In an era of sports news where coverage focuses as much on salaries and stadium subsidies as often as player stats, it's refreshing to see a group of players competing purely for the love of the game.
It's really inspiring to see such a squad prosper.
The Naptown Roller Girls, Indy's trio of flat-track women's roller derby teams, are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year. The NRG's members are all-amateur, paying their own way for gear, practice space, venue rental, medical expenses, even travel overseas. The ticket price you pay at the door helps to offset those costs — and also to help the NRG donate to and provide events for a variety of charitable organizations.
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Flat-track roller derby began in Texas with a punk-rock ethic and aesthetic. The original "uniforms" — cutoff shorts, fishnets and tutus — have toned down a bit over the years, and now the crew founded in part by folks with handles like Dill Hero, Brownie and Joan of Dark are primarily focused on fitness and the thrill of competition. The NRG's top-tier crew, the Tornado Sirens, are ranked 25th internationally, and their "B" team, the Warming Belles, are ranked second in the state. (The entry-level squad is nicknamed the "Third Alarm.")
The skaters often have high-school or college sports backgrounds, but many have no past team-sports experience at all. "It's really empowering — a lot of people come in thinking they can't do it, and want to prove to themselves that they can," says seven-year-vet Maiden America.
In addition to the women you see skating, women who've taken derby names like "Eve Ann Hellical" and "Trudy Bauchery," there are also people behind the scenes: officials, support staff and so on, 90 percent of whom are all-volunteer, according to Maiden America. "We call them our 'derby unicorns,'" she laughs.
The reasons for joining are as varied as the women who skate, but the NRG's members seem to have one thing in common that them paying the dues, showing up at practice for anywhere from six to 16 hours per week, training more on their own time and shelling out for the inevitable trips to the ER: the camaraderie, according to Trudy: "When you're an adult, you don't get a lot of opportunities to meet people. I have met so many incredible people through roller derby."
The manner in which the Circle City's embraced this team — and help keep the lights on and the bouts on the schedule — is both a point of gratitude and pride for these skaters.
"Indianapolis in general has always embraced amateur sports," says Darth Blue. "This is the definition of amateur — we do it for the love of it, and it shows in how we play."
When Fern Goodman was a kid, her mom — Barb Bonchek — started a short-lived equine therapy program south of Indy. The idea stayed with Fern, ultimately inspiring her to found People and Animal Learning Services in 2000. "I always loved horses and I wanted to help people," says Fern, adding that some of the clients her mom helped out have since sought out sessions at P.A.L.S. Goodman's operation, which provides therapy sessions, summer camps and other services for the disabled, at-risk youth and veterans, helps roughly 60 Hoosiers a week.
The Bloomington-based nonprofit relies on an influx of volunteer help (100 instructors and staffers weekly) and a revenue stream that's mainly built on private donations. Goodman's working to pay off the building where P.A.L.S is housed and maintain gear such as the hydraulic lift that helps some clients mount the horses.
Matt Boals and Dennis Byrne are something of a team: the pair have been instrumental in rehabbing the disc golf course at Sahm Park on Indy's Northeast side. While Boals takes point on that project, Byrne — who's designed 27 disc golf courses across the state with more in the works — has spent the last five years developing a course at the Indiana School for the Blind. "What we did initially was work with Braille and textures ... and [now] we've worked up some beepers and a control system for the baskets and discs and the signs. We've got what we believe is a field-ready product, we're just trying to get some funding to get it into production. We'll need about 50K to do that."
Byrne's also prepping local courses for the 2016 Deaf Disc Golf Association National Championships — and Boals' baby Sahm park is one of them. You can sponsor a hole at Sahm for $750.