Reinforcing the power within: NH Roller Derby’s origin story, and why these women skate

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Circle of Power and friendship: NH Roller Derby
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Pixie Bruiser

“A lot of people are looking for something out of their character. They’re looking for something challenging. Something that makes them feel like a strong woman, to be honest, because there aren’t many contact sports out there for women. No, super-aggressive sports. This is one of them.

Pixie Bruiser Marketing Chair for NH Roller Derby



If your flashbacks of roller derby are banked tracks and fistfights, take a second look at the roller derby of today where flat tracks have gained popularity and its sports entertainment theatricality is no more. Regardless of its less-aggressive upgrade, its essence remains the same: recovering, reclaiming, and reinforcing the power within. 

Women who find themselves attracted to the sport range in age, frame, and walks of life. Roller derby encourages a transformative power, where participants with self-created alter egos embody strength, resilience, and courage. We asked three New Hampshire Roller Derby participants about their roller derby stories and what it has done to affect their lives, on and off the track.image3 2

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Emily Deck’erson

Team captain/Head of training

CC: What made you decide to join Roller Derby?

EM: I first heard about roller derby from my sister’s friend, who was trying to get my sister to join. My sister wasn’t really interested, but I had just been through a breakup and was looking for something to do and maybe make some new friends, so I jumped at the chance. My sister ended up attending a game and eventually joining, too. 

CC: Do you feel Roller Derby empowers you and if so, how?  What differences have you seen in yourself?

EM: I definitely feel more empowered and confident since starting roller derby. I never played sports growing up, so it’s been a pretty big learning curve for me — not just learning to skate, but learning to play a sport and play as a part of a team. NHRD is all skater-run, so not only do we learn skills on the track, but we are also involved in all of the areas needed to run a nonprofit. I’ve been playing roller derby since 2009, and in that time I’ve gone from being a pretty shy, reserved person who could not skate at all, to being on our All-Star team, being team captain, head of training, and various other roles in the league. I’ve noticed a difference in myself, and I know roller derby has had a positive impact on so many aspects of my life. I met my partner Amanda (aka Massenkill) and many of my close friends through roller derby.  I can’t imagine my life without the impact derby has had! Playing roller derby has made me wish I had access to sports as a kid, and roller derby is a great option for building kids’ self-esteem. It’s a great sport to get into, because most rookies, kids or adults, come into it without knowing how to skate, so you’re all learning from the ground up together. You gain this community of people who encourage you to push yourself to be your best, and who see all your best traits.IMG 2318 scaled

CC: What would you tell someone who was contemplating joining Roller Derby?

EM: If you are thinking about joining, just do it. We teach our rookies everything they need to know to be roller derby athletes: how to skate, how to play the sport, the rules, strategy, everything. Everyone brings a different strength to the team, whether you are strong or quick or have a strategic mind, every one of our skaters brings those skills to the track and there is a space for them. Every body type has a place in derby, and we help new skaters find their strengths and develop them. I’ve been doing this so long that I can look at a new skater and just know what kind of player they are going to be, whether they’ll end up a big strong blocker, a quick and wily jammer, a strong jammer or quick blocker! Not to mention you gain about 30 new friends almost instantly, which is not an easy feat as an adult! NHRD is a very open and welcoming group, and if you think it might be right for you, you’re right.IMG 2255 scaled

image7Michelle Obammer 

Rookie Skater


CC: What made you decide to join roller derby?

MO: I hate to exercise just for the sake of exercise but I like active things. My family has been roller skating since my parents met and fell in love at a roller-skating rink in the 70s. Looking for active and fun things to do, roller derby was a natural fit. I took myself out on a date, sort of, for my 42nd birthday and attended a rookie orientation for NHRD. I’ve been all-in since.

CC: Have you also noticed a difference in your son?

MO: My kiddo hasn’t been skating with Junior Derby for very long, but I see him gaining confidence with each practice. Like me, he’s not one for general exercise and he’s also a quirky kid. Since derby is a bit of a quirky sport his teammates are people he feels kinship with, something that he doesn’t feel is true with other athletic things he’s tried. He is also at the awkward and recalcitrant age of 13, so trying hard and liking things isn’t allowed. Even still, I see him perk up when a coach notices that his skills are improving. As a parent the most important things about my kids participating in sports is building self-confidence and finding something to strive for – derby is providing that, and long may it reign over him.

CC: Do you feel it empowers you and if so, how?  What differences have you seen in yourself?

MO: For me, I think empower is the wrong word. Professionally I am the director of a public library. I carry authority and power all day – not to say that I don’t have moments of struggle. The Board of Trustees and the staff trust me with the library, their careers, and all daily operational decisions. At home, my husband has never been anything but an equal partner in homeownership, parenthood, and our relationship. He invested me with power from our first date. Roller derby frees me. I only skate for me. The only person I am responsible for is me. I can skate faster. I can fall but haul my ass up and try again. It’s also a haven in my week that is solely mine. That freedom makes me happier and saner when I’m back in charge and responsible for so much. And back before COVID, derby also made me stronger. I beat my husband at candlepin bowling – a little lame, I know, but I had never done that before. My legs, in general, and my thighs, in particular, were so strong I could put more physical power behind my bowls. I’ve never felt prouder of my body. I think I’d skate just for that alone.

CC: What would you tell someone who was contemplating joining roller derby?

MO: To anyone considering derby, go for it! You’re already considering it so something about it speaks to you. It’s truly one of the things in life where if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. You’ll meet some great people. Skating is probably the single most fun thing you can do with your feet (why walk?). Learning new skating skills is good for your body and your brain. And if, after some training, full contact isn’t for you, there are other ways to be involved and still skate. It is the highlight of my week every week and everyone should feel that way about something.

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image5 e1648341318329Allie Trela 

Founder of NH Roller Derby/no longer competes and owner of Bruised Boutiqueimage4 2

CC: What made you decide to begin a Roller Derby league in NH?

AT: A great place to start would be in the summer of 2005. While roller derby is a commonplace occurrence now, no one really knew what it was back then. A friend of mine invited me to go watch a roller derby game in Boston. I remember going into the Shriners Auditorium to find my seats in the stands and the lights went down, loud rock and roll came on the speakers, and the intro song echoed through my headspace in the dark. The crowd began to bang their feet on the bleachers, building anticipation and then a spotlight came to shine on the floor below where 15 or so women in handmade Boston minutemen-style costumes took the floor in a blur of speed and energy. The crowd cheered loudly as each player one by one was announced by their derby names: a mix of Garbage-Pail-Kids-style names, like Trish Squish, strong female empowerment names like Harlot Fever, and dangerous names like Maura Buse and Miss Mary Smack.

After this team, the visiting team had a similar intro and then the game began. A blend of speed, power, and badassery. It was pure rock and roll. I knew, in that moment, I wanted more of this. What I didn’t know was how much it would change my entire life. Later on at a Fourth of July party that same friend, Rachel Happenny, said to me “We should start a Roller Derby league in NH.”  I didn’t know how you started this, I wasn’t at all athletic, and I didn’t even know how to roller skate…but I knew I needed to do it.  We started by learning for the first few months how to roller skate. We put up flyers at the local roller skating rink telling others to come learn how to roller skate at open skates in hopes of starting a team. We got a handful of people that showed up regularly. We got some women who joined at that time who had tried out for the Boston league and did not make it but still wanted to start with us. We reached out to the leagues that were in the area around us at that time (Boston and Maine) and made friends with some of the skaters in those leagues to help us with what gear we needed and what skills we should work on. Eventually, we put together our own non-profit organization, drawing on the talents of those in our league. One woman was a graphic designer, one was a lawyer, this person does physical therapy, this person is a personal trainer. We learned as we went and eventually became NH Roller Derby as you know it today!

CC: Do you feel Roller derby empowers you and if so what differences have you seen in yourself?

AT: To say that would be an understatement. Roller derby has taught me that I can make things happen. Through community, you can collaborate to make amazing and wonderful events and even build businesses. I learned how to collaborate with charities and how fulfilling that is in my life and continue to work with raising money for charities to help those in need. Through roller derby I started my first company (NH Roller Derby) and have since built many successful companies built around roller skating including my skate shop, The Bruised Boutique Skate Shop, which has been my main job for the last 14 years.

Roller derby has also empowered me to become a teacher. I’ve taught roller skating all over the country and helped ignite joy in people through roller skating. I’ve made lifelong friends all over the world through our love of roller skating – friends so close they were invited to my wedding. Roller derby has created a network of amazing, powerful, resourceful people that I can draw upon to help with all sorts of things. We are truly a tight-knit community. Roller derby also ignited a passion for athleticism I didn’t know would be so fulfilling in my life. Along with skating regularly I enjoy other demanding sports like aerial arts and marathon running which if it weren’t for Roller derby I’m not sure I would have ever known I was capable of anything physical, which I think is a common sentiment among those who start this as their first sport! I see folks come through my shop on a regular basis who have been empowered by roller derby in one way or another. Through roller derby I have learned I’m strong, I’m smart, I’m capable and I am unstoppable!

CC: What would you tell someone who was contemplating joining Roller Derby?

AT: Get ready to meet your newest best friends and have a healthy new obsession. Don’t worry about how well you can skate or how athletic you are, you will learn as you go and they will be patient and teach you everything you need to know. You just have to show up and be ready to have the best time of your life.

Interested in learning more about the New Hampshire Roller Derby? Contact:

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About this Author

Constance Cherise

Constance Cherise is a freelance writer and contributor for Turner Classic MoviesSee her work here.