Under their wheels

Lakeland’s Derby Dames mean business

Story by Adam Justice • Photography by Philip Pietri

We’re all aware of Lakeland’s diversity, how it embraces and encourages all forms of multiformity, from demographics to ideas. As a testament to our town’s wide range of cultural offerings, The Lakelander is proud to begin the series, “Alt. Lakeland.” This special series of articles will prove to unveil some of Lakeland’s more elusive yet important aspects of its progressive identity. I am very proud to initiate Alt. Lakeland with a glimpse into one of the area’s most extreme and positive sports. Far beyond a mere pastime, Lakeland roller derby is a culture unto itself.
Derby is a culture based on centrifugal forces, attitude, sweat, and the constant threat of injury. It’s one hundred twenty-eight small wheels tempered by laps around a concrete rink. Sixteen diehard ladies make up the Rockabilly Rebels who aren’t afraid to shove and out-skate their foes on their way to the top of Florida’s ever-growing bracket of roller derby. There’s no whining in roller derby, and there’s no league more audacious than our own Lakeland Derby Dames.

The Derby Dames and their traveling team, the Rockabilly Rebels, have been taking care of business on and off the rink since March 2010. What was once a loose group of skaters at
the local Skate World is now an organized and ambitious tour de force. Bo Deckher, the Dames’ current president and one of the original co-founders, is proud of the progress the team has made in a relatively short amount of time. The Derby Dames currently have a handful of local sponsors and an agreement with Sun ’n Fun to practice and compete in one of its empty hangars. Additionally, the home-grown team’s love for the Lakeland community causes bouts to double as fundraisers, with twenty percent of the proceeds donated to such charities as the SPCA, the American Red Cross, the National Kidney Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The Derby Dames are one of more than thirty roller derby teams in Florida, signaling the tremendous momentum in popularity the sport has gained over the past few years. With
this new-found fandom also comes a renewed and more positive identity.

Derby is a culture based on centrifugal forces, attitude, sweat, and the constant threat of injury.

The roller derby of old was perceived more as a feminine complement to the testosterone-driven world of professional wrestling. Framed as a spectacle, roller derby was once defined by its high content of drama and violence that overshadowed the fact that it’s a true sport.
This new age of roller derby focuses more on the athleticism and fast-paced excitement of the sport, which suits the Dames just fine. If anyone wants to distance themselves from the traditional definition of roller derby, it’s the Derby Dames. These Lakelanders may sport leopard print and stiff upper lips during roller bouts, but when the skates come off, they’re
mothers, teachers, nurses, restaurant employees, and business administrators. The polarity of their respective lifestyles is centered on their deep commitment to helping their community and their dedication to the empowerment of women everywhere.
The compassion, camaraderie, and competitive nature involved with contemporary roller derby emerge as its most celebrated characteristics. This isn’t to say that bouts aren’t infused with the energy and attitude so crucial to traditional roller derby, but it’s much more balanced these days and kept in check for the betterment of the players and their hometown. It’s
about resurrecting a lost sport while raising awareness for the strength and versatility of femininity.

The current Rockabilly Rebels roster includes:

10 Bo Deckher
7n7 Shy Copath
38DD Bullett Proof Chest
0FG Casey Ulater
51 Vagabond Rouge
42 Candy Heartless
910 Hell Oh Kitty
4567 Yo Adrienne!
5309 Margarita Villain
1FS B-Movie Scream Queen
Ten8 Iva Grudge
4NK8 Yolo Oh-No
241 S’more Hits
BR32 Shelbizzle Fo Shizzle
BR31 Cherry Cherry Garcia
88 Vixen

To learn more about the Derby Dames and to see a schedule of bouts, visit www.lakelandrollerderby.com