Jersey Shore Roller Girls

“You need to be 18+ with health insurance,” read a poster posted on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. There are posters all over the city advertising “to become A Jersey Shore Roller Girl.”  Who would ever want to join a team that promotes enrollment with their main specification being health insurance? Surly, you would think, only people who have gone mad would look into joining a team like that.

In reality, The Jersey Shore Roller Girls (JSRG), are actually quite popular, and their league is continuing to grow. The Roller Girls are an all-women roller derby league, and are constantly recruiting interested girls all over the state. Betty, known on the flat-track as “Black Eye Betty,” is one of the founders of the Jersey Shore league.

“I’ve had my fair share of broken limbs and black eyes, but you better believe I’ve dished out some black eyes as well, hence my nickname,” said Betty proudly. Betty is very friendly, but she also has this spunky, I’ll-kick-your-a** attitude. “Roller Derby is, with no doubt, a rough sport. It is not made for the weak, but under the rough and tough skin of each of our players, there is your typical, kind, and friendly girly girl. We have built a league of winners, tough players who fight to win, but when you join our league, you become part of our family. We all support and help each other, and while injury is inevitable, it is never intentional,” said Betty.

“Before you can compete in the real league, you have to go through a mandatory 20 week training period. At the end, there is a written test about the rules and conduct. There are certain ways you have to skate, fall, and play because it’s a really physical sport and can be very dangerous. There is also a physical test that has to be administered before taking part in an actual bout. We are really thorough about who can actually compete in the real big bouts,” said Christine Hodan, another roller derby player turned coach. A bout is the name used for the roller derby matches.

Betty and a few of her friends (the other founders) had always wanted to start a roller derby team. “My friends and I were inspired to begin the league after we watched the reality show Rollergirls,” said Betty. “We never imagined the league would be as big as it is today,” she said proudly. The JSRG now consists of three intra-league teams and two skating travel teams.

No league had been in existence in the Jersey Shore area prior to the JSRG. The JSRG now is a revamped flat-track version of the old-school roller derby sport. Flat-track roller derby is a fast-paced contact team sport. It requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. “We started in 2007, and our first bout was in 2008. I was delighted that it turned out to be such a tremendous success,” said Betty. “The first bout was held at Convention Hall, in Asbury Park.”

Betty added, “We are proud to say that our bouts are still held there, and over the past few years our supporters and fans have grown in size, helping to keep the sport and our league alive.”

Since roller derby is flat-track, bouts can be played on any flat surface that is suitable for skating. Convention Hall made the dream of creating a roller derby league much more attainable, being that the venue was built for the purpose of sporting events, concerts and other special events.

“I always saw posters advertising The Jersey Shore Roller Girls posted all over Asbury Park,” said Evan Kaplow, a female resident of Ocean Township, NJ. “One time, I was walking the Asbury Park Boardwalk and stopped at Convention Hall, said Evan.

“There were girls standing outside, dressed in tank tops and short-shorts, high knee socks, elbow pads, knee pads, and roller skates on. They had braided pigtails sticking out of their helmets. They looked so cute in their team uniforms. They were promoting the roller derby team and selling tickets for the event that was about to start,” explained Evan.

Intrigued, Evan decided to attend the bout to see what roller derby actually entailed. “It looked so cool; intense, but fun. There was a sign up stand at the bout, so I signed up and they emailed me all of the information on joining,” said Evan. “They get really excited about new members joining because it’s not the most popular sport for women, especially nowadays.”

“Roller Derby is not one of the more mainstream sports for women. We realize that the chances of injury are high, and the girls are required to wear protective gear at all times,” said Christine. The players are required to wear kneepads, elbow pads, and helmets.

“You have to skate as fast as you can but also try to push people down at the same time,” explained Evan. “It’s so intense and gives you an incredible adrenaline rush. I had never experienced such an intense rush before and immediately fell in love with the sport and the team,” said Evan. “Everyone was really close and friendly, in spite of the intense and aggressive nature of the sport itself. The coaches were always looking out for everyone, so even though it was intense and aggressive, everyone was actually totally sweet and kind and helpful during the learning process,” explained Evan.

“I loved playing and had an amazing learning experience. It was so fun, but it was equally, if not more, horrifying. It was so much harder than it actually looks. And there are so many rules you have to learn and follow,” said Evan. Evan never finished her 20 weeks of training because she moved out of the area, but seems determined to find another league to join in Philadelphia. “I never actually got to compete in a real big bout,” said Evan, “but we had practice bouts at the end of every practice and it was really fun, but also really scary at times.”

“The league is comprised of women from all backgrounds and ages, all with one ambition in mind: to give it our all. The teams practice, train, and scrimmage rigorously, multiple times a week,” said Christine.

“Surprisingly,” Christine explained, “we’ve even had to turn people away from our bouts due to fire codes; we’ve had that many people want to come support us!”

“There are a lot of details of the sport that I think get overlooked by many,” explained Evan. “A lot of people look at it as a bunch of angry butch girls beating each other up, but in reality it’s much more than that. While it is a very intense and sometimes angry sport, the girls under the helmets are just like any other girls in the world. Yeah, we like makeup and pretty clothes, but us Jersey Shore Roller Girls are just a little bit more bad a**.”

PHOTO TAKEN from Facebook.com