Inside the World of Women’s Roller Derby in Wheeling

“This sport is so empowering,” Krystal, more aptly known as Green Eggs and Slam, explains as we discuss the following Ohio Valley Roller Derby has built in the valley over the course of the last thirteen years. OVRD falls under the umbrella of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, also known as WFTDA. With over 400 leagues worldwide, Roller Derby is everywhere. Previously named Ohio Valley Roller Girls, the league arrived in Wheeling when a founding member moved to the area and noticed the need for such. “We have teachers, doctors, retail employees, skaters who work on the pipelines, coal miners, nurses, stay-at-home moms, this sport is truly for everyone.” With over 5,000 followers on social media, 22 active league members, and 6 “skater tots” (or skaters aiming to become active league members), OVRD has grown into a program that emphasizes family involvement, focuses on gender inclusivity, and produces some of the strongest athletes any program can claim.  

The concept of roller derby is vastly different from the era of glitz, glam, and brutal elbows 90s kids saw on late-night television. “A common misconception is that we beat the crap out of each other,” Green Eggs and Slam elaborates. “This is incorrect. This is a sport. Just like football, we are required to make contact in a specific way.” These skaters train, practice, and compete in sanctioned bouts throughout the duration of their season. Like any sport, there are fundamentals, skills, drills, and strategies essential for success, but at its core, the point of the game is clear: have jammers score as many points as possible by passing blockers from the other team.

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A typical practice for roller derby entails a warm-up, meeting, drills, and scrimmage. Practices began in January, and are commonly held 2-3 days a week. Matches, known as “bouts” will begin this spring and extend through the fall. OVRD has found its official practice and bout home in the newly opened Highlands Sports Complex. “They welcomed us with open arms. The entire staff has been amazing,” Jessica Stanton, known on the track as Maiden Hell, states. 

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With the growth of the organization, a rebranding, and essentially a rebirth took place. Pulling from the roots of the organization in WV, OH, and PA, the new logo for OVRD incorporates the Ohio Racer Snake, Pennsylvania’s Mountain Laurels, and stars present on Wheeling’s flag. Aside from the logo, the name of the organization has also shifted: originally titled Ohio Valley Roller Girls, the name change to Ohio Valley Roller Derby allows for gender inclusivity. Anyone that identifies as female, is assigned female at birth, or feels that women’s derby is the organization with which they most closely identify is welcome to compete. “This allows for non-binary folks and trans men AFABs to participate,” states Slam. OVRD also focuses on the strength of the athlete no matter the build of the skater. “Roller derby is for everybody. When I say everybody, I mean everybody,” Slam states.  With no one specific body type for the sport, body positivity is emphasized at all times. The sport also has a major focus on family and both Slam and Maiden point out the importance of family in their discussion of the sport. Not only are their teammates their family members, but their children regularly frequent these family-friendly events. “My son had the biggest reaction to me winning MVP after a bout, and it was amazing,” Maiden stated.

With such unique names, I asked Green Eggs and Slam and Maiden Hell to elaborate on their nickname process.  Both agreed that choosing your derby name is essentially a right of passage. “I get to be this person now,” Slam elaborated. She explained the naming as an alter ego, typically one that pays homage to something specifically related to the individual skater.  

Check out all of the individual skaters by seeing a bout in person! OVRD’s 2023 season begins this May, with their first home bout held on July 29 at the Highlands Sports Complex. For all home games, children under 12 can attend for free.  You can keep up with OVDR by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Recruitment is ongoing, and the organization is always open to sponsorship opportunities and volunteers.

Karin Butyn was born and raised in Wheeling, WV. A graduate of Wheeling Central, West Liberty University, and Wheeling Jesuit University, Karin spent nearly a decade teaching both English as Second Language and Reading Language Arts. She is currently in her third year as an Assistant Principal for Ohio County Schools. In her free time, she enjoys running and music. She and her husband, TJ, are raising their young sons, Finn and Watson, in Warwood.