Whistles echoed off the walls and collided with the cheers of the fans who packed the House of Quad for some highly competitive roller derby action.
On the track, four teams would face off in two bouts — skating, blocking, scoring points for their respective teams. There were dozens of collisions and spills, flaring tempers, attaboys and verbal venom from skaters and fans alike as the refs made and missed penalty calls.
It was controlled chaos mixed with sports strategy rivaling baseball or basketball, and by the crowd reaction, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Jan. 26 event was the first of many to come for the 2013 season of North Texas Derby Revolution, Denton’s homegrown roller derby league.
Present at the event, but not skating for either team that night, was league member Darcy Littlefield, who is known on the track as “Dar2D2.” She even has a tattoo of R2D2, the beloved Star Wars robot, on her left shoulder amongst her other ink. She has been with the league for two years now but has been a derby player for much longer.
“I’d been wanting to do something athletic and I hate running,” she recalled with a laugh.
“I wanted to get in shape. I wanted to do something athletic, to feel busy, and I know I won’t do that on my own. I’ve got P90X [workout] videos and I don’t do it.”
She said she was interested in hockey but, at the time, there was nothing around Denton to fill her athletic needs. Littlefield had been teaching elementary art for a few years, working at a bar, restaurants and school jobs, and had helped raise some kids.
“I don’t have any of my own; I took care of family,” she said.
Eventually, Littlefield auditioned for a roller derby league in Irving in 2005 after talking with a friend about it.
“I played my first game a month later and dislocated my shoulder,” she said. “It was pretty fun.”
Years of driving to Irving for practice wore on her. She was glad to discover the Denton league, which started in 2011, and made the switch.
One of the hooks for Littlefield for the league, and for derby in general, is the camaraderie, she said.
“I have often said about derby [that] I hang out with and meet people I would never have occasion to meet. You get really surprised when you find out what people do,” she said. “It’s also good networking. People have found help finding roommates, finding business. My best friends are the friends I have made in derby.”
Another appeal for Littlefield is the action, the aggression, she said.
“I have never been in a fight, never pushed things around. There’s an aggressiveness that feels good to get out,” she said. “You can carry that out, not in a bully way, but in a sort of self-confidence [way]. Like a kung fu master might tell you to feel — don’t use it, but just have it in here and know that you can if you need to whip it out.”
Littlefield skates alongside 119 others in the North Texas Derby Revolution women’s league. The junior league, with 30 skaters, is known at the Rolling Rebellion, and the men’s league is the Denton County Outlaws, with 15 skaters.
The leagues’ training facility, House of Quad, opened last summer on Mayhill Road.
Outlaw Johnny West had some preconceived thoughts to overcome when he got into the league.
“Originally I thought it was just a girly sport, but when I put on quads [skates] and got into it … it’s become my everyday,” said West, known on the track as “Lucky Charmer.”
While he said roller derby is a strange beast that is not like most conventional sports, it is very much a professional business.
“We have captains, coaches, general managers and people who run the building — there’s a hierarchy,” he said. “When you don’t make enough practices, you don’t get to play a game.
“If you break a rule, you get whatever discipline is part of it. I don’t think we have had anyone violently kicked out of the league. It’s just not the right fit for some,” he said. “Either they like it or they don’t, and there is no harm in that.”
Derby is not a cakewalk: Coaches push the skaters during each practice.
At the House of Quad, there is a 40-lap circuit to begin every practice, Littlefield said.
“It’s a tough burn and you have to keep going. I love challenging myself to keep on it and stay right in the front, faster than everybody,” she said. “I like to compete with myself on the track.”
The drive to compete and the sense of community latch on to Littlefield, a seven-year vet, and other derby skaters who push through fatigue, injury and other hardships to hit the track for the sport they love.
“Every time I go to practice, it’s late and I have been working all day, but I get out there on my skates and I feel good,” Littlefield said. “When you are part of a team and you have someone depending on you and you come out, it always makes you feel better.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: North Texas Derby Revolution’s Fighting Unicorns vs. the Enid (Okla.) Roller Girls, and a bout featuring guest skaters
When: 5 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.
Where: House of Quad, 222 S. Mayhill Road
Details: Tickets cost $12, available through www.etix.com. Free for children 12 and younger. Event is BYOB.