Pilates and Zumba are the perfect way for most women to stay active and in shape, but the Oz Roller Girls are not most women, and to them group aerobics lack a certain ‘competitive physicality.’
Participating in either fitness program can be physically exhausting, but the only requirements are a towel, mat and unbridled enthusiasm. Roller Derby however, requires skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, mouth guards, helmets and a hit-or-be-hit mentality.
Oswego’s only Flat Track Roller Derby Team was founded on May 10, 2010, by Victoria Usherwood Gailinas, whose alter ego is "Wicked Evil Step Mom."
"It’s a sport anyone can play regardless of athleticism or gender.," Gailinas said
The team practices three days a week, year round, in a vacant department store located on Bridge Street. According to Gailinas, the store is rented for space purposes only; no heat, no water, just some fluorescent lights and a flat surface to serve as a track.
Because the team is new to the area, many of the girls are beginners to the sport, just learning all of the nuances of the game.
"Many of the rules you really have to experience to learn," said Laurie Edwards, whose alter ego is "Eddie Krueger." "But strategically you are always thinking offense or defense."
According to wftda.com, each team consists of a maximum of 20 skaters of the Minimum Skill Requirement. In each 30-minute bout there are two minute jams. At any given time during the jam each team can have up to five skaters on the track, but that depends on penalty time.
The main goal of each team is to have their jammer earn their team points by passing through the pack of blockers as many times as possible. While each team’s jammer is winding around the track, blockers set the bruising physical tone by creating openings or closing them.
"We show them [bruises] off like girl scout badges," said Yvonne Brown whose alter ego is "Von Diesel."
Despite the popular belief that roller derby is a fad that died with the days of free spirits and tie dye, the Oz Roller Girls beam with enthusiasm when talking about their sport.
"I’m lucky to have a supportive family and employer," Brown said. "It’s all derby, all the time for me."
One of the most entertaining aspects of the Oz Roller Girls is how they earn their alter ego. Once the skater has achieved "level two status" they are given a nickname by their teammates. That name is often how they are identified on the track. For instance, "Von Diesel" is a combination of Yvonne shortened and her style-of-hitting, like a Mack truck.
A little under a year removed from the inaugural informational meeting inside Old City Hall, the Oz Roller Girls currently have 35 members, five of which are current Oswego State students.
The team has set up bouts throughout the summer beginning Saturday, April 23 at Crisafulli Ice Area. These matches will help them prepare for the first ever, summer-end Harborfest tournament dubbed "Derby, Down and Dirty." The tournament will feature eight B-level teams that need at least 10 public bouts to qualify.
Even though the Oz Roller Girls are constantly pounding on one another throughout practices, they believe it brings them closer together.
"Sometimes when you’re having a bad day you take it out on one another," Brown said. "But it creates a type of bond or support system."
With a camaraderie that grows with every bout and practice, the Oz Roller Girls keep the spirit of Roller Derby alive, but they are not the alone in making the team possible. Without the countless volunteers to referee, coach and promote; the team and their bruises would not be possible.