By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
For some it’s a diversion.
For others it’s a good way to stay in shape and fuel those competitive juices.
For virtually all of them, it’s a real-life adventure.
The fledgling Mankato Area Derby Girls (MAD Girls) will make the first home appearance in franchise history Saturday when they host the Goosetown Roller Girls of New Ulm at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Center. The MAD Girls were formed about a year ago and, after countless hours of practice and one road bout, they are primed to showcase their talents in Mankato.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s also been a lot of fun,” said team member NoApolo-G. “We’ve been looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd.”
NoApolo-G is the derby name the Mankato native plays under. All of the skaters have zany names ranging anywhere from Strawberry StrikeHer to Nurse Nutcase.
“That’s a tradition that started long ago with roller derby and we’ve just continued it,” said Whindy Q. “It’s just one more layer of fun that adds to the attraction.”
None of the 16 skaters who make up the MAD Girls roster had any derby experience prior to joining the program. Some were fairly accomplished roller skaters but others were not. It’s a brand new experience for everyone involved, including coach Just J.
“It wasn’t by design, it just worked out that way,” Whindy Q said of the all-newcomer squad. “We would have loved to have had a couple of experienced derby skaters but it didn’t happen. Instead we’re all having fun learning as we go.”
The MAD Girls play under the rules of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (see the accompanying box). They are considered an independent, not-for-profit organization and all of the skaters are considered amateurs.
Not only do the derby girls not get paid, they have to pay a monthly fee to be on the team. They’re also required to put in volunteer hours for charity and organize and participate in team fundraisers.
“It seems a little crazy to think we have to do all this stuff and we have to pay to do it but it’s really a blast,” said NoApolo-G. “The bonds we’ve formed as teammates are really strong. It’s a challenge we’re all facing together.”
There is no league or conference the MAD Girls play in, they have simply tried to schedule bouts against other programs that are new or fairly new to the sport so they can be competitive. One of the most appealing aspects to the skaters is that all derby girls and teams try to help each other.
“It’s like one big community,” said Whindy Q. “The Minnesota Roller Girls (based in Minneapolis) have been around for awhile and they help us when they can. So do all the other teams.
“We try to beat each other during bouts but then both teams will go out and celebrate together afterwards. It’s like we’re all in it together.”
Whindy Q is a wife and a mom from Janesville who was looking for something different. She believes she found it with the MAD Girls.
“It’s kind of a grass roots thing that started up and looked interesting to me,” she said. “I checked it out and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
“Roller derby may be considered a little round around the edges but that’s the way we like it. I can’t remember when I’ve had his much fun.”