RACINE COUNTY — When Martha Nelson attended her second Root River Rollers practice in July, she had not been seriously roller-skating in about 15 years.
She had once been an avid roller skater as a child and teenager, saying that she even practiced on a half-pipe as late as 17.
But Nelson went on indefinite hiatus after while she pursued more mature endeavors — until the now 32-year-old mother of four found the Root River Rollers roller derby team while searching for a place to take her children skating.
The team, which formally started and began having practices for the contact sport in January, is made up of women from around Racine County, started by several more experienced women who began training others in the area.
Nelson decided to just watch during her first practice but, on her second practice, she hit the floor.
“This is awesome,” she recalled thinking. “This is exactly what I need to be doing because it’s like picking up where I left off when I was younger.”
Nelson, a doula from Union Grove by day, now goes by Bitty Ba-Zoom on the derby floor and is one of 14 on the team.
Currently with barely enough members for a team, according to Crystal Gruenewaldt of Wind Lake, also known as Floor-ya NaughtyGale on the floor, they are looking for at least six more players before the roller derby competition season starts in spring. She is the league vice president.
Getting a four-team league in Racine County is the ultimate goal, Gruenewaldt, 36, said, but for now they are looking to form a team to compete in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
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She said that all women older than 21 are eligible, but she boiled down the requirements to the dedication to consistently show up through tough practices and the positive attitude to take setbacks in stride.
“You’ll beat yourself up, but you’ll have your derby sisters to cheer you on,” Gruenewaldt wrote in an email. “We want this to be a league where everyone is welcome.”
According to Gruenewaldt, the rollers consist of women varying in professions from a cake decorator to an IT specialist to a warehouse supervisor.
Roller derby bouts are played by two teams with five women skating counter-clockwise on a circular track, according to the team’s website. One player, known as the jammer, must pass through a line of the other team’s blockers, catch up to the back of the pack and score a point per every player she laps.
Gruenewaldt said that whoever joins the team will compete in bouts, but it may take longer for some players to qualify than others.
For Nelson, even as someone that had not been skating for 15 years, it only took a few practices for her form to return.
“It’s just like putting shoes back on,” she said. “Now, it’s like I never stopped skating.”
Nelson said that for now, the team does not yet have its own home and they would probably have to use opposing teams’ facilities for bouts. The team currently practices at Living Hope Lutheran Church, 1619 N. Newman Road, and at Rollaero Skate Center, 5200 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in Cudahy.
HOW TO JOIN
The Root River Rollers roller derby team will hold a recruiting event Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at McAuliffe’s Pub, 3700 Meachem Road, as well as two cookout lunches at Pick ’n Save, 1202 Green Bay Road, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and on Oct. 26.