The individual jams, where teams get their points, move just as quickly as the women in skates do. A Jammer, a Pivot and three blockers line up at the start of a jam. The Jammer’s star-covered helmet glides past her competitors as she scores for her team. The player with the stripe on her helmet is the Pivot, who’s in charge of setting the pace for the rest of the pack. The Blocker has no helmet marking, but she won’t think twice about knocking down a competitor to protect the Jammer.
Though the game gives off a ruthless aura, there is so much love that has built a foundation for the team. It’s the league’s mission to promote athleticism and fraternity amongst its members. They also strive to support their teammates on and off the track.
Jackie Daniels is a Jammer and Blocker for the Windy City Rollers All-Star team. She says she likes to instill confidence in her teammates before a jam.
“Sometimes I just look them in the eye and smile and say ‘we got this,’” said Daniels.
Elizabeth Gomez and Kelly Simmons brought the idea back to Chicago after a trip to Austin, Texas, in 2004. Together they recruited and started a league. The first season started in 2005 at the Congress Theater, and then moved to the UIC Pavilion in 2008. The league currently has four home teams and competes nationwide.
“I think roller derby is one of those sports different than any other female sport that is accepting of all shapes and all sizes. We’re all athletes,” said Amanda McKinney, who’s a recent addition to the league.
The sport has continued to grow since it started. Daniels said the sport is enjoyable to watch even if you don’t understand it.
“As you begin to understand it you can still have a lot of enjoyment for the game. And you can start to appreciate different things all along your path in being a fan,” said Daniels
The Chicago-area teams battle for the Ivy King Cup on May 17 at 6 p.m. at UIC Pavilion.