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Derby Dames roll into first home season

The DuPage Derby Dames scrimmage at a practice held Dec. 14 at Coachlite Skate Center in Roselle. (Kara Silva/TribLocal Photo)

The DuPage Derby Dames scrimmage at a practice held Dec. 14 at Coachlite Skate Center in Roselle. (Kara Silva/TribLocal Photo)

By Kristy Kennedy
Special to the Tribune

Lisa Finke has an alter ego with a motto: “If this dame hits you, you’ll be glad you’re not dead.”

Known as Terrapin Flyer on the roller rink, the friendly 25-year-old waitress at the Downers Grove’s Rockwood Tap House, says the tag line fits her persona as a DuPage Derby Dame.  (For more photos)

“A lot of girls have tougher sounding names, but this suits me,” said Finke, who lives in Elmhurst.

The tough-but-easy-going image also suits the roller derby team based out of the Coachlite Skate Center in Roselle, with members who range in age from their early 20s into their late 40s.

“We have a lot of mothers. There are authors, doctors, nurses and business owners,” said Megan Rosenberg of Naperville, AKA Millie Brawl, who helped establish the team in 2010. “There’s a great sisterhood to it.”

Until now, that sisterhood has only competed at away bouts. But the Dames are gearing up for their inaugural home season starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Coachlite center.

Called “The Infamous Jungle Room Brawl” in honor of Elvis Presley’s 76th birthday, the event will raise money for Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome awareness center. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Season tickets also are available, at dupagederbydames.com.

Philanthropy is part of the sisterhood, like the nicknames, which are chosen by the women themselves. “It’s kind of your alter ego,” Rosenberg said. “No longer are you the suburban housewife; you are Madam Mischief. Somebody.”

Lisa Finke (Terrapin Flyer) of Elmhurst, left, and Jennifer Kuzmicki (JK Rowl Ya) of Downers Grove, right, show off their Derby Dames garb after practice Dec. 14. (Kara Silva/TribLocal Photo)

Even though she was a young girl the last time she pulled on a pair of Barbie skates over her shoes, Jennifer Kuzmicki of Downers Grove knew she would be a roller derby girl after watching Drew Barrymore’s movie, “Whip It.” Kuzmicki, a baker and student of forensic psychology by day, became a Derby Dame at one of the team’s open recruitment nights last spring. Her derby name is JK Rowl Ya. “It’s mostly a surprise to people,” said Kuzmicki of people’s reactions to her pastime. “They aren’t sure if they should be intimidated. We’re not scary, mean people. We’re just playing a contact sport. It’s like NASCAR and football put together. It’s for speed and passing people up.”

For those old enough to remember the heyday of roller derby, it was a televised, theatrical affair emphasizing collisions and falls in the late 1940s through the early 1970s, according to the Woman’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The modern-day sport was revitalized in Texas in the early 2000s and features a flat track as opposed to the banked track used in the past. The sport is more serious and emphasizes athleticism, Kuzmicki said. “It used to be a lot more violent, showy and cheesy,” she said.

The DuPage Derby Dames are working toward status as an official WFTDA team, practice year-round for two hours a week and bout from January through November. Newcomers, many who start out with no skating experience, are welcome. They learn four ways to stop, how to safely fall and how to do crossovers to gain speed. Before being ready for a bout, a skills test is required along with a test on the 50-page handbook explaining the rules of the game. Jammers must complete 25 derby laps in five minutes.

“You are constantly using all the muscles in your body,” Finke said. “It’s not just a bunch of girls wearing cute outfits. There definitely is a girlie part of it, but it is aggressive and it is real.” Skaters are allowed to hip check and shoulder check, but blows to the face, back and below the knee are illegal.

“I think a lot of people have a misconception that it is really violent. We do our share of pushing and knocking down, but it isn’t elbows in the face like in the movies,” said Linda McReynolds, a 38-year-old mom of three from Montgomery, who says her cool factor went up with her kids when she joined the Dames this year. On the track, she’s known as “Give’em L.”

“My son who is 12 is getting to that age where a kid thinks everything their parents do is embarrassing,” McReynolds said. But when she asked him what he thought, he said, “It’s kind of awesome.”

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