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Gallatin Valley Roller Derby bringing female fellowship to a gritty sport

Posted at 10:09 PM, Aug 05, 2018

BOZEMAN — Haynes Pavilion is home to Bozeman’s ice rinks in the winter, but in the summertime, a different kind of skates are strapped on.

Skaters don four-wheel roller skates for the Gallatin Valley Roller Derby after the winter ice melts.

It’s the perfect spot, too. Every single noise is amplified, especially the sound of a slippery skate crash.

“If someone cuts in line in front of you at the grocery store, you’re not going to knock them down. But in derby you are,” Gallatin Valley Roller Derby member Kelsey Clark said.

Roller Derby is an all-female sport that consists of extreme physicality and grit. On its website, it lists the sport as “not safe or for the faint of heart” but to expect the same amount of injury or pain as any other contact sport.

While some may be put off by the facts, or the technicality of maneuvering roller skates, Clark was not intimidated by the challenge.

“It had been years, probably a fifth-grade birthday party,” Clark said of the last time she had worn skates before roller derby, “and then a 20-year gap.”

The Gallatin Roller Derby is the premier league in the area and allows women of all ages to compete. Roller derby games are first set up with two teams, five on five, around an oval flat track. Of those five members, three are blockers, one is a pivot, and one is a jammer. Points are earned by how many times the jammer passes members of the opposing team.

While it may sound complicated, according to Clark, anyone is qualified.

“If you’re willing to come and work hard, then we’re willing to teach you,” said Clark. “There’s no fear of getting cut or not being good enough, just excitement about what you can accomplish.”

The games are intense, but the fellowship of a women’s-only league has been the biggest takeaway for the ladies.

“I really like the team comraderie,” Lillian Ball said. “The group of ladies, it’s such a nice thing in any community to have a group of people support you.”

“We spend so much time together, we practice five hours a week,” said Clark. “When you’re practicing, you’re doing frustrating, challenging stuff, pushing the limits. That really brings you to a vulnerable, emotional place. So when you have that trust to stand next to you and someone who has seen you struggle, that really creates a bond.”

If you want to catch the Gallatin Valley Roller Derby in action, their next game is Aug. 11 at Haynes Pavilion at 7:30 p.m.