Little Steel Derby Girls roll on flat track

Emily Lockard of Masury said some of her college classmates skated for the Little Steel Derby Girls roller derby team.

“I wanted to join but I didn’t have the right schedule or health insurance while I was in college,” Lockard said. “After I was done with school, I followed the Little Steel Derby Girls on Facebook and I sent a message to their page that I was interested in joining the team. They invited me to come out and practice and meet the girls.”

It worked. Lockard adopted the rink name of Dirty 330 and skates with the Youngstown team in the skater-owned and operated Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Their bouts are played to raise money for various charities and services across the Mahoning Valley.

“I love the exercise and the friendships and socialization. Sometimes I am at work all day and I get drained and I do not want to go to practice, and then once I get to practice, I’m glad I went. Roller derby is fun and a relief,” Lockard said.

“With roller derby, you make progress and you reach goals and that keeps me going back to roller derby,” she said

Tammy Kemble of Niles said she learned about roller derby when she crashed a wedding and met a player who went by the name of Brute Sixty Kicks. Kemble said she started practice the following Tuesday and has been in love with roller derby ever since.

Just call her Tamamaniac.

Roller derby is described as a fast-paced contact team sport. Bouts are divided into two 30-minute periods, each made up of a dozen or more plays called “jams.” Points are scored when jammers can get past the other team’s blockers and players. The team with the most points at the end wins.

“I’ve seen so many girls come and go, and only the strong survived. The league has a regular bouting season and travels all over. We have hosted tournaments in Youngstown at the Covelli Center,” Kemble said.

She said her teammates work hard to get better, love everything about derby and became family.

“I have to keep healthy and in shape so I can keep up with all the great skaters,” Kemble said. “Roller derby has taught me to love myself and also about culture and so many different types of people who come together in the derby world. It’s amazing.”

Injuries can occur during the bouts. That’s how team member Mona “Tequila Antix” Walter of Boardman, who is an emergency room nurse, was drawn into the game.

“I found out about the league from a patient I had in the ER,” Walters said.

Four years ago, Jennifer Dailey of Boardman discovered she wanted to get involved in roller derby while on a dinner date at the Magic Tree Pub and Eatery in Boardman. The Little Steel Derby Girls came into the restaurant for an after-game party, and she was captivated.

“I looked at them and said to my boyfriend, ‘I WILL be skating with them one day.’ Well, it took a long time to get up the courage to go, but now here I am, on the team, at the end of my second season as a derby girl,” Dailey said.

Dailey skates under the moniker Cherry Bomb. She’s also president of the Little Steel Derby Girls.

The women on the Little Steel Derby Girls are 25 and older, and have careers and families, she said.

“On our team, we have a teacher, a special education coordinator, a nurse, a physician’s assistant, a chemical engineer, a few talented artists, a member of the YPD, a few social workers and a banker,” Dailey said.

The fit roller derby into their schedule.

The Little Steel Derby Girls was founded by Tifany Casciotti of Boardman — aka, Ground Zero — in November 2008. Casciotti said that it took a lot of hard work and recruitment.

“It also took a lot of trial and error for policy as well as a lot of effort in getting our name out there. The whole process, though difficult, was extremely fun and rewarding. We are a self-supporting pay-to-play organization that participates in various charities throughout the tri-county area,” Casciotti said.

Dailey said that the Little Steel Derby Girls collected a ton of Thanksgiving dinner food items for the St. Vincent DePaul Society and partnered with The Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini Foundation. The team has raised about $1,200 for animal charities and $1,200 to make hygiene baskets for people in recovery in both Mahoning and Trumbull Counties.

At their 6 p.m. Sept. 30 bout against the Eerie Roller Girls at Youngstown Skate in Boardman, the Little Steel Derby Girls are collecting donations of feminine hygiene products to distribute to women in need at places such as Someplace Safe, the Warren Family Rescue Mission and The Emmanuel Center.

“The Little Steel Derby Girls slogan is ‘We Have What You Need … Period.’ We are all about women supporting women,” Dailey said.

Dailey said that the Little Steel Derby Girls have played bouts locally at Youngstown Skate, and have played bouts in New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“Skaters have come and skaters have gone and some skaters have even returned after playing with other teams for a while,” Dailey said.

“Depending on the number of skaters we can roster at a given time, we can split up into a Sanctioned / Competitive A Team (the Lawless Rollers) and Regulation / Recreational B Team (the Rustbelt Rollers),” Dailey said.

“A lot of people don’t know that roller derby exists in the Trumbull and Mahoning County area. The more people are interested in the Little Steel Derby Girls, the bigger our team can grow. The more people we encourage to come out and watch , the more money we can raise and the more people we can help,” Dailey said.

Tawnya Bier — Vicious Spark — of Struthers said she saw the Little Steel Derby Girls in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and bought skates the next week. She said these skates sat in her garage for almost a year because she didn’t have the confidence she thought she needed.

“The team is ever-changing with old faces going (retiring, moving leagues) and new faces coming. It’s so amazing to make so many lifelong friends who are actually family,” Bier said.

Bier said that roller derby has encouraged her to never give up on herself and what she believes in.

“Roller derby has taught me that it’s okay to have a difference of opinion and it doesn’t have to turn into an argument,” Bier said.

Ashley Vaughan — Church of Skatin’ — of Youngstown said that roller derby spills into all aspects of her life.

“The biggest lesson it has taught me is to push myself to get back up. Everyone falls, in life and on skates. Just. Get. Back. Up,” Vaughn said.

Brigitta Cepin — Pistol Gete — of Darlington, Pa., said that when everything seems out of order in her life, roller derby is constant and comfortable.

“Roller derby is like watching your favorite movie for the billionth time, even if it’s been the same since third grade, and nobody is judging you for it,” Cepin said. “We’re like a huge girl gang. When you go somewhere new, there’s a roller derby team and you always have people.”

Cepin said she got into roller derby when an old friend at a barbecue asked her if she had been skating lately. Cepin and her friend made plans to skate the next day. Then she said her friend threw her a “curve ball” and decided to take her to skate at roller derby practice with this new league.

“So I bought a cheap pair of razor pads at Target and showed up at the Boys and Girls Club on the Southside. That was 10 years ago,” Cepin said.

Dailey said the Little Steel Derby Girls runs drills, practices footwork, has mini scrimmages and works on their skating endurance. She said that several of the team members meet to work out other times throughout the week to increase their core strength and stamina.

Dailey said there are no requirements to actually join the team (other than being a female and at least 18 years old), but she said there is a minimum skills test that you must pass on skates before being eligible to roster for a bout for safety purposes.

“I encourage anyone who is curious to come out and give it a try,” Dailey said. “We have some members that have never been on skates before and others who have skated competitively in the past. We will work with you wherever you fall on that spectrum to get you to where you need to be.”

The team practices 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to noon Sundays at Salem Fun Factory in Salem.

“Now is a great time to join as it is nearing the end of the bout season, so we will have enough time to get you ready to roll by next season,” she said. “We have loaner gear for new skaters to wear. All you need to do is show up.”

And be ready for thrills and spills.