by Elsie Walker
“It is the most inclusive community I’ve ever experienced. They welcome everybody,” said Luana Cook Scott of Morristown. Members of that community include Rhymes with Ditch, Mistress Grim, Smiley Cyrus, Herniated Disco, CaliforniKate, Karma KaBOOM, Holly Screwya, and Pastor Bedtime (Cook Scott). A nurse in medical device sales, an office manager, a freelance illustrator and designer, a Surgical/Neurosurgical Physician Assistant (PA), a full time mom, a Yoga Instructor & Massage Therapist, a high school teacher, and a pastor, these women have found their passion as part of the approximately 50 member (skaters and officials) New Jersey Roller Derby. Founded in 2011, New Jersey Roller Derby is an all- female, flat-track roller derby league comprised of skaters from all regions of New Jersey. Traveling within the tri-state area, home bouts are held at Inline Morristown on 30 Pine Street, Morristown. The next home bout is October 5th at 5 p.m. (There is also a junior division for co-ed skaters ages 8-17)
“Sponsorship provides funding for rink time, clinics, league insurance, and other developmental opportunities for our adult and junior skaters,” explained Amanda Nixon, of Florham Park. [The New Jersey Roller Derby is a 501c3 nonprofit.] A registered nurse in medical device sales, she is one of the team’s medics and Head of Sponsorship. She is also a rookie on the team known as Rhymes with Ditch.
Mistress Grim, aka Meredith Persson of Parsippany, gave some general information about how roller derby works. Persson is an NSO (Non-Skating Official). NSOs keep score, keep track of timing, and run the penalty box.
Persson explained that in roller derby, two teams compete on a round track. Each team is playing both offence and defense. The goal is to get a jammer (designated with a star on her helmet) through the opposing team’s defense (blockers). Each team has five players on the track at a time.
Persson explained that playing time is called a “bout”, and is divided into two halves, each 30 minutes long. Each 30-minute half is divided into jams, which can last up to two minutes and during which teams can score. For each bout, there are seven referees and nine non-skating officials.
When not Mistress Grim, Persson is an EMT and an office manager for a non-profit supporting volunteerism.
For Herniated Disco, aka Krista Wark of Boonton, jamming is her favorite position. A Surgical/Neurosurgical Physician Assistant, she was inspired by her daughter playing on the junior team to try it herself. Casey Walker of Jersey City, a high school teacher, is a blocker known as Holly Screwya. She said she has had to take some seasons off over the years, but “the camaraderie is what always brings me back.”
Other members have gotten involved for a variety of reasons.
Karma KaBOOM aka Lisa Conforti of Cedar Grove, can play either blocker or a jammer. A yoga instructor and massage therapist, she found the derby at a time when she needed a type of release in her life. “After having a baby in 2011, I was hit with Postpartum Depression and then Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). [I] fought this with yoga and a low dose of medication for years,” said Conforti. Then, in 2017 she saw a post on Facebook for a two-week Rec League Roller Derby Boot Camp and decided to try it, “By the end of the Boot Camp I was obsessed,” she shared.
Like Conforti, Doreen Mulryan of Lake Hopatcong (aka Smiley Cyrus) was looking for an outlet. A freelance illustrator and designer, she joined the derby in 2014. Mulryan was in a transitional period of her life and experiencing anxiety after a divorce. She’d played hockey and wanted to do something else with skating. Now, she is B team captain, player, and coach to the Junior Division.
Kate Birnbaum of Clark, aka CaliforniKate summed up the feelings of many about this derby community. Originally from California, this full-time mom and her husband had to leave friends and family when his military assignment took him to the East Coast. She’d always been interested in roller derby and decided to watch a practice. Now she has been skating with them for 9 ½ years. “I have made unbelievable friendships that are now like family to us. I could not imagine, not being part of this sport”.
The New Jersey Roller Derby is always open to new skaters, officials, and volunteers. It also accepts sponsorships and attends local community events throughout Northern New Jersey. For more information, visit its website at www.njderby.com/