5C Roller Derby Teaches Students how to “Fall, Smile, and Get Back Up”

Eloise Magoncelli ’22
Staff Writer
March 5, 2020

Known for their bright metallic clothing, fishnet tights, amusing nicknames and ever-present bruises, around 25 players make up the 5C Club Roller Derby team. The team is the first and only collegiate roller derby team on the West Coast, but manages to set up competitions, known as boutts, with local non-collegiate teams as well as against the Arizona State University Derby Devils. Various boundaries such as gendered stigmas on athletic aggression and violence as well as league regulations and expenses have limited the growth of collegiate Roller Derby, but Claremont skaters have managed to overcome these obstacles to create the tight-knit team that students can occasionally see skating around campus on team skates, or just going to class.

Roller Derby is a multi-faceted sport. The game is comprised of unexpectedly violent elements combined with creative plays and the equally creative nicknames that every player comes up with to extend their personality into the game. “Derby itself is football and hockey, but in a circle, and the ball is a person, and everyone is on wheels,”said Toni Anderson ’22, also known as “Sweet Tea” on the court.

Each hour-long boutt is made up of a series of shorter scrimmages, known as jams, which last about two minutes each. Five players participate in each jam, during which one is designated by an starred-helmet as the “jammer” and the other four are cast as “blockers”. The goal of the jammer is to score points by lapping the opposing team’s blockers, while their own prevents the other team’s jammer through a series of aggressive and often violent defensive moves.

A constant combination of defense and offense adds to the violence and aggression that characterizes roller derby. According to Anderson, the team is a perfect place to express “controlled violence” where “we as a team beat each other up more than other teams beat us up.” The court, rink or track has been, and continues to be, female dominated. Roller Derby has become “women’s chance to go and be powerful and assert ourselves,” said Anderson. While historically Roller Derby has been female-only, the 5C team is working to open the sport by accepting only womxn and other marginalized genders, while allowing all genders to participate as referees and officials.

For Anderson, the team has had an overarching influence on her experience in Claremont. The team is attributed with helping her “realize how it feels to be a badass,” she said. The process of learning to skate “taught me about how to be confident in myself, be confident in my teammates and not give a fuck about what other people think”, said Anderson. Roller Derby teaches you how to “fall, smile and get back up,” said Anderson.

Interested in pushing and elbow-jabbing while on skates? The 5C Roller Derby Club is an accepting space that encourages fun through a controlled, yet violent way. Practices are on Wednesdays, from 8:00-9:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Harvey Mudd basketball courts. Tryouts occur on a rolling basis throughout the season and the team is always happy to have fresh faces on the court!

Find the team on Instagram: @5crollerderby
Or contact them via email: 5crollerderby@gmail.com

Image Credit: 5C Roller Derby Team