Fishers Roller Derby Skater Pumps up the Jam On + Off The Rink
Indianapolis is home to an independent women’s flat track roller derby league called the Circle City Derby Girls made up of two teams with more than 60 women. This amateur league travels throughout the Midwest for competitive matches; home matches are held at the Forum at Fishers skating rink. Roller Derby originated in Chicago in 1935 and the contact sport has grown to about 1,250 amateur leagues throughout the world. In fact, this roller sport is under consideration for the 2020 Olympics.
Traditionally, the theatrical elements of the sport have outweighed the athleticism. Today, roller derby reflects a genuinely competitive sport, although underlying drama still contributes to the entertainment experience. For example, team members have pseudo skater names projecting a certain kind of image. Some are intimidating like “Spleana Rupture,” “Richie Whip,” and “TeKillYa Slamher.” Some are more laid back, friendlier names like Philly Cheezskate and Miss United Skates.
“Roller Derby is as real as any mainstream sport like football, basketball, or baseball,” says “Ionic Bondage,” I mean, Michele Williamson, member of the Socialites “A” team, and assistant coach of the Party Crashers “B” team. With a skater name like Ionic Bondage, it’s not surprising to learn Michele works as an analytical chemist at Eli Lilly. “We follow rules in this sport and there’s a lot of strategy. We always have a plan that involves stopping the opposing jammer (person trying to score) either by pushing opponents out of bounds with full body, hip, or shoulder checks (hits), or by working as a team to play defense.” Essentially, the teammates play offense and defense simultaneously by blocking the opposing jammer while trying to clear a path for their own jammer.
Michele, a Fishers resident, remains a strong team player even though she has faced some serious health obstacles in addition to a high ankle sprain and bruises. In December of 2011, she was practicing with her team when she experienced an episode of nagging heartburn. Her teammates urged her to go to the hospital to have it checked. There, she learned that she had, in fact, suffered a heart attack. She underwent surgery to have a stent placed in the LAD artery where she had 100% blockage.
Did this setback stop her? No way. She continued to practice with her team without any physical contact. She participated in all endurance drills and continued to work out at the gym. “I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been in,” says Michele, a single mom, raising two sons. “I began a new healthy diet and lost 60 pounds. I stayed on blood thinner medication for one year but now I only take one aspirin a day. I feel great!”
A few weeks after her heart attack, during cardiac rehab she was feeling a little dizzy. The therapist at rehab suggested going to the ER to receive fluids, as she thought Michele was dehydrated. After seeking medical help she learned from her doctor that, based on the results of her CT scan, she had suffered a prior stroke. Her stroke occurred about six months prior to her heart attack, a health event about which she had no idea. The only symptom was difficulty in completing sentences, which improved gradually over the course of a couple weeks. Due to damaged tissue, Michele now takes anti-seizure medication daily as a precaution.
Michele was very athletic growing up in Westfield where she played softball, soccer, and basketball. She took ice-skating lessons and roller skated at the Rainbo Roller Rink in Noblesville. As a mother, she continues to balance the demands of working full time, raising her two sons, Hunter, 14, and Drake, 9, in addition to skating for the competitive roller derby team.
Since the league is skater-owned and operated its members participate in various fundraisers throughout the year and rely on sponsors to raise money. Members of the league appear in several local parades including the Pride Parade held downtown, and the Fishers Freedom Festival.
Come see the Circle City Derby Girls as they host their next bouts on July 27th and August 10th, 6:00 p.m., Forum at Fishers, 9022 E. 126th Street. Visit www.circlecityderbygirls.com for details on ticket prices and availability.