5/14/2013 9:53:00 AM Roller Derby catches on with women from all walks of life in northern Arizona
Kaytie Thies (left) and Jennifer Cox skate with the High Altitude Roller Derby League. The two Williams residents are part of the league’s “Fresh Meat” team and are working their way up to competing in bouts. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Think roller skating is just for kids? Think again.
Two Williams residents roller skate regularly as part of a sport that involves physical endurance and strategy-roller derby.
Kaytie Thies started with High Altitude Roller Derby in July, and Jennifer Cox started in September.
Thies said since watching "Whip It," a movie about roller derby, a part of her has always wanted to get involved in the sport. When a friend decided to start, Thies became interested as well.
"I went to my first practice and fell in love and bought all my gear and just went in full-speed," she said.
Cox was convinced after her first practice too.
"It just looked so exciting and fun, something you don't normally do as an adult," she said.
In a roller derby match, or bout, each team has five players on the track. Each team has four blockers and one jammer. The jammer's job is to make it through all of the blockers and lap the opposing team. A team scores points for every opponent the jammer laps.
Thies and Cox are on the Fresh Meat team, which practices twice a week at a warehouse in Bellemont.
"We're the ones that are still learning, we're gaining our skills so we can then compete in the bouts," Thies said.
The Starlets compete once or twice a month with other teams around the state.
In the past, Thies said roller derby included some staged fighting.
"Now since the sport's kind of seen a comeback, it's more about the athleticism of the women and empowering them to do really strong, powerful things," she said.
However, the players still dress up, use roller derby names and wear dramatic makeup.
"The theatrics makes it fun, but when it comes down to it, it's the athleticism of the women that is what roller derby's all about," Thies said.
Neither Thies nor Cox had much skating experience when they started, but they've learned quickly.
"Every time I step on my skates, I see an improvement in my skating and I just gain confidence within myself," Cox said.
Besides learning to roller skate, players learn how to stop, improve their stride, and how to fall properly to avoid injury.
Still, injuries do happen. In November, Thies got a double fracture in her ankle.
"It's not if you're going to get injured, it's when you're going to get injured," she said.
Roller derby requires a lot of physical endurance. To make the Fresh Meat team, players must meet a skills test, including being able to skate at least 20 laps in five minutes.
Thies said it is important for players to train outside of roller derby to improve core and upper and lower body strength.
"People can start at any level of fitness, they just have to know that they have to put forth the work, because what they put into it they will get out of it," Thies said.
Cox agreed, saying players need to have drive.
"There's girls of all shapes and sizes and it's just if you have the ability to push yourself and you want to do it then you're going to be able to do it," she said.
However, roller derby isn't all physical, Cox said.
"It's a mental sport-thinking about what your next move is going to be and watching others. You kind of have to see what's going on in the pack ahead of you and what's happening around you to get through the pack," she said.
Both Thies and Cox said the camaraderie is the best part of roller derby.
"Being surrounded by strong powerful women has been very helpful for me as a person and for my growth as an individual," Thies said.
Cox agreed, saying she hopes more people from Williams will get involved.
"We're all out there to have fun and help each other improve within the sport," she said.
More information is available at www.highaltituderollerderby.com or from Cox at (928) 635-4630.