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All Doll’ed up

Krista DeHerrera, aka K.O., outside her offices at the town of Gypsum.
Pam Boyd/pboyd@eaglevalleyenterprise.com |

By day, Krista DeHerrera is a (sorta) mild mannered government employee. Then she straps on her skates and becomes a freewheelin’, derby doll that goes by the name K.O.

Professionally, DeHerrera is the special events coordinator for the town of Gypsum and about five years ago she discovered a great new sport — women’s flat track roller derby. She was living in New Castle at the time and a fellow preschool mom introduced her to the activity. Since then, DeHerrera has been hooked.

“I love being part of a team sport and the friendships I have made are fantastic,” she said. “And when I go to practice, the nature of the sport means I can’t think about anything else. I need to focus on what’s happening on the track.”

Women’s roller derby is a fast-growing, international sport that has a governing body to set both rules and standards. While a casual observer might be distracted by the fishnet stockings and outlandish costuming that players sometimes wear, DeHerrera stresses that derby is a legitimate sporting event.

“When I tell people I play, they usually think it’s like the 1970’s Raquel Welch movie,” she said. That’s definitely not the deal.

“When I first started, I lost 40 pounds playing this sport,” said DeHerrera. “It is not unusual for me to burn up 900 calories in one practice.”

DeHerrera represents the latest evolution in the world of roller derby. The sport found its renaissance about a decade ago when women adopted alternate identities and began skating. But as time has evolved, roller derby has become less about showmanship and more about athleticism. And, as DeHerrera notes, great players come in all sizes.

“This is not a dainty sport,” she said. “We pride ourselves with being athletic at any size.”

Basics of Play

For the uninitiated, here’s the basics of Roller Derby.

A bout is played by two teams of five members simultaneously skating counterclockwise on a flat or banked track. Each team designates a scoring player, called the “jammer.” The other four players are “blockers.” One blocker can be designated as a “pivot”—a blocker allowed to become a jammer during the course of play. The jammer wears a helmet cover bearing 2 stars; the pivot wears a striped cover; the remaining skaters wear no helmet covers.

The bout is played in two periods of 30 minutes. Point scoring occurs during the jams — plays that last up to two minutes. During a jam, points are scored when a jammer on a scoring pass (every pass a jammer makes through the pack after the initial pass) passes members of the opposing team. Each team’s blockers use body contact, changing positions, and other tactics to assist its jammer in scoring while hindering the opposing team’s jammer. Certain types of blocks and other play are violations; referees call penalties and violators serve time in the penalty box.

Strategy plays a big part in roller derby because it’s a game where offense and defense are played simultaneously, an aspect which considerably complicates strategy and tactics. Blockers, for example, may create a large hole for their jammer to pass through and score, but this same maneuver might also allow the opposing team’s jammer to score. Watch skaters wall up, whip and pass the star as roller derby combines skill, strategy, and style.

And yes, players sometimes crash and fall, but by the time they are competing, they will have learned how to fall properly.

Before a player hits the track, she must master a number of skating skills and demonstrate proficiency at throwing hits and blocks. Physically, a player must be able to skate 28 laps in 5 minutes and pass a written test about the roller derby rules.

“I think there are more rules in roller derby than in football,” said DeHerrera.

Players commit to an extensive practice schedule that consumes two to three evenings per week and during high season, they will travel to about one bout per month. But within the framework of skills, practice and rules, DeHerrera says roller derby is simply unbridled fun. She noted its a great way to let loose, which is probably why the local team players include a human resources director, real estate agents, teachers and others.

“We have a wonderful mix of girls,” said DeHerrera, noting that philanthropy is an integral part of the roller derby world. This year, the local group is donating part of their proceeds to Girls on the Run of the Western Slope.

To learn more about local roller derby, visit http://www.10thmountainrollerdolls.com.


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