Carroll County Outlaws whip into action
Helter Skelter, Barbwire, Thunder and Lightning arenít typical nicknames for athletes.
The Carroll County Outlaws, though, arenít your typical team.
Amber Wingo, otherwise known as Barbwire, and Lacey Snyder, aka Helter Skelter, formed the Carroll County Roller Derby League in January and have seen anywhere from 15 to 18 players show up at weekly practices since then.
Lightning and Thunder are a combination of best friends Jessica Dawn Cook and Jessica Renee Lopez. Cook had never heard of the sport before, but her friend persuaded her to give it a shot.
"My best friend said she was doing roller derby and I asked her what the heck that was," Cook said. "She wanted me to come check it out, so I did and I am stuck."
Roller derby is a 60-minute game, broken up into two halves. Each half is broken up into 15 two-minute jams in which a jammer tries to pass the other team on a counter-clockwise track.
"The jammer is the one who scores the points," Wingo said. "She has a star on her helmet and she will try to make her way through a pack, which is made up of four individuals of the opposing team. Then she will make one lap and her pass back through, for each set of hips she passes, she can score a point."
Wingo started playing roller derby in Fayetteville five years ago and she said it has made her a better person.
"I have had a lot of fun with it," Wingo said. "It makes me a better community member. I get my road rage out here at practice. They let me hit on them and I let them hit me back. We do it in a controlled environment. I definitely have a stress reliever."
Roller derby has changed as a sport throughout the years and Wingo said safety is a big reason for that.
"I can't go in and body-slam anybody without getting a penalty or getting thrown out," Wingo said. "There is a more sporty aspect to it. There is a certain amount of athleticism and a certain number of rules to make sure people are playing safely. We have helmets, mouth-guards and all the gear to make sure we are staying safe."
After seven months of practice, the girls decided it was time to get a team name.
"We recently put a poll up on social media to have the fans pick out our name," Wingo said. "They chose the Carroll County Outlaws and since then, we put up for the community to make us a logo. We have had a lot of submissions and when we get that we are going to have a lady put those on our jerseys. We have had a lot of fun building off that."
Another fun aspect of roller derby is the ability for women to have their own custom skater names. Some of the other members of the team include Dolly Sparton, Rockin' Rampage, Ginger Bee and Jane Bond.
"Used to, you just had regular names and there were no cool names," Wingo said. "We did have the Bay City Bombers. That's pretty famous, but what happened is it turned into more of an entertainment sport. They picked names that would inspire the crowd and they have kept that at the grassroots level."
The Outlaws are looking to join Berryville schools with a Back to School bash in August before having their first bout later in the month. The Outlaws will have to wait a year until they become a sanctioned team, though.
"We pay to play currently, which is why we reach out to sponsors," Wingo said. "You have to be apprenticed with the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) for so long, but we go by their rules. Any bout we have will be sanctioned under their rules and if we continue to do that, then we will partner with a surrounding team to become an apprentice. You have to have 15 members and at least be a year old to become a part of WFTDA. Once we get to the year mark, we will reach out and start being able to get ranked. We will also get our travel fees taken care of."
In roller derby, you can either be a blocker, jammer or play the pivot position. Because this team is still young the players are still learning to play all three positions. Slamabel Lecter moved to Carroll County in December. She was the captain of a roller derby team in Arizona and she is helping teach the players what she can now.
"Everybody is doing pretty much everything right now," Lecter said. "I know that Barb and I being a little more experienced, we play all three roles on the track, but we are trying to teach these girls, because they are a little more inexperienced, all three roles on the track so they aren't singled out and that way they can be more versatile."
Wingo said she has seen the players make tremendous strides over the last seven months.
"We videotaped them the first couple practices and then showed them that tape about six months later to show where they were progressing," Wingo said. "It showed them that how staying consistent and putting this into their lifestyle has made them a better skater."
Endurance and footwork are two major things the ladies work on at practice.
"To become a member of WFTDA, you have to pass a minimum test," Wingo said. "Part of that minimum test says that you have to get 27 laps in five minutes, which is daunting. What we are doing is raising their endurance level so they can pass that because that is the most difficult part. That is the WFTDA standard that they will be safe on the track. And then we also watch to make sure that they fall in the correct way, so that if they fall, they don't take a bunch of other players out with them and cause additional injuries."
Ideally, a roller derby team has 8,000 square feet to practice. The Berryville Community Center gym doesn't have that, but Wingo has been creative in finding ways to make it work.
"When we called the community center and they said they would be open to us using the facility in this way, we definitely thought that was something for us," Wingo said. "What we do is lay down a special tape. That way if you roll over it, you know you are out of bounds. Then we will set up chairs, a penalty box, and it just takes a whole crew of people to keep it going."
Carroll County will make the fifth roller derby team in Arkansas. Joplin and Springfield also have teams.
"When we travel, we are going to travel within four hours to play a derby bout on a weekend," Wingo said. "We will take off, party with the team, meet new people and then come back home and get back to work."
Lecter said she and her teammates are excited to hit someone else.
"These girls have been going at it for seven months," Lecter said. "I know they have been busting their butts and improving so much that they are ready to get out and show other teams what we are made of."
There are also male and co-ed roller derby leagues nationwide.
"Right now we are just female-based," Wingo said. "We have men that are able to be referees for us. It is something we might look at in the future, but we just wanted to get established right now. We will also probably reach out and start a junior roller derby team because we are trying to be really family-friendly."
The Outlaws recruited Ed Stines, otherwise known as Stylez, to be a referee during practice back in January.
"I used to skate at the skating rink in Harrison before it closed and also out in California, where I'm from," Stines said. "So I've been skating for 40-some-odd years. Roller derby was something I always wanted to get into. I found out it's all women right now, but there are some co-ed bouts. I figured I would go ahead and do the officiating. I am looking for where they block. If they block in the back or with their arms. I'm still kind of new to it. I went over to a bout in Springdale last Sunday to learn a little more about it."
Wingo would love to see even more people get involved.
"We have been using social media to let people know we are here," Wingo said. "The community center has been a big help to let people know and that's how a lot of people have learned about us. Even if you don't want to participate in roller derby, we need fans in the stands. We need non-skating officials. We need sponsors and volunteers. We would love to partner with any non-profit so that we can give them a portion of our proceeds at each bout to help them and help their organization. We are very community-oriented."
The Carroll County Outlaws practice at 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at the Berryville Community Center for anyone interested in becoming a member or helping the team in any way. Participants must be at least 18 years old.