Back to Military Life

Roller derby bootcamp lets rookies break in

Even novice skaters participate in this sport

The JBLM Bettie Brigade battles the Bellingham Cogs during a recent bout. Photo credit: Andrew Kolstad

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

The JBLM Bettie Brigade Roller Derby team wants you. The base squad is recruiting for the 2020 season, which begins in January and runs through September.

"We recruit skaters throughout the year, and we are hosting a bootcamp starting on October 2," said Nikki Winter, President of JBLM Roller Derby, who skates under the moniker Tricky Nikki. "Bootcamp is for anyone that would like to try out roller derby, and no experience is needed."

Outgoing President Alahna Gross (Florence Night-N-Hell) agrees that you don't need any experience.

"When I first started, all eight wheels were either on the floor or in the air," Gross recalled. "We take people of all experience levels, and we also have non-skating volunteer jobs."

One of the fun things about being on a team is the opportunity to have an alter ego. Gross' is a play on words, a take on her real vocation as a nurse practitioner.

In addition to providing a fun, high-energy experience, being on the team provides a supportive group environment, according to Gross.

"My friend Nurse Ratchet and I were on a motorcycle ride, and these really cool chicks were recruiting for roller derby," she recounted. "My friend and I agreed that it would be a super cool thing to get into. I chickened out, but she moved forward with it. After watching her skate for a year or so, I decided to give it a try, too.

"The group we have right now has a lot of trust in one another," continued Gross. "We have seen each other go through some rough times, and we have been able to show support. This is a recreational sport that we play for fun! We try not to lose sight of that. I have been on the team for two-and-a-half years now. I started from nothing. I skated about once a year as a kid, and then started coming to practice when I was 39 years old. This is a really fun sport that I am really glad to be a part of."

Although it's high entertainment, roller derby is a true sport, officially sanctioned as Women's Flat Track Roller Derby. The sport has an international governing body, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, and it also serves as a membership organization for leagues.

Early renditions of the game took place on a banked track. Modern women's roller derby began in 2004, when leagues run by the athletes formed an association. Using a flat track enabled the sport to be played on a skating rink or other venue, without the need for a special track. That helped the sport take off, and there are now more than 450 flat-track roller derby leagues worldwide.

When the season kicks off, you can buy tickets on, or at the door on the day of the match. Home bouts are held at Skateworld Tacoma. For more information, visit:, or follow the team on Facebook at JBLM Bettie Brigade.

Roller Derby Bootcamp, 8-10 p.m., Wednesday; 10 p.m. to midnight, Sunday, through October, Skateworld Tacoma, 2101 Mildred St. W., Fircrest, $45,

comments powered by Disqus