Gaining notoriety on the track: Dickinson’s roller derby team to host first home bout
More than a year ago, Whitney Johnson wanted to start a roller derby team in Dickinson.
The Dickinson roller derby team started practicing March 26, 2013.
“When I finally decided to start the team, I started a Facebook page and shortly after I had about four girls that were interested,” said Johnson, who is the team president and captain. “It literally grew overnight. By the first practice, there were at least 14 of us. There were a few that would come and go, but it grew really fast.
“(The city of Dickinson) has been really supportive of us, too, in helping us find places to skate and sponsoring us.”After a couple months of practice, the team found its first opponent. The team traveled to face the Williston Wreckers for its first bout on Aug. 31. The second bout was six months later against a team from Glendive, Mont.
Though the nerves have calmed down between the first and second bouts, the Dickinson roller derby team is feeling the jitters as it prepares to host its first home bout against the Electric City Roller GrrrlZ from Great Falls, Mont., at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Dickinson Recreation Center.
“We are excited and scared,” Dickinson’s Leslie Olheiser said with a laugh.
Olheiser isn’t the only nervous skater.
Kristie Bachmeier said the jitters have been brewing since the team finalized its first home bout.
“At the beginning of every bout, we all have a little bit of nerves going on, but after we get out there and start going, they kind of fade away,” Bachmeier said. “I’m really excited for the first home bout.”
The admission is $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Kids ages 10 and under are admitted for free. The doors open at 6 p.m.
Getting the word out about the bout has been easy, but it still doesn’t make hosting it any less stressful.
The team has made flyers, posters, talked on radio shows and participated in Alive @ 5 on Thursdays in downtown Dickinson.
“We are stressed out,” Olheiser said with a laugh. “None of us have put on a home bout before, so it’s new to all of us.”
How it’s played
The bout is made up of two 30-minute periods. Scoring occurs during jams which can last up to 2 minutes. During each jam, each team will have four blockers — which includes a pivot, who directs the team’s defense — and one jammer, who scores points for the team.
Players are limited to contact and the referees determine penalties. Skaters are also required to wear protective equipment, which includes a helmet, mouth guard, knees pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.
Only five skaters came to the team’s first meeting. But, word spread quickly and Dickinson had more than 10 skaters at its first practice on March 26. Seven of those 10 original skaters are still with the team.
Johnson said the team now has 14 skaters and consistently has 10 every practice. Allen Beyers is its head coach.
“If you can fill your roster, which is 14, you can sit, relax for one round and get yourself together before going back out again,” Olheiser said.
However, the team is always looking for more skaters. Interested skaters have to be at least 18 years or older. The knowledge of skating experience can vary from a lot to a little. The skaters are willing to help any newcomers.
Bachmeier said the team has grown by leaps and bounds from the first practice until now.
“The first practice, we all fell a lot and we didn’t really know each other,” she said. “We were all kind of shy, but now I think of my derby family as all of my best friends.”
Splitting time between Dickinson, New England
Since the Dickinson Roller Derby team doesn’t have its own place to practice, it has to switch between the Dickinson Recreation Center and the New England Memorial Hall.
The roller derby team practices for two hours, twice a week. On Monday, they’re in Dickinson and practice in New England on Wednesday.
Many of the skaters have husbands and children, so splitting time between the two sites can be difficult.
“It’s really tough going to New England,” said Bachmeier, who is married with three kids. “We have practice down there at 6:30 p.m., so we have to leave there at 5:40 p.m. or 5:45 p.m. and I try to have supper with my family.”
Johnson said the team has called off practice early, cancelled practice or stayed late in dealing with the winter weather.
Driving from Dickinson to New England during the winter months late at night isn’t the most ideal situation.
“When we are in New England, it’s typically in the winter months, because they have the ice on the rink (at the recreation center),” Johnson said. “We’ve gone through a lot of blizzards to make it to practice. It’s a long commute and it isn’t easy.”
The ultimate goal for Dickinson Roller Derby team is to eventually buy a warehouse where the team can practice and host bouts at any time.
The hope is also to get enough skaters to form two women’s team and one men’s team.
“I’d love us to join Women’s Flat Track Derby Association someday,” Johnson said. “That’s a far out goal. I think it is definitely achievable. Finding our warehouse would be great. It would just open up so many more opportunities for us to become as strong as we could be.”