By: Jennifer Flesner
The Cape Girardeau Roller Girls (CGRG) recently wrapped up their 2015 home season and boast a winning record (5-3) for the year thus far. Despite winding down the season, CGRG is still working hard to bring about big changes for 2016.
One of the most exciting changes to the league is the recruitment of competitive male skaters! While the skaters themselves have all been female in the past, men have been part of the team since its inception in 2010, taking on roles such as bench coach, training coach, referee, non-skating official, and announcer. As roller derby continues to expand around the globe, it became clear that it was time to give Southeast Missouri men the option to join CGRG in one of the fastest-growing sports in the world!
Roller derby dates back to the 1930s when it had its roots as a 3000-mile, month-long endurance race. When the sport became televised, roller derby quickly grew in popularity and spread across the country. Eventually, the sport lost its popularity, and the original Roller Derby league closed its doors in 1973. In the early 2000s, modern roller derby made a dramatic comeback with the establishment of the Texas Rollergirls. In 2004, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) was founded to assist with the development of the sport and to serve as a membership organization for leagues. Unlike the theatrics of roller derby in the 70s, the focus of modern derby is on athleticism, competition, and strategy. Skaters at CGRG train twice a week with drills focusing on strength, agility, teamwork, and endurance.
While women spearheaded roller derby’s revival, it was not long before men gained a foothold in the sport as well, and the Men’s Roller Derby Association was founded in 2007. Until now, men in the Cape Girardeau area could not regularly play roller derby without traveling over 1.5 hours to area leagues such as the St. Louis Gatekeepers. With a fully functioning team already established in Cape, CGRG felt that this should no longer be the case. CGRG was founded in 2010, and now in its fifth year, the league has created a name for itself amid the roller derby community. The mission of CGRG is to develop and promote sportsmanship, athleticism, and service to the Cape Girardeau area. The league aims to the empowerment of its skaters through challenges on and off the track. This mission is not exclusive to gender, and CGRG aims to include all adults, age 18 and over, who are interested in the sport. Roller derby is known for its acceptance of people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, gender, etc; and the Cape Girardeau Roller Girls also aim to promote this atmosphere of inclusion.
In an effort to further this goal of inclusion, the 2016 season will also bring about a name change for the league. With the removal of the female gender requirement and to honor everyone who dedicates their time to the team, CGRG will be transitioning to a more inclusive name: Cape Girardeau Roller Derby (CGRD). As men start to join leagues across the country, it is not uncommon for teams to transition to more gender-neutral names. Philly Roller Derby(formerly Philly Roller Girls) dropped the “Girls” from their moniker after ten years on the derby scene, and the former “Dead Girl Derby” team out of Kansas City, MO changed their name completely to Fountain City Roller Derby.
Unlike many other sports where players often have a background in the game extending into childhood, most roller derby players have very little previous experience. Therefore, all new skaters to the league are taught how to play the game during a 3-4 month long “Fresh Meat” training period. Skaters first learn the basics of skating before progressing to skills specific to derby. Upon graduation from the initial training period, men will be given the opportunity to skate in co-ed games alongside women. As the team grows, CGRD hopes to eventually schedule games against other area men’s teams as well.
It may not be long before the Cape area can accommodate roller derby players of any gender as well as any age. While CGRD recruits adults 18 and over, junior roller derby is starting to crop up in the area as well. The West KY Rockin Rollers from Paducah, Kentucky recently started a junior roller derby team welcoming ages 17 and under, and CGRD skater, The Wicked Witch of the Midwest, is currently working towards forming the SEMO Junior Roller Derby League.
As the 2015 season draws to a close, CGRD looks forward to these big changes to the league. In an effort to include all adults with an interest in skating, the team is proud to announce the removal of the gender requirement. To better represent our identity as a league, the team also announces that it will transition to a new league name in 2016. We would like to personally thank all our fans and volunteers for all their assistance this season, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon!
Track our progress online using #WeAreCGRD! For more info on joining, email firstname.lastname@example.org!