Roller skates were invented in 1743 for a performing arts show. Even though the inventor is unknown, the art of roller skating is well-known. It hit a frenzy in the 70s, 80s and touched the 90s until inline skates were born. While some women dream of lazily skating around the rink and holding their beau’s hand, other women, like Lindsey Manley and others dream of using their skates for a contact sport.
Roller Derby is a sport with two 30-minute periods. During the periods, the players face multiple scrimmages, also known as Jams. Each team has their own jammer who wears a unique designation on their helmet denoting them as the jammer.
The Jams are when the jammer and four blockers skate counterclockwise around a track. The jammer scores by lapping members of the opposing team with the help of her blockers. The opposing team attempts to stop the opposite jammer while also assisting their own jammer. Basically, team members are playing offense and defense simultaneously.
Manley has come out of retirement and taken her love of the sport and started a Roller Derby league in Texoma. Manley, a 36-year-old marketing specialist is originally from Poteau, Okla. but currently resides in Sherman, Texas. She played Roller Derby from 2011 to 2013 when she lived in Tyler, Texas.
The only reason she left the East Texas Bombers was because she moved to an area that did not offer Roller Derby. However, she has stayed in shape by skating solo for fun and exercise.
Manley said she fell in love with Roller Derby because it gave her confidence, among other attributes.
“Roller derby is such an empowering sport,” said Manley. “It brought out this side of me that I didn’t know I had. It made me more confident and that has really come through in both my personal and professional lives.”
Manley said she has lived in the Sherman/Denison area for five years after her husband’s job transferred them to Texoma.
She said he decided to dust off her skates and start a team because she missed everything about the game.
“I love being part of a team and really miss that comradery,” said Manley.
Manley said fate brought her in contact with another lover of the sport, Missy Weaver.
“Every time I skate, someone would bring up derby and say they wish we had a team here in Texoma,” Manley said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to form a league on my own, so when I met Missy and we both discovered we were former derby girls, we put our heads together and decided it was time to make it happen in Texoma.”
Jenn Watson is another lover of the sport and was forced into retirement, for different reasons then Manley. She was in the sport for approximately three years. A friend of hers bought tickets to a game and brought Watson for her birthday.
Watson was caught up with the excitement of the game and noticed how close the team members were.
She experienced the familylike nature of the team when she won a raffle to be the queen on their Mardi Gras float. During the parade, Watson was able befriend the team, and said she felt like she had “known them for years.”
One team member invited Watson to a practice and she was hooked. Unfortunately, three years into the sport, and an injury forced her into retirement. She broke her leg during a game, and that was the answer she was not looking for.
“I quit because I had broken my leg in a game,” said Watson. “I work construction and unfortunately had to make the adult decision that if I broke my leg again, I’d be unable to work and provide for myself, so I quit.”
Watson said even though injury keeps her from playing, she still has the benefits of the family-like group.
“I still went to practice and still was part of the team I just didn’t play in any games,” said Watson. “I’d referee for them, keep score, work the penalty box (my personal favorite), anything they needed me for.”
Weaver is a transplant to Denison from Missouri who has also fell in love with the contact sport. The 44-year-old Real Estate Agent rolled with the M-Kan Roller Girls from 2006 to 2010. She said watching the game with a family member turned her onto the sport.
“I used to watch roller derby with my grandmother when I was little and have always loved it,” Weaver said. “To me, it’s a combo of football and roller skating. I love both those sports so put them together and you have roller derby. Skating around in a circle and hitting girls sounds like a good time to me.”
Weaver said she had been wanting to get back into the game for what she calls a selfish reason.
“I have missed it so much and wanted to get something started here so I could watch it,” Weaver said. “Kind of selfish, I know.”
Then, fate stepped in, Weaver and Manley crossed paths and realized their unified love of the game ran deep. This pushed them to start a league in Texoma for women who love Roller Derby or want to try it for the first time.
Manley said even though the first step has been taken, there is still a long road ahead.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but after our informational meeting on Sunday, we discovered there’s quite a few ladies in the area who have either played or really want to play,” Manley said. “Missy and I were really excited about the turn-out; 53 ladies showed up.”
To play, the interested party must be at least 21 years old, that’s all. Manley said the rest is teachable.
“You don’t have to know how to skate or know one thing about Roller Derby,” Manley said. “We’re going to teach you those things and give you some great resources. We are going to ease into practices, but we are being very mindful of COVID and likely won’t even have official practices until after the new year. For now, we’re encouraging anyone who is interested in playing, to put on some quad skates and get comfortable.”