PRESCOTT — Get ready… get set… ROLL!!
The Prescott Whiskey Row-llers women’s roller derby team, currently in its ninth year, plays host to a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. today, Aug. 4, at the Pioneer Park Rink, 1185 Commerce Drive.
Admission costs $5 per person for the bouts, which pit teams from the Northern Arizona Roller Derby (NAZRD) league against Flagstaff’s High Altitude Roller Derby (HARD) league. Children ages 10 and younger get in free.
The Row-llers, a Class A roller-derby squad (varsity, if you will), battle Flagstaff’s Dark Sky Starlets in the first bout, which is Women’s Flat-Track Derby Association-sanctioned. Afterward, Prescott’s new Class B team (analogous to junior varsity), the Bootleggers, face off against Flagstaff’s Supernovas.
Bleacher seating is available at the outdoor rink, but fans are welcome to bring their own chairs to sit trackside. Organizers encourage fans to dress appropriately for the warmer temperatures, and they prohibit glass drink containers at the venue.
Ashley Fisher of Prescott, who goes by the roller derby nickname “Wanna Ash Kickin’,” serves as the vice president of NAZRD and has played for the Row-llers for the past eight years.
She said the Bootleggers are not as experienced as the Row-llers. When a Bootlegger gets good enough, she receives a call-up to the Row-llers “to play at more competitive levels.”
The Row-llers compete in the state conference with teams from Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and Casa Grande, she added. They also face off against squads from El Paso, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and California. Their season runs from February through October/November, depending on when the conference tournament is played.
Fisher said the Row-llers currently keep a 12- to 14-player roster captained by Holly Ween of Prescott. Most of the Row-llers players are from Prescott and/or Prescott Valley, as well as one gal from Cottonwood who travels twice a week for practices and games, she added.
“We’re all really good friends with all the players,” Fisher said. “But it’s definitely going to be a tough game. They [Starlets] play hard and we play hard.”
Roller derby is played between two five-player teams that race around the oval rink. One player on each team has a star on her helmet, and she is the only player who can score points for her squad.
“For each person of the opposing team’s hips that they pass [around the rink], they score a point,” Fisher said of the starred players. “So, then, the objective for the blockers is to do offense and defense, basically at the same time.”
Each bout has two 30-minute halves with a 2-minute period per half called a jam.
“Whichever jammer, when the whistle blows, gets through the pack of players first legally gets awarded lead jammer status, Fisher said. “And then they can call off the jam by placing their hands on their hips, and the whistle blows and that jam is done.”
Fisher, a hair stylist by day, added that roller derby makes playing sports “wonderful” for women. Row-llers players range in age, from 18 years old to those in their 50s. Most of the team’s women are in their mid- to late-30s.
“We all encourage each other, and it’s very empowering, for sure,” she said. “A lot of our team members are mothers, wives, all that stuff, and it takes them and puts them in a different scenario three times a week.
“It’s very positive. And it’s a lot of work, but there’s definitely a lot of reward to it, too.”
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.