Self-confidence can be hard to acquire sometimes, especially since we are all our own harshest critic. For a growing number of local women, however, a sport which was first played in 1935 is helping them to understand their true potential in 2013.
The Babes of Wrath have established themselves well in the Jamestown/Warren area, and very often have a sell out crowd at the old Allen Park Ice Arena when they host bouts.
They also contribute generously to local charities with the money raised during those bouts, and often either participate in or initiate local events, such as the annual Christmas parade, or general beautification projects downtown.
Yet so many of the women in the Babes of Wrath have talked about how unsure of themselves they were before they found roller derby.
"There are a lot of reasons why I think people come to see roller derby," said Susan B. Amputee, skater for the Babes of Wrath. "There are people who like contact sports. There are people who remember watching it when they were younger and like it for that reason. There are people who think we're hot. To me, that's all fine, but sometimes it worries me that the gravity of what is happening sometimes isn't conveyed to those spectators. What we're doing right now, while it is small-scale, it's part of a very large movement around the world - and that movement is just as much about the women participating as it is the sport."
Roller derby, which had great success in the past, is on the verge of coming into a sort of renaissance. Around the world, more and more amateur roller derby teams are being founded, and that includes youth derby leagues. And while fans of the sport appreciate having more opportunities to see derby, the rise in the sport's popularity means that more women are working side-by-side with their peers to become better both on and off the track.
"I've been doing derby for three years," said Amputee, "and I've had the opportunity to see the profound effects that roller derby has had on the women of Chautauqua County during that time. Of course it changed my life when I started doing derby, but now I've had the chance to watch it change the lives of so many other women as well. The transformation in the confidence of some of the women on the team as they spend more time practicing roller derby is amazing."
Amputee referenced a new teammate, who goes by the derby moniker "Goose," who has gained a greater sense of self-respect once she joined the team.
"I just started, but I do notice a different in myself," said Goose. "I have more confidence than I've ever had before, and I have better awareness of what I want for myself and what I would like to accomplish. There's a need for aggression that's central to this sport, and I think the determination you need during a bout extends to make you a more assertive person outside of derby. It's an empowering sports, no matter what your reason is for participating."
Traditionally, members of the Babes of Wrath are active with roller derby when they're not skating, as well. Many members participate off the track by finding ways to expand the sport or forming or sitting on committees that help manage the league.
"It's all really helped me to expand my leadership and public speaking skills," said Goose. "Even at home, I have four children, and it's all helped me to become a stronger figure for my family."
The Babes of Wrath will be hosting its first home bout of the season later today at the former Allen Park Ice Arena. The bout will begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m., and the theme of the bout will be "May the Fourth Be With You" in honor of "Star Wars Day."
The team wil face the Niagara Roller Girls from Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Pre-sale tickets are available for at the Labyrinth Press Company, 12 E. Fourth St., or can be purchased from team members.
Tickets at the door will be available at for $10. Admission is free for kids 12 and under. Kids and adults are invited to cheer for the Babes wearing their best "Star Wars" garb for a chance to win prizes during halftime.
Frank Besse, Chautauqua County Roller Derby events director said, "Roller Derby is an event the whole family can enjoy. We have even invited Martz Observatory to come teach us about the stars." Food and beverages will be available courtesy of Flantastic Foods.
The Babes will be holding a drawing, and matching funds to donate to the Reg Lenna Civic Center's Digital Projector Fund. As movies are no longer produced in 35mm film, the theater must purchase a digital projector in order to continue film screenings in downtown Jamestown. The theater's transition from 35mm film to digital could cost up to $70,000. Following the bout, an after-party will be held at the Game Time Sports Bar and Grill, 850 Foote Ave.