When asked about her first official bout in 2003, Voodoo Doll—whose real name is Christina Pocaressi—remembers, “it was a train wreck. I’m pretty sure I was wearing rental skates and a look of total confusion.”
Ten years ago, roller derby was a quirky little underground game played by a few dozen women here in Austin. At the time, Pocaressi was working in a lingerie store and roller skating was something she hadn’t done since she was seven years old.
“A group of athletic women came in needing 14 pairs of red satin hot pants. I thought they were making a B-movie but they turned out to be a roller derby team and they invited me to come to try-outs,” says Voodoo Doll, a member of the Texas Rollergirls. “I was intrigued by the idea of ‘fishnets and fighting on wheels,’ which was how it was described to me at the time.”
Today, roller derby is the world’s fastest-growing sport for women, and the Texas Rollergirls are the reason more than 20,000 women across the globe are putting on their skates and playing roller derby—a full-contact skating sport played on a flat, oval track in which points are scored by lapping members of the opposition. The Texas Rollergirls are credited with creating the first rule set for modern flat track roller derby and designing the specs for the track. In 2006, the Texas Rollergirls became one of the founding members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing body for the sport.
“Roller derby is addictive and all-consuming. Regardless of how long you’ve been playing, your skills are constantly challenged. But what I personally love about this sport is that each jam is like two minutes of pure fight or flight—it engages the reptilian part of my brain,” Voodoo Doll says. “I’m not saying it doesn’t require a high degree of intelligence and skill to play, but when someone is coming after you with the full intention of destroying you in front of a screaming crowd, your primitive instincts do kick in.”
No longer the only sports league of its kind, the Texas Rollergirls are known as the godmothers to more than 1,400 flat track derby leagues worldwide, with more forming each week. They travel across the world to share their skills with women everywhere.
However, the Texas Rollergirls have done more than create a sport, they’ve created a movement. Through their thriving junior program, Austin Derby Brats, they are training the next generation of derby stars. They’ve also created a recreational arm, Rec-n-Rollerderby, in which women can play derby without the fierce competition and time commitment of the premier league.
The Texas Rollergirls pride themselves in being 100 percent skater-owned and managed. In 2008, the Texas Rollergirls became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting women’s flat track roller derby as a premier sport within the community.
“There’s no denying the derby of the ‘40s was exciting. The female athletes of that era faced so many cultural barriers—the idea of women playing full-contact sports must have been scandalous. But despite all those great breakthroughs, derby was still run as a male dominated, top-down enterprise. I think that eventually contributed to its downfall in the 1970s when public perception changed and derby took on that rigged, ‘WWE’ cachet,” says Voodoo Doll. “Modern derby isn’t “owned” by a manager or even financially driven–it’s skater-owned. We run our business from the ground up, from training, to marketing, to taking care of all the thousands of details that go into a bout production—skaters and volunteers do it all. It’s tough, but our hearts and souls are invested in this sport, and you can see that quality on the track.”
This year, the Texas Rollergirls are celebrating their 10th season. The league kicked off the season with a double-header on Sunday, February 10th at the Austin Convention Center.
“When we started playing in Austin, we knew we had something going but roller derby was still on the outer fringes. It was such a challenge just getting people to show up to our bouts. You would tell people you played roller derby and they would assume you were joking,” says Voodoo Doll. “Now when you tell someone you play roller derby, instead of laughing they’ll say ‘Awesome. Which team?’ People are finally getting it. What a relief.”
Four home teams make up the Texas Rollergirls league, and each one is supported by a loyal and enthusiastic fan base: the Hell Marys, the Hotrod Honeys, the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers and the Hustlers. A fifth team, the Texecutioners, is comprised of the best and brightest members. They are currently ranked fourth in the world.
Catch the Texas Rollergirls on Saturday, March 30th and you’ll see two great derby bouts. In the first one, the Hustlers—a team that has struggled to capture a victory since 2011—will take on the Hotrod Honeys, who are still hot off of last month’s victory over the defending champions. Then, the Hell Marys—the 2012 champions who are focused on redeeming themselves after their first loss—will take on the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers, who were also victorious in their first bout of the season.
The upcoming bouts will also feature some Easter surprises making it a fun, family-friendly event. Expect an “egg-cellent” pre-bout Easter egg hunt for the little ones and other holiday-themed activities and prizes throughout the evening.
Doors open at 5 p.m., and the opening ceremony will take place at 5:45 p.m. Don’t miss the first bout at 6 p.m. and stick around for the second one at 7:45 p.m. Tickets start at $10 and include both bouts. And, general admission for kids 12 and under is always free!
“You’ll be seeing history in the making because this is where flat track roller derby was born and continues to evolve,” says Voodoo Doll. “You should really come out and see us before all the fame and million dollar contracts go to our heads and we jump the shark. I’m joking.”
WHEN: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.
Austin Convention Center
500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78701
TICKETS: Please click here to purchase tickets.