Roller derby, a full-contact sport on roller skates, has an all-female league here in Utah County, the Happy Valley Derby Darlins’. They are unique athletes with awesome “derby names” and a diverse, supportive community.
Kacey Arl always loved roller skating. In her youth, Arl spent many hours at Classic Skating in Orem. A friend told her about roller derby and Kacey soon became “Elbow Bright,” a member of the Happy Valley Derby Darlins’ Roller Derby League. “It gives me something to look forward to,” said Arl, who works for the Utah Department of Corrections at the state prison. “I witness lots of horrible things at my job every day. Skating gets out my frustration and I love being with the other ladies.” Arl feels no judgment, only acceptance in the roller derby league. The youngest player is 18 and the oldest is 45. No matter where they are in life, the “ladies” are a family.
Roller derby matches are called bouts, with one “jammer” and four “blockers” on the floor from each team. The jammers try to pass the opposing team’s blockers and each time the jammer passes a blocker, her team gets a point. Blockers can use elbows, forearms, hips, and shoulders to try to keep the jammer from getting by them, essentially playing offense and defense at the same time. The sport is enjoying a rebirth, getting back to true competition like it was in the 1930s. In the 1970s, roller derby had become like the WWF with scripted and “fixed” bouts. Kacey Arl broke her leg in 6 places and crushed her ankle during a bout this season. It’s fair to say the roller derby ladies take the sport very seriously.
All roller derby players start in the recreation league, the Dolls, here in Utah County. The rec league players have less required of them and in this less serious league, they gain skills and learn strategy. Ladies can graduate to one of the home teams, the Sirens of Steel or the Rollin’ Rebellion. From there they can go to a traveling team like the Molly Morbids of Utah County. There is also a junior league for skaters under 18 who want to try roller derby. Not much scares Kacey Arl, but the junior roller derby league does. “They have no fear!” said Arl.
In the off-season the ladies do some outdoor trail skates together, or go to skate parks. The off-season is only two months long, and the skaters need that time to let their bodies recover. One of the highlights of the off-season is the Roller Ball, where the ladies dress up and dance the night away. During the derby season, the team practices twice a week for two hours, building up endurance and practicing strategy. Roller derby bouts will start up again in February 2018.
The team is co-sponsored by Rage Fitness and Kenny Knight in Lehi. Knight is enthusiastic about the ladies. “They are serious athletes, everyone should go see them skate when their season starts up again,” said Knight.