Think of a roller derby. What typically comes to mind? Helmets, knee pads, tough women zooming by? The women of the Breakneck Brawlers team of the Girls Rollin’ in the South roller derby league, or GRITS, have all of those things, but a driving force of their league is community service.
Bailey Fitzpatrick, whose derby name is “Daisy Fever,” is one of the founding members of GRITS. Fitzpatrick began skating competitively in January 2006, but after skating in various leagues in the central Arkansas area, the drive to Little Rock became difficult to do with two children, so she helped form the GRITS league.
She said GRITS came into being in March 2010.
“We started the league from scratch, and we had about 30 skaters,” Fitzpatrick said. “Now we have 50 to 60.”
Fitzpatrick said roller derby gives her an opportunity to let go of the responsibilities she has during the day and go out on the track and just skate.
“When I come here, this is my sanctuary,” Fitzpatrick said. “I feel so comfortable.”
Fitzpatrick said the Breakneck Brawlers are always finding ways to give back to the community.
“[Through derby] we’ve learned a lot about the community,” Fitzpatrick said. GRITS has worked with the Cabot food bank and the Cabot Cleanup Day and chooses a charity to benefit with each bout it plays. The team tries to compete at least once a month, Fitzpatrick said.
“We normally charge $8 a ticket,” Fitzpatrick said. “Last season, we chose the Wade Knox [Child Advocacy] Center as a way to give back.”
The Wade Knox center is a children’s advocacy center in Lonoke.
Although roller derby is a hobby, it is also an investment.
“We pay $20 a month for dues, and that goes to the league, pays for fundraisers and pays our rink rent,” Fitzpatrick said.
Each member of the team has to supply her own protective gear, but when someone is just starting out, the Breakneck Brawlers have a “fresh meat” box of equipment they allow new members to use.
Fitzpatrick said a skater needs to get a better brand of knee pads because falls occur often.
“The least amount of protective gear you can have is a helmet, knee and elbow pads,” Fitzpatrick said. “Most new people upgrade as they [skate].”
Fitzpatrick said that in her seven years of skating, she has finally figured out the brand of pads and skates that work for her.
Roller derby isn’t only a monetary investment; it is an investment of time.
The Breakneck Brawlers practice on Sundays and Wednesdays at Joyland Skate Center in Cabot. On Tuesdays, the team practices at the Conway Roller Rink. Wednesday practices are “fresh meat” practices, which focus on teaching new skaters the skills necessary to skate competitively.
While the training is intense and practices are held three times a week, Fitzpatrick said the best part of roller derby is the sisterhood she has with her fellow skaters.
“I’ve made some of my best friends through [derby],” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve been able to meet people who have all probably been through a lot of the same things, and we all come from different backgrounds.”
The Breakneck Brawlers’ first home bout will be April 13 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Field House.
More information about the GRITS roller derby league is available at www.gritsroller
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or email@example.com.