Roller Derby gear up for home opener

HOUGHTON — Jill DeVoge (Afro Diasiac) is a skater with the Keweenaw Roller Derby roller derby team and is going into her third season with the squad. The home opener for the Roller Derby will be this Saturday at Dee Stadium at 6 p.m.

The team called the Hancock Gymnasium home in its prior to getting on the floor in the Dee.

“We’ve been doing a lot of conditioning,” said DeVoge. “Last month (we had) an away bout in Beloit, so (participating) in that has helped (teach) us some more game strategy (as we figure out) things that we need to work on and things that we’re good at. We skate two times a week. Currently, we’re at the Dee Stadium practicing. Before, were were at the Hancock High School Gym, but (we’re doing) a lot of off-skate workouts, on-skate workouts.

“I’m excited with the group of skaters that we have. They are a very fun group. I’m excited to skate in general. Every season I look forward to it. You get to lay it all out on the track. It’s just a fun sport (with) lots of comradery. The biggest thing for me is just being able to skate.”

“I’m sure a lot of the other skaters feel the same way,” she said. “Just being able to be out there on the track. Saying hi to our fans and getting support from them (and) just being able to hang out with each other more than we do in the of season.”

The Keweenaw Roller Derby originated in 2012 and has been working to teach, grow and enhance female empowerment in the area in an effort to become stronger woman on and off the track for generations to come.

“We’ve grown a lot as a team,” DeVoge said. “I know when the roller derby first started out in 2012, a lot of the players didn’t even know how to skate and a lot of players that joined the team don’t know how to skate.

“We start from the basics, teach them how to skate (and) teach them how to play roller derby safely. There’s been a lot of growth in the past few seasons since I’ve been here. It’s been fun to watch skaters gain that confidence in themselves on and off skates.”

DeVoge loves the fact that her teammates use derby as a chance to keep moving.

“(Many) of our skaters our actually mothers, so I think empowering moms to continue to be active and tech their kids to be active,” said DeVoge about what she thinks is important. “It’s a good small community of skaters to get together and show other woman that you can be powerful and strong, not just as a mother (but also) as an athlete too.”

She feels that she and her teammates get along really well.

“There’s a lot of comradery in derby,” she said. “We stand together a lot, not only as a team but with other leagues. Even when we travel to other places. This year, we’ll be heading to Canada for derby. Once you’re in derby, you’re always in derby. We all get along, we all support each other and lift each other up.”

The Keweenaw Roller Derby have utilized the Calumet Colosseum in the past and currently practices snd hosts events at the Dee Stadium, which has a lot of history for the Houghton community and beyond. The Roller Derby look to not only honor that history, but also make some of their own in such a unique venue.

“The Dee Stadium has a lot of history, so it’s fun to bring something different and also be apart of that history,” DeVoge said. “Hopefully, 20 to 30 years from now, people will be talking about the derby at the Dee.

“Even when were were at the Colosseum, (that venue) has a large history as well. Having derby in both of those atmospheres brings something new to the table and hopefully we’ll just be a part of that history as well.”

One unique element to the sport of roller derby are nicknames for each player. A name that often reflects the skaters personality and toughness.

“We all pick our own names for the most part (but) we get support (and) suggestions from other people. Usually the names that we pick for each other are part of our personality and a part of who we are,” said DeVoge.

Ann Arbor native Joelle Adams (Jeffery Dahminator) is starting her first season with the Keweenaw Roller Derby and is the newest skater in the club. She would like to use the opportunity to gain confidence and to get more physically fit.

“I’ve been on the team since September,” said Adams. “I’ve heard about roller derby before but I went with a friend to the bootcamp that the team hosts in the summer and tried everything on. I thought maybe this was something I could learn how to do and thought I’d give it a shot. Everybody on the team has been super supportive.

“I’m 35, so this is like teaching an old dog new tricks. (I like) being in better shape physically and also having more confidence overall. It’s a whole group of friends and really supportive woman that you gain. For me it’s just feels good all around (and is) supportive all around, mentally and physically.”