“It is unlike any sport you have ever seen, guaranteed!”– Stitches N Bones!, Sick Town Derby Dames President
The Sick Town Derby Dames and the athletic women who represent their all-star travel squad, the S*M*A*S*H Unit and Dis-Orderlies B-team, have been tearing up the track for years now. Cleverly self-titled blockers and jammers like Ill-Ninja, PainCake, Hotboxxx, Van Slam, and Stitches N Bones! to name a few have jammed the Willamette Valley into the amateur roller derby scene, and the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) has taken notice.
At the moment, S*M*A*S*H Unit is currently ranked #110 out of almost 200 teams in the nationwide league. The success of these skaters has spawned not only a rise in local popularity, but also a junior league team, the Candy Stripers, and at last a decent practice facility to call home.
If you’re unfamiliar with Sick Town and the intense, full-contact team sport of derby, here’s all you need to know to get rolling…
The Origins of the Sick Town Derby Dames
The history of the Sick Town Derby Dames has been a painstaking uphill battle that has seen them struggling to gain a legitimate foothold in the area. They have had to fight as many battles outside of the rink as within. From losing their practice area multiple times to having to fight to gain recognition, the story of their beginnings is just as intense and dramatic as one of their bouts.
The Derby Dames found the seed of their beginnings in two skaters from the Linn-Benton area, who having no local options were forced to join a team in Eugene. Tired of the constant travel, they decided to see if they could make a home-grown team a possibility. After some initial research, they believed they saw enough interest in the local population to warrant them attempting to form a team in Corvallis. Gathering together a group of around 11 skaters they held their first official organizational meeting in July of 2008. At first they simply found their legs in the rink, handing out fliers to hopeful recruits and growing interest in the possibility of having a team in the area. They grew quickly, and within a few months the girls had begun to have guest coaches traveling from Eugene and Portland to teach them the basics of roller derby. By May of 2009 they were ready for their first real bout.
One of the toughest challenges for the Dames has been in attempting to find a permanent location. It wasn’t long after their inception that the rink they had started at closed down and the girls were left homeless. They soon found a less than permanent practice area inside the cold confines of a grass seed warehouse in northern Albany. It was a shaky time for the Dames as they found themselves subject to rental agreements that would change from one moment to the next, before finally being evicted permanently. Bones! commented “We would stay there for eight or nine months until they found a new tenant, and then we would move out a couple months later. We went back a couple times after losing the space for several months and this time they found a tenant that wanted to rent more buildings on a permanent basis.” Soon luck had it that the rink where it all began had opened up for sale. Biding their time and waiting for the right moment eventually paid off. “When we got kicked out of our old facility the price dropped [at the current location] and it was all of a sudden feasible that we could really make it work…. It’s just the price was right at exactly the right time and it just kind of seemed like it was meant to be,” she continued.
In July of 2012 they became full members of the WFTDA, which allowed them to become an officially ranked team, given them more opportunities to compete in bouts against other ranked teams. “Being ranked is really exciting; it has also allowed us to play more teams because other teams are interested in ranking.” You can see the Sick Town Derby Dames for yourself as their first home bout of the season is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Linn County Expo Center.
Derby attracts tough women, but it also makes them tougher, brings them together, and turns them into a family. Derby Dames are mothers and nurses, but they are so many other things, says league president Stitches N Bones! According to her, “Derby can take a woman at any fitness level and turn her into a machine.” The four women featured here embody the derby spirit, strength, athleticism, stamina, and perhaps most of all, they support each other. They each had their own reasons for joining Sick Town Derby Dames, and each one contributes to the team in her own way, but they all know derby is a rewarding experience, and all know that derby brings out the best in them and their teammates.
Stitches N Bones!
Bones! holds a degree in archeology, and her hobbies include knitting and designing knitting patterns. In her own words, she “plays with stitches and has worked with bones,” and her derby name is a play on those two important parts of her life. Derby came naturally to Bones! She was selling her crafts at an artisan market when someone skated up and handed her a flier for derby. She came to a practice and within five minutes, realized it was “the coolest thing ever.” She couldn’t stop.
As president of the Sick Town Derby Dames, Bones! spends the majority of her time administrating the team’s affairs. She calls playing the game full force “the best thing in the world.” She points out that in most women’s sports you are not encouraged to go all out, and it does not require a lot of interaction among team members. With derby, “You have to play as a team, you can’t play as individuals. You get to hit each other and that’s encouraged!” As for her teammates, Bones! characterizes them as a family comprising the toughest, most generous and welcoming women she has ever met. “Everyone has your back and everyone wants to see you succeed.” She adds that this welcoming and supportive community extends throughout the derby world, adding “It’s kind of mind-blowing to see positivity on a large scale in a group that is considered counter culture.”
The Sick Town Derby Dames are always looking for new recruits, and Bones! has some advice for those who are considering joining. “Do as many squats as you can every day, that’s number one.” She adds that you should invest in the best safety gear and skates that you possibly can, and “be ready to hurt, because it will, but it gets good, it gets better.” She also advises new recruits to stick with it despite the pain and the intensity—it’s worth it.
Gory has been playing derby for over a year, but is new to Sick Town, having transferred from Newport to attend Oregon State. She was thrilled to find Sick Town and be welcomed in by the Derby Dames. Her previous league was too small to have any bouts, so that aspect of the game will be new to her, and she’s looking forward to it.
Like Bones!, Gory’s love of derby began with a flier. After seeing it, she attended a practice, and “it just stuck.” Gory loves to be physical and competitive. Her love of derby stems from the love of competition she developed while playing volleyball in high school.
“I was devastated when I lost volleyball,” she says, “then I found derby.” Her favorite part of the game? “Falling,” she says with a smile, adding that “Derby is one of the only sports where you can fall correctly, and get met with crazy cheering.”
As for advice from Gory for new recruits, “know that you will hit the ground.” She says that a lot of women give up after their first hard fall, and recommends that newcomers push through. The rewards are well worth it.
True to her name, Tsunami had her two young daughters with her at practice to cheer on their mommy. Tsunami is one of the newest members of the league, having just finished boot camp (a six- to seven-week intensive skill training session), and entered the ranks of “fresh meat.” Off the rink, she is a hair stylist who enjoys making jam and reading books. She also has a proverbial need for speed. She grew up playing fast pitch softball, and played with some derby girls who told her about the league. She found a way to make it work with her busy schedule to satisfy her need to “go fast,” which is her favorite part of the game. The fast pace and athleticism keep her love affair with derby alive. Like her teammates, she enjoys the cooperative environment of Sick Town: “Everyone gets along and no one acts like a jerk.” She also appreciates the hard work that keeps the team well-organized.
Tsunami’s advice for new recruits is to “just do it if you’re thinking about it—just try it.” She promises that it will be worth it and that the Dames will welcome and support any newcomers interested in joining them.
Frankie, another veteran of the Derby Dames, is a certified pharmacy technician who describes herself as “unstable and missing some pieces.” She took up derby three months after beating colon cancer. She saw a sign on Highway 20 and her husband helped convince her to try it out, so she attended a bout. She didn’t stop there—she attended the new skate day that followed the bout, and she was “in.” She purchased her skates soon after and joined the Derby Dame family.
Frankie is the epitome of tough. When she began skating with the Dames, she had neuropathy from her knees down. “There wasn’t any feeling, so it was a real challenge.” Currently, it’s only her feet she can’t feel, which messes with her footwork. That hasn’t kept Frankie from making the SMASH travel team. She took her time, paced herself, and kept practicing until she acquired the skills necessary to make the travel team. She wants other women out there to know that “There’s nothing physically you cannot do if you put your mind to it and you have patience.” Her favorite part of derby is being a part of one huge group of women who support each other through good and bad. “If you’re having a bad day, someone else is going to be there to help pick you up; it’s just incredibly supportive,” she says.
As for new recruits, Frankie invites anyone thinking about derby to “just do it. Don’t stop—never quit because it will only get better!” She thinks having a permanent home will help bring more newcomers to the family.
More Than Just Derby
The Sick Town Derby Dames earn just as much respect off the track as they do on it by participating in team-mandated volunteer work when the skates come off. Each league member is responsible for three hours of service per month, one of which has to be an outreach hour that puts Sick Town into the community.
The team generally volunteers on behalf of its sponsors and other non-profit organizations by working at events, parades—you name it.
Sick Town skaters also pitch in at their own fund-raising events, like Corvallis’ own Red Dress Party, an increasingly popular dance bash started by Derby Dame Hotboxxx aka Katy January, where they serve as security and lend a hand with decorations. They’ve also put together Jell-O wrestling matches and skate-a-thons for past fundraisers, and one day hope to incorporate a talent show into the mix.
Join the Team
Sick Town is always looking to expand the league by adding new skaters or support staff. The doors of their practice facility, the old roller rink on Highway 99, are always open to anyone interested, whether they want to skate or not.
“You’re welcome to come skate with us and don’t have to progress any further, or become fresh meat,” Bones! said. “There’s definitely a place on our team depending on your level of interest.”
So where can you catch some Sick Town action?
On Saturday, Nov. 23, Sick Town’s B-Squad, the Dis-Orderlies, play their home debut bout vs. the Tsunami Sirens. Then on Saturday, Dec. 7, all skaters will play a Sick Town vs. Sick Town home team grudge match, which is sure to put the meat in the seats.
Bring a non-perishable item with you and receive $1 off the ticket price.