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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

‘Roller Betties’ search out new players

Michelle Townsdin (Dita Von Teeth), left, tugs on Brittnay Vermeer’s (Killah B) shirt during a bout on April 27. // Photo by Zack Jimenez

by Maya Anderson

On July 13, the Bellingham Roller Betties finished their 12th season with a final bout between Team F.LA.S.H. and Tough Love. Ultimately Team F.L.A.S.H. was crowned as the winners with a score of 294:32.

The season’s league rankings ended with Team F.LA.S.H. in first place, followed by Tough Love and the Cog Blockers. Before the championship bout, the Cog Blockers played against the JBLM Bettie Brigade.

“Everybody works hard. Our league is pretty friendly and good to each other,” Rampaige, a skater for both Team F.L.A.S.H. and the Betties’ elite team All-Stars, who asked to be refereed to by her skater name, said. “Whether you win the trophy or not, you were still there.”

In celebration of the season’s end, every team in the league gathered at Boundary Bay Brewery. The teams rocked out to live music from SpaceBand, a cover band that plays 90’s hip-hop and R&B hits.

“There’s no agenda other than to skate well, hit hard and win,” Baby Bull, a new skater for Tough Love, said.

Baby Bull joined the team in January after playing in Montana with the Magic City Rollers and has played as a visiting skater on several other teams.

“Everyone is getting better together,” Rampaige said. “We’re getting recognized now as a really strong league of players.”

In May 2018, the Betties were ranked league number 252 in the world by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. As of May this year, the Betties were ranked 149 out of 354.

According to coach Dottie Hazzard, who chose to be referred to by her skater name, a major challenge for Team F.L.A.S.H. this season was a smaller amount of players. A roller derby team can consist of up to 20 players, with a total of 15 allowed to skate in a bout. With several absences, there were sometimes games with only 12 players.

“We had to figure out this hole and who was going to fill it,” Hazzard said. “A lot of my players stepped up and learned to be effective in multiple positions.”

Under Hazzard’s coaching, the team has gone undefeated for the past two seasons.

Western alumnus Frederick Dent has been an avid fan of the Betties for the past five seasons.

“These athletes go full out,” he said. “I’ve seen broken legs.”

As a filmmaker and photographer, he experiences the game firsthand in the middle of the action.

“It’s such a dynamic experience,” Dent said. “These are highly experienced athletes able to improvise on roller skates at high speed. The cognitive ability to keep up with that is just fantastic.”

Dent is currently working on a film project known as Derby Brain, which will feature an in-depth look at the Betties.

In preparation for the next season, the Betties will be starting their annual Booty Camp, a six-week training program that begins on Aug. 25. Hazzard, who is also the marketing chair for the Betties, said the camp usually provides the league with about 20 new players every year.

“Most people aren’t good at derby when they start,” Rampaige, who started Booty Camp in 2011, said. “If you looked at me, I fell down. I couldn’t take any kind of contact.”

She began playing her first bouts in January 2012. She now plays as a triple threat skater, meaning she can play the roles of jammer, blocker and pivot.

The Betties feature players from all walks of life from welders to waitresses and accept players at varied skill levels.

“It’s a great community. It really, really is,” Baby Bull said. “A lot of people find a home.”

The Betties will also be hosting an info session on Aug. 11, and have an outdoor derby event on Aug. 24.

More information about the Derby Brain movie project can be found at Dent’s GoFundMe page.


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