A woman’s touch isn’t always soft — just ask the members of the Russellville Roller Girls, a local roller derby team.
The Russellville Roller Girls have been going strong since their rebirth this past spring.
Jen Terrell, coach and Arkansas Tech Univeristy alumna, has been with the group since the beginning.
“I was a little hesitant at first,” Terrell said.
Rachel Gill, founder of the Russellville Roller Girls and Russellville resident, created quite the following through the launch of the roller Facebook page and word of mouth. A lot of people were interested in the resurgence of the team, and Terrell eventually checked it out for herself.
The team itself is still fairly new.
“Two other teams have tried to start before but for reasons they have disbanded,” Terrell said.
Dr. Erin Clair, assistant professor of English, got involved with the Russellville Roller Girls when she heard a fellow faculty member mention the roller derby team was forming. Clair, who hadn’t skated since middle school, immediately got involved.
“I decided to keep following my mentor’s lead and try to conquer roller derby too,” Clair said.
Clair’s mentor, who joined a roller derby team a few years back, inspired Clair to begin skating again this past spring.
“Some women want to get into roller derby because of the fishnets, the ripped tights, the names and the tough attitudes,” Clair said. “But that’s not really what derby is.”
Agility drills, falling drills, hitting drills and jumping drills, not to mention rules, regulations and injuries come with joining the sport.
“Roller derby skating isn’t a leisurely type of skating. You have to skate fast, skate low and maneuver quickly,” Claire said. “It takes a lot of practice to be able to do any of that, and it works muscles you never knew you had.”
Roller derby has opened doors and brought attention to women’s roles in sports.
“I definitely think roller derby has provided a positive image for women’s sports, especially contact sports,” Clair said. “What makes derby particularly empowering is that there is a place for women of all shapes and sizes in the sport. You don’t have to look a certain way or fit a physical mold to play derby, and that is particularly liberating in a world where women are reassured to conform to a narrow physical ideal.”
The Russellville Roller Girls adhere to the ideals proposed by Clair.
“Erin Clair is our most passionate member,” Terrell said. “We’ll always go somewhere; we’ll always be a team. As long as we have Erin Clair on our team, we’re always going to be move forward.”
For those interested in the Russellville Roller Girls, contact Clair at eclair.atu.edu.