Carrie Buress.

Buress, a doll, also known as Low Low, said when it comes to nerves, she really can’t think about it.

“If you start thinking about it, you have to tell yourself to stop thinking about it,” the junior social work and art major said. “Sometimes we keep a trash can because some of the girls have to puke.”

Buress said she received her name because of her height. She is 4’11, and having people always saying “get lower” during practice.

“The oldest on our team is 50, but I saw someone who was 71. In the junior leagues, they are 12 or 13,” Buress said. “You’re not too old or too young.”

Buress said people don’t have to know how to be a good skater to join or have to be perfect from the beginning.

“We had some girls that couldn’t let go of the wall and when I was skating with them. Then  they joined in the pack and started skating with us,” Buress said. “We weren’t going really fast, and by the end of the night, they said ,‘Let’s go faster.’”

Fast Facts:

What: Gangsters and Dolls Bout

Where: Evansville Memorial Coliseum

When: Doors open at 4:30 p.m., Destruction Dames Bout is at 5:30 and the Dynamite Dolls Bout will be at 7:30.

Price: Student tickets are $7 at the door only and general admission tickets will be $10