“Whenever I bring up Roller Derby, people say, ‘you’re crazy, I haven’t skated in years,’” said Savannah Derby Devil Roxy Heartless. “But our oldest skater is in her 50s, she’s an elementary school teacher. Anybody can do this, any age, any size.”
For the past five years, the Savannah Derby Devils have been contending as a full member of the League of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing body devoted to the sport.
Now featuring two fully staffed teams, The Derby Devil’s will host their third home game of the season Aug. 31. The Derby Devils All-Stars and The Hostess City Hellions will return to the Savannah Convention Center to take on the Tallahassee Roller Girls and another to-be-determined opponent in a "Star Wars"-themed doubleheader match.
Coinciding with the opening weekend of Walt Disney World’s new "Star Wars"-themed experience Galaxy's Edge, the bout will feature costume contests for adults and kids, as well as a Wookie call competition. Other activities include pod-racing for kids and "Star Wars" trivia throughout the night. The Coastal Empire Squad of the 501st Legion, a local cosplay group, will also be making an appearance “to show all of us up with their costumes,” said Heartless.
Roller Derby was originally popularized in the early 20th century by teams playing on a raised banked track that was cumbersome to both build and transport. After fizzling out of popularity in the 1970s, the sport saw a recently renewed interest in the early 2000s.
While the sports original conception in the ’30s and ’40s began as a traveling show with scripted matches and fights much like modern wrestling, the derby of today is extremely competitive and played by agile, talented athletes.
“Every practice we work on skills, drills and strategy,” she said. “We had Rollercon in June where we learned a bunch of new techniques that we’ve been implementing in our practice each week. We’ve gone through a lot of changes this season, with new leadership and new coaches.
“Our new coaches are amazing. They’re from Atlanta, which has one of the top 10 teams in the world, so we have a lot of skill coming from them. We’ve faced some growing pains here and there, but we’re learning new techniques, so what I’m most looking forward to next season is implementing everything we’ve learned and reaping the benefits of all the hard work we’ve done.
“Currently we’re doing a big push to recruit new members for our recreational league called ‘wRECk’ where we train you how to skate, how to fall, and how to hit if you’re ready,” she continued. “It’s like a starter course to get you ready to be a Derby Devil, and we do that every Sunday at the Garden City Stadium. We all have to relearn, and everyone starts off at the basic minimum skill level, you don’t have to worry about hitting anyone right away, because you’re not ready for that.”
Heartless added that anyone interested in joining the team should attend Saturday's bout and talk to any Derby Devils member to get started. Those interested in the “wRECk” recreational league can find more information and applications on the Derby Devils website.