Suburbia Roller Derby does not need a Jimmy Dugan to dissertate on the incompatibility of skating and crying. But when it’s more than hurt feelings at stake, a salty discharge is certainly tolerated in the “league” Yonkers calls its “own.” One need only look to Chappaqua Mom and Suburban Brawl Jammer, Jane “Lesley E. Visserate” McManus, for the answer.
“Cry,” she said of breaking her tailbone in 2008, “I got back up and continued to jam because I didn’t want to be a baby about it.”The bravado is more a function of competitiveness than the theatrics of the past. The WWE component is gone, says the ESPNNY columnist, and bouts now consist of skill, strategy and endurance.
The objective is for each teams’ two jammers to pass the opposition’s four blockers, getting one point per pass. Otherwise, blockers play offense and defense simultaneously. “You’re trying to assist your jammers, and at the same time, block the other jammers,” she says.
Likening it to controlling the football line of scrimmage, it’s about positioning, as legal contact is limited between the shoulders and thighs. An elbow to the head is a major penalty that you want to avoid, she says. Her introduction came doing a story for The Journal News in 2006 on a Connecticut Roller Derby league. As a lifelong athlete, it appealed, but she had reservations about the contact–until considering her past playing pickup basketball with men. “I figured it would be about the same,” she says. Signing on when this skater owned league came to the rink on Tuckahoe Road in 2007, she regained the outlet lost to pregnancy and parenthood.
Roller Derby is an outlet she recommends to any woman who wants to escape the fitness paradigm at the gym. “It’s an awful experience where you listen to loud music and will yourself into losing a pound,” she says.That’s replaced with a competitive determination in which athletes practice two to four times a week for two hours each. Bouts consist of two 30-minute halves, which have skaters on for fifteen, twominute shifts. Either way, the centrifugal forces expended do not put as big a dent in the effort as it might seem.
“It’s exhausting,” she says, and having “puke” buckets handy is a comfort (even though she’s never needed one). Although, she doesn’t want to scare off women with fewer miles on their sports’ resume. There are women who have never played Lesley E. Visserate aka Jane McManus, getting ready to jam against Hammer City at ECE on June 27. Photo by Manish Gosalia September/October 2010 Inside Chappaqua 27 any sport, and after training for a while, they become incredible skaters, she says. Additionally, there’s room to learn on the “B” team with the Backyard Bullies. It’s a way for us to get our younger players competition, she says. Of course, the difference separating the A-team, which will be competing in the Eastern Regional Tournament in September at The County Center, is vast. If you’re an “A” player, you have a keener awareness of pack movement and a better understanding of how the action will unfold, she says.
The same goes for contact. Hitting isn’t as effective if you take yourself out of the play and get passed. “It’s contact but with more purpose,” she says. Regardless, skill level doesn’t mean less competitiveness. “Why would you be doing this, if you don’t want to be as good as you can be,” she asks. So an injured “A” player can create a welcome opening. Someone’s noticed you, she says, “and that’s the moment to shine.” But the dark side of black and blues is lightened by the support found on the rink and a camaraderie that’s not at a loss afterwards at the pub.
“It’s just completely wonderful,” she says. It’s a also a venue in which moms can model themselves in a role exhibiting strength. “Kids love watching their mothers do something powerful,” she says.
Nonetheless, kids know all about the constraints on crying in case mommy is knocked off her bearings. “They know it’s part of the game,” she says. As for her husband, he plays tennis and her belief is that singular pursuits make for stronger relationships when both partners have them.
Otherwise, new fishnets (which are worn so the skin does not get stuck to the surface in falls) can add a little something to the intramurals, she jokes. How’s that sit with fans attracted to the sexy power of Roller Derby? Not sure, she concludes, you have to ask them. The Derby in the Burbs at The County Center is Sept 24-26.
Rich Monetti has been a freelancer since 2003. He is just fine with the contact he gets with slow pitch softball and rarely cries.