The Double Life of a Rocktown Roller

Brent Finnegan -- April 6th, 2010

You might have met a member of Harrisonburg’s roller derby team, but chances are you wouldn’t know it unless she was wearing her orange, black and green Rocktown Rollers uniform, fishnet stockings, and helmet; complete with an intimidating alter-ego name.

The News Leader recently featured a behind-the-scenes story by Rebecca Martinez about the team, whose players hail from all over the central Shenandoah Valley. Some of them didn’t want to reveal their “real identities” to the press.

Despite the Rocktown Rollers’ solid fan base, team members say the general public views them negatively because they don’t understand that their roller derby is a different breed from the televised sport of the ’70s. Troch said area skating rinks have refused to let the team practice there. Of the several teachers on the team, only Kill-nitzki was willing to comment for this story. Others feared repercussions from colleagues, school administrators and parents.

“That kind of image of a really unruly, scary female beating people up (is) not what parents and administrators want to see as like an ideal teacher,” said Kill-nitzki, adding that she’s optimistic their public image will change with time. “I think the more roller derby girls that people actually get to know and people get to see who they are, that’ll humanize the sport.” (read the full story)

Video from, produced by Rebecca Martinez, photos by Pat Jarrett.

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7 Responses to “The Double Life of a Rocktown Roller”

  1. Frank J Witt says:

    Brent, thanks for letting us in on this ! I think it’s a shame that they would be treated unlike other athletes. Sports are full contact and they deserve recognition for doing something they love.

    Good Luck Ladies…I want to buy a shirt !

  2. Emmy says:

    I personally think Roller Derby is ridiculous. But, I think most sports are so my opinion doesn’t count for much. However, I never have thought of them as people who would be violent or dangerous to be around outside of the competition so I’m a little surprised at their treatment and hope things get better for them.

    I would have thought they wouldn’t want to tell employers because of the likelihood of injury and how that would impact their ability to do their job, but I didn’t realize it went further than that.

  3. Emmy says:

    I think ridiculous was the wrong word, but I can’t think of a better one right now. I don’t mean to be offensive.

  4. Jason says:

    I’m the husband of a derby girl who plays for Roc City Derby in Rochester, NY. Last year was the league’s first year and the degree of community support and acceptance was overwhelming. Huge turnouts, radio, press, fund raisers, everything. The girls are proud to be derby girls. The advertising company my wife works for is very supportive and has even donated promotional materials.

    Sounds like Rocktown might have a PR problem. I’ve actually heard other H’burg residents express some negative feelings about the derby girls they’d met. I think the girls need to be very deliberate with how they present themselves, who they allow to be their spokespersons, and with their individual attitudes. Complaining in the newspaper about how everyone thinks they’re unruly, scary bad girls is only perpetuating the problem. Seems like a missed opportunity to make derby seem fun, exciting, inclusive, positive, and community-oriented.

  5. David Miller says:

    if you go to a “bout” you’ll find massive community support in the form of a packed house

  6. Kaitlin Ilnitzki says:

    Not only do we have great community support at our games and events… we also have great support from local businesses. We are very lucky to have these harrisonburg/ rockingham/ augusta/ staunton businesses in our corner. They have helped with promotional material, fundraisers, philanthropy work, and so much more.

    To clarify, I was specifically responding to a question of why some of the teachers would not comment in the article. I was explaining that there is this idea of a derby girl still surfacing from the 60’s and 70’s, not complaining about how people view us currently. And even now, we are working to help foster relationships with local schools. Members of the team are going into the schools to talk about the importance of physical fitness and also to explain the sport.

    I do not think that the majority of the community perceives us in a negative manner. We work very hard to support community endeavors like the Collins Center, Gus Bus, Our Community Place, Valley Aids Network, and other organizations. Our games are family-friendly, action packed, and just fun to watch. The mothers, business owners, teachers, bankers, realtors, and students on our team are all extremely proud to be Derby Girls.

  7. Thom Metroka says:

    As president of the league and head coach, I often find myself in the position of talking with the public about derby. Many people still think that derby is what it was like back in the 70’s and 80’s. From what I have seen, depending on the area if derby is still a new up and coming sport it seems to have that “negative” image. I assume these feeling only stem from the public’s lack of understanding of a new sport. If you had no idea what hockey was and started to learn the game, I would think that there would be a very similar concern about the sport.

    As far as how skaters are perceived in the public, we are no different then a national level sports. I would think that depending on the team you have your more “over the top” players. Look at Denis Rodman when he first appeared on the NBA floors.

    We have a code of conduct that we have skaters adhere to be a part of our team. Should there be a issue with a skater then we have mediation to resolve the problem. Below is our Code of Conduct.

    In the end, we are here to support the community and to play a sport like any other athlete.

    Codes of Conduct
    During competitions and public appearances Rocktown Rollers strive to demonstrate professionalism, sportsmanship and friendly entertainment. The league attempts to be discretionary in all endeavors. The actions of all league members reflect on the integrity of RTR & the sport of roller derby nationwide. Therefore, all members of RTR will be held accountable, to set a good example and work for the good of RTR and the local communities.
    Any violation of the code of conduct will be brought before the Board of Directors, who will deem an appropriate course of action. Certain offenses will bring forth associated consequences and minimums have been established. However, every case will be evaluated on an individual basis, by the BoD and adjusted accordingly.

    Article 1 – Financials & Public Appearances
    – No RTR skater is permitted to accept money, for their own personal gain, for interviews or public appearances related to league activities. Monetary donations or sponsorship funds must go toward the league. However, certain services and/or food & beverage discounts are permissable.
    – Requests for formal interviews must be forwarded to the appropriate committee, so that they may be considered, approved and documented.
    – All funds & monies should be directly received by the treasurer or should be forwarded to the league treasurer within one week’s time of receipt.

    **any violation of the above stipulations will result in a written warning for the first offense and any subsequent violation may deem the member subject to suspension

    Article 2 – Misconduct & Sportsmanships
    – Members will refrain from malicious gossip and acting unsportsmanlike
    – Insubordination of any member to league & team leaders, officials or being disrespectful to other league members is prohibited.
    – Intimidation & harassment of any league member, whether verbal, physical or written, are not permitted.
    – Previous and/or current personal relationships within the league must not adversely affect the mission or goals of the league.

    **any violation of the above stipulations will result in a written warning for the first offense and any subsequent violation may deem the member subject to suspension or dismissal.

    Article 3 – Gross Misconduct
    All members will be held accountable for their actions, in any situation where they serve as a representative of RTR or somehow harm the reputation of the league and/or jeopardize the credibility of the league & team as a professional sports organization. These actions include, but are not limited to: excessive drunkenness or other substance abuse, violent or disorderly behavior, any situation culminating in the arrest of a league member or any other action that misrepresents the goals of RTR.
    Threat or act of physical violence against any league member or community member, that is not deemed in self-defense.
    – Any attempt to cause, or purposely & recklessly causing, bodily injury outside of the expected and obvious physical nature of the sport to any league member.

    **any violation of the Article 3 stipulations will be reviewed by the BoD on a case-by-case basis. The significant violations will most likely result in a suspension, but will be determined by the BoD.

    Grievance Policy
    If any member of RTR observes a violation of any of the codes of conduct they should bring that offense to the attention of a league board member or team leader. If the concern should arise between two members an attempt to facilitate fair & equitable resolution should be made between the two concerned skaters. Should that resolution fail to be reached, the issue will be placed before the BoD for recommended action for resolution.

    Addendums to Code of Conduct
    The BoD may revise or add to the code of conduct at any time. However, the BoD is responsible for notifying all league members of the changes and obtaining each member’s signature on the amended code of conduct.

    Probation, Suspension, & Dismissal
    Any member in violation will be issued a written warning, which will be documented by the team administrator. Probation terms will be set for the member placed on suspension. Suspensions will be a minimum of 3 months, but can be increased by the BoD if deemed appropriate. Any action against the probationary terms is cause for member dismissal. Members do have the right to appeal a dismissal, by choosing their own representative to work with (must be another member of RTR) and the BoD will vote after an appeal has been made, if that member so chooses to proceed. Any skater who is dismissed from the league, based on their own actions or violations, is prohibited from making inflammatory remarks regarding RTR and shall cease from acting as a representative of RTR immediately.

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