HELENA — For some, roller skating is a leisure activity. For the the Hel’z Belles, a flat track roller derby team from Helena, lacing up a pair of skates opens a rough-and-tumble world where many find a new family.
“I’ve met people that have been in it for years, they been retired and came back years later, it’s like a good pair of socks,” said Lauren Sherley, also known as Sherley Temper.
Roller derby is a rough and rowdy sport that pits women on roller skates against each other in a physical battle of wits. According to Sherley, there is no average roller derby skater, everyone comes from a different walk of life and brings different attitudes.
“We have such a wide array of people on our team. We have a second grade teacher, and then we have a whole bunch of state workers,” Sherley said. “But then we have a ton of different personalities that come into derby and I think the reason the family sticks with it is … because you find you’re weird.”
Even though skaters come from various backgrounds, according to Sherley, skaters seem to have a few things in common.
Which is why everyone is so comfortable with one another, like a family or a good pair of socks.
“Derby is a little weird, because we’re all fantastically weird in our own strange ways. We all felt like we never fit in with the normal sports, or the normal things, or we had different interests,” Sherley said. “And all of a sudden you find this group of people who are like, ‘I really want to be tough and do full contact.’ It’s kind of strange and we’re not angry, but we just really like to play rough sports.”
Roller derby is straining, both physically and mentally, which is why head coach Kristy Fortman, also known as Bambiboozled, says that having an open line of communication with everyone is something that fosters a positive environment.
“It’s a huge time commitment, you have to be supportive of one another, or it won’t function. We’ve always tried to cultivate a positive vibe. If anybody has an issue, we talk about it with really open communication,” said Fortman. “That’s probably the best way to do it, just being really honest with each other, not holding things in, and you get a lot of that out on the track.”
More information on the Hel’z Belles can be found here.