Come for the camp, stay for the sport


Naptown Roller Girls take off

While their sport names — "Touretta Lynn," “Lilly Whip,” “Strawberry Jam” — may evoke chuckles instead of gut wrenching fear, the ladies of the Naptown Roller Girls mean business when they strap on their roller skates.

The premiere match, dubbed CHERRY STOMP, of the Indianapolis roller derby team will take place Jan. 13, 7 p.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Liz Hufnagel, code named Lilly Whip, co-founded the group with Strawberry Jam in February of 2006; at that time the group was part of Crossroads Roller Derby. Since then, the women have been creating a roller derby scene here in town. Known for its grass-roots appeal, Hufnagel says getting to this first bout has been about learning everything — not just the sport itself. “It’s been from finding a facility to getting insurance to training to raising money for bleachers and other little things. We are really discovering [the process]; we don’t have a roadmap, so we are creating one.”

While roller derby has been around in one form or another for over 70 years, in its current incarnation, five girls from each team are on the track at the same time. There is a “pivot” on each team, Hufnagel explains, who acts like a pace car by setting the pace, managing the rest of the blockers and blocking. There are three “blockers” on each team.

Those blockers can get pretty intense. Physical contact is legal and frequent. Body blocking is allowed, but “from the shoulder to hip is an illegal block,” Hufnagel explains. “Elbows are illegal. And no pulling hair!” But beyond that, there are few holds barred.

While many aspects of the sport are tongue- in-cheek — such as the stage names and often fishnet-stocking-clad players — the girls work hard to make this a true sport. “We have put a lot of work into this, we are in shape, have endurance, understand the game; we are tough, aggressive, and really see it as a new option as far as a sporting event. And it can be really fun,” Hufnagel says.

“[We] see it as a sport, with all the training, but we get to have fun — with the short skirts, crazy outfits — and compete.” There is a certain amount of sex appeal inherent in roller derby, with the often school-girl-like outfits and brute contact between women, but Hufnagel hopes that those aspects aren’t the only things that will keep spectators coming back. “Initially, [those things can] attract people, but they discover more later, the sporting aspects, and come in for the sport and [see the sex appeal as] the cherry on top. It adds personality.”

And where are the guys in this sport, besides the ones bellowing in the bleachers? “There is not a lot of interest from guys. Guys who are interested become refs, which requires skating prowess. Since they skate on the outside of the track, they have to go even faster than we do!” Hufnagel says.

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