Bombshells hooked on roller derby
They spend most of their waking hours as moms and career women -- jobs that often require toughness and tough love. However, two or three nights per week and one Saturday evening a month, they accept roles as jammers and blockers, a completely different physicality, and the bumps and bruises that go with it.
They're members of the Beloit Bombshells, a roller derby team that doesn't belong to a sanctioned league but follows Women's Flat Track Derby Association rules.
Beloit's next bout will be Jan. 30, a match against the Cedar Rapids Roller Girls at its home rink, the Skatin' Station on Inman Parkway in Beloit.
Team members undergo a three-month waiting period in which they must pass physical and written rules tests before making the active roster and are required to log a certain amount of practice time to play in any particular bout.
So, Bombshells know all about commitment: Their season runs from October through May, while they continue workouts during the summer. But they say being a part of this second family involves many rewards.
A positive energy
Courtney Beeler Laursen, 29, of Afton, played soccer as a youth and participated in gymnastics from age 6 through her freshman year at Janesville Parker. She transferred to Beloit Memorial, where she graduated in 2004.
An interior design consultant by day, she's known as “LouSteel Balls” while circling the rink. She is one of the newer players, having joined the team in November and thus waiting to see her first action.
“I saw my first bout a long time ago and wondered what it would be like and wanted to do it, but being a mother and having a career, it's hard to find the time. You know how you get busy with life.
“But while I was watching them, I could see that it takes a good deal of athleticism, coordination, awareness and how important your teammates are,” she said. “It looked so challenging, but also interesting. I did a lot of roller-skating while growing up, and our dad took us ice-skating down at the lagoon. And I live near Pohlman Field, so me and friends would go over (to Edwards Ice Arena) and skate.”
Beeler Laursen has been working mostly on being a blocker, which means concentrating on footwork and pivoting. She hopes to join the active roster in the near future.
“You're not learning unless you're falling,” she said. “And I've learned that it gets harder before it gets easier. Conditioning is so important. This keeps me active, but the best part is that this is a great group of women. Every time I've been struggling and think I can't do it, somebody will come by and say, 'I struggled with that, too.' They have such a positive energy.”
On the prowl
Amanda “Wyked Lynx” Schultz, 37, has competed in roller derby for six years and joined the Bombshells when they were formed in 2012, a team that has absorbed players from other Stateline area squads such as the Rock River Rollers, Delavan Dolls of Derby and the Cherry Bombers from Chocolate City.
The 1997 Beloit Turner graduate predominantly has been a jammer, but she likes to mix it up as a blocker despite being one of the smaller athletes.
“I've always loved roller-skating and grew up coming here,” she said of Skatin' Station. “I saw my first bout and joined right away. I was a pretty good skater and thought I would show them how to do it. I couldn't have been more wrong … I was extremely humbled.”
Schultz agreed that endurance is a major factor in consistently performing at a high level and it's something she has struggled with occasionally.
“That's held me back when returning from a break,” said Schultz, a dental hygienist who also is a backup singer for the band Vinyl Daze. “But I'm always improving my hitting. It probably took me two years to really get used to everything.
“When I started, the most experience any players had was about two years. Here, we have a lot of women who've been playing four, five or six years. That's saying a lot because it's a major commitment.
“I'm reminded of the Blind Melon video (“No Rain”) with the little girl as a bumblebee and being all by herself and lonely,” Schultz added. “Then she sees all of these other bees in the field and joins them. That's how I felt. The camaraderie and support system with this team are unbelievable.”
Tina Dobbs, 44, is the team president who also has mixed it up as a blocker for the Bombshells for four years as the “Everlasting Dobbstopper.”
She is a Janesville native and longtime South Beloit resident whose resume includes cheerleading, basketball and softball.
“I went roller-skating almost every Friday and Saturday night while growing up,” said Dobbs, a nurse manager with OSF Healthcare in Loves Park.
“When I got older I bought some new skates and went to open skates for exercise. Then the guy who owned this place asked if I wanted to join the team. I had just turned 40, and initially I was looking for some kind of exercise program, so I did a lot of homework about the sport and the team.
“Once I got here, it was like I had 15 instant buddies,” Dobbs added. “We've got girls coming from Madison and all over, and that shows a lot of dedication to the team. I've got a stressful job, so it's good to get the skates on and be a kid again. It definitely is a high-impact, high-contact sport. And besides, you get to hit somebody and not get in trouble.”