The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

Rolling out of their comfort zone

On the skating track, freshmen Margaret Bonin and Elizabeth Mena-Larsen become “Margin of Terror” and “Bizquik.” Playing for the Minnesota Frostbites, both Bonin and Mena-Larsen usually take on the role of blockers.

Skater names are just one element of roller derby that make it an “alternative sport,” as described by Folklife Magazine, along with its signature looks and acceptance of diverse players, such as a transgender 10-year-old in Ontario who was blocked from participating in school sports.

Roller derby is a full-contact team sport where four defense skaters, called blockers, try to prevent one offense skater, called a jammer, from passing them. There are three levels of contact: no contact, minimal contact, and full contact.

At a standard practice, skaters split up into different levels after warm ups, stretching, and skating fast laps.

From there, practice focuses on one aspect of the sport: “Sometimes it could be contact, sometimes it could just be skating fundamentals,” Bonin said.

Bonin and Mena-Larsen discovered roller derby through the graphic novel Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Although Mena-Larsen read the book years before playing the sport, promotions for it in the Xcel Energy Center got her into skating two years ago. A year later, Bonin joined Mena-Larsen in the Junior Roller Derby Association league as part of the Minnesota Roller Derby.

While Mena-Larsen feels the sport is becoming popular, junior teams are rare. “For all our games, we have to go somewhere at least four hours or more away … we don’t have a lot of leagues nearby,” she said.

Everything’s a little bit scary at first and … you gotta keep trying and then eventually you’ll get used to it.

— Elizabeth Mena-Larsen

Roller derby is a fairly modern sport, with roots in the 1900s and a revival in 2003 by a group of women in Texas. According to Frogmouth, there are currently almost 2000 roller derby leagues across 53 countries. One reason for its expansion is that roller derby is run by the players, who devote time to keeping the leagues afloat, rather than large organizations.

The sport is also novel because men and women have always played by the same rules. In fact, roller derby is most often associated with its women’s teams, because seeing women playing a contact sport in the 1900s was a rare sight.

Mena-Larsen, who plays at the third contact level, described the physicality as one of her favorite parts of the sport along with the community.

“I feel like I really connect with a lot of the people and we all have similar interests, but I also really like the roughness of the sport because it’s full contact,” Mena-Larsen said.
Known as one of the most inclusive communities for players of different ethnicities, sexualities, and body types, many roller derby players take inspiration from punk and drag scenes to create flashy outfits or makeup looks. These decorations have lasted as a tradition for both smaller and larger-scale bouts, showing the influence alternative communities have had on the sport’s culture.

Roller derby has taught Bonin to embrace the unknown. “I feel like from the sport … more from anything else, I’ve learned to try new things and kind of step out of my comfort zone, because that’s a lot of what the sport is like,” she said. “Everything’s a little bit scary at first and … you gotta keep trying and then eventually you’ll get used to it.”

Both Bonin and Mena-Larsen described finding a tight-knit, active community through a sport that many people don’t know about. Their team has an upcoming scrimmage and a larger bout in January.

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About the Contributor
Claire Kim
Claire Kim, co-Editor in Chief
My name is Claire Kim (she/her). I work as a co-editor-in-chief for The Rubicon, and I have previously worked as the Opinions Editor, Music Editor, and Staff Writer. At school, I’m a captain of SPARKS Swim and Dive and the fencing team, and I’m also a co-president of Asian Student Alliance. I love listening to music and translating in my free time. I can be reached at [email protected].

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