South Charlotte

Novices find fun, friendships in roller derby

Roller derby is not for everyone.

It takes a certain type of woman to strap on a pair of roller skates and, while skating as fast as they can, propel their bodies into their opponents and expect the opposition to do the same thing to them.

When Genea Swan first heard about the Charlotte Speed Demons, she was hooked.

"I participated in my first scrimmage the other day," Swan said.

"I remember lining up behind the pivot line, ready to start as an inside blocker. Then the whistle blew and my counterpart shoved me really hard. That really helped me focus on the game and get over my pre-game jitters."

Swan, a housewife and part-time worker at The Great Harvest Bread Company near Rea Road, is a natural fit.

She was looking for a good workout and a way to have fun. A friend of a friend turned her on to the Speed Demons, a flat track roller derby team in its first season, and she applied to their Players In Training program.

Roller derby is a full-contact, action-packed sport that features five-on-five action. Points are scored when the jammer passes opponents who are trying to block and stop them from scoring.

Think football meets NASCAR.

Jennifer Phillips is another graduate of the Players In Training program, and another woman that loved roller derby before she had stepped on the track.

"I had always been an athlete and a skater, but I had never been on the quad skates before," Phillips said. "I got that down and love being with the girls and being involved in roller derby. I knew some of the rules going in, but that is still going to be my biggest adjustment. I am learning so much and trying to get ready for our first game."

Phillips, a bartender from Rock Hill, says her personality fits with roller derby and people are usually not surprised when she tells them what she does.

The training program is an intense three-month program that teaches prospective Speed Demons how to fall without getting hurt, block and skate and they have to complete 25 laps in less than five minutes.

Swan spent many hours at Kate's skating rink honing her skill and cutting her time. She has cut nearly two minutes off her first attempt, and successfully completed the training program in late May.

"I am thrilled that many of the girls I bonded with have returned to the program," Swan said. "Being with them was ladies night, an incredible workout and a tension release all in one."

Swan and Phillips are two of four players who made it through the Players in Training program, of which 11 started. Now they wait to see if they make the active roster.

"I have really tried to get better and my teammates have helped me a lot," Phillips said. "I think I am prepared for almost anything that they will throw at me. I know I have great potential and look forward to the first match."