Roller derby queen
Roller derby queen BY ENELLY BETANCOURT, Staff Writer
When Valerie Stephan leaves her jobs as a professional development trainer and account executive, she straps on skates and a helmet for a time of athleticism, camaraderie and charity.
Stephan, 35, of Lancaster city, has been on the Lancaster Roller Derby team, the Dutchland Derby Rollers, since 2005.
"I never thought of myself as an athlete so this was a way to get in touch with my physicality. It's fun and exhilarating," Stephan said.
Stephan said she heard about the Philly Roller Girls, and the idea of roller skating at a high speed and smashing into stuff got her attention.
"I wanted to see if I could do it so I went to The Castle to strap on skates for the first time since middle school," Stephen said.
At the local rink she ran into other skaters who encouraged her to do it and she was immediately hooked on the speeding skates.
Since its revival in the early 2000s, women's roller derby has become increasingly popular.
The flat track version of the sport makes it possible to play the game just about anywhere.
The Women's Flat Track Derby Association, which serves as a governing board and sets rules, regulations and rankings, said there are 176 member leagues and 119 leagues in its apprentice program.
A large number of the leagues are amateur, self-organized and all-female. They are formed in a do-it-yourself spirit by relatively new roller derby enthusiasts.
It's all good fun. But it's an intense sport.
"It takes a lot of sweat and a lot of practice to pull it off," said Stephan, known to her fans as Laverne N. Surly.
Derby nicknames are unique -- they say something about the skater and sound like a real name.
Stephan chose her name because she was a big fan of the Laverne and Shirley television show. Stephan's derby number, 1959, is a reflection of the show's timeline.
Stephan said the sport -- most contests are held locally at Overlook -- is not for everybody, but "if you have the right drive and determination and willing to push yourself then this is for you."
1. What are the basics of the sport?
It's two 30-minute periods, broken down into two-minute "jams," during which you have five skaters competing for each team. There is one player from each team called the "jammer," who is allowed to score points by passing or breaking through the other team's skaters.
The rest of the skaters are called "blockers." That is what I do. We make sure the opposing jammer can't pass or break through, while at the same time helping our own jammer through the pack.
2. What attracted you to roller derby?
I absolutely love the sport, but the one aspect that I found attractive is that every bout is also a fundraising event that benefits and spotlights a different charity every time we skate, so it's nice to be a part of something that gives back to the community.
3. What is the biggest misconception about roller derby?
People always want to know if this is a real sport and if we all wear tattoos or mini-skirts and have multi-colored hair.
It is a full-contact skating sport, it's a real competition and we are serious athletes. We practice four times a week ... sometimes six days.
The thought that it is not real is laughable.
4. Who are the women on your team?
This group redefines what an athlete looks like and who an athlete is. We are women of all ages and backgrounds. There are grandmas, small business owners, students. and Sunday school teachers. You will find all body types in a variety of sizes.
Some women are pierced, tattooed, dyed and wear interesting outfits. Yet, there are others who are much more conservative. We are very different but we are like family.
5. How has it changed you as a person? It has given me a renewed self-confidence. There is a sense of empowerment and you develop the self-esteem and the strength to pursue dreams and goals that maybe had been placed on hold. It helped me reclaim a portion of my identity that kind of went away once I settled down.
nLaverne N. Surly -- known by most as Valerie Stephan -- finds the sport exhilarating. And every bout helps raise funds for a local charity.