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The Roller Derby: A New Wave in Female Empowerment

By Kelly Church

Manchester, NH is bringing a new meaning to female empowerment with the New Hampshire Roller Derby (NHRD), a coalition of women with a passion for the roller derby and what the sport represents. Vincenza Castellucci, Graphic Designer for the New Hampshire Roller Derby, says the organization originally started as the Skate Free or Die! Rollergirls in 2007 when a group of friends saw a game in Boston and declared, "We have to do this!"

"There are few full-contact sports for women, especially women who may think they are 'beyond their athletic prime' or 'not athletic'," says Bethany Tozier, also known as Irate Pirate. "We have a body-positive attitude and approach to training in order to help women see their true potential and athletic ability."

Photo Credit: Brian Woodbury

The NHRD stands out by providing women a strong, supportive community of other women who are dedicated to promoting female athleticism. In 2007, the founding members created the Skate Free or Die! Roller Girls, LLC. The following year the LLC became New Hampshire Roller Derby and the team became the Skate Free or Die! All Stars, and in 2009 the league became a non profit under New Hampshire Roller Derby.

Between 2009 and 2010 the group expanded, growing from 35 members to more than 70 active members. They developed a travel team, three home teams and a recreational team over the years as they continued to grow. The league currently consists of the B-team known as the "New Hampshire Roller Derby Cherry Bombs" and the A-team known as the "New Hampshire Roller Derby All-Stars"

"We also work with youth groups to show that girls and women of all shapes and sizes are athletic," says Tozier. "We also have our little sister league, New Hampshire Junior Roller Derby, which is just getting their wheels on the track."

Photo Credit: Kevin Pillsbury

As an organization, Tozier credits fans and volunteers of the NHRD for support. Through people in the community, they are able to spread the word about roller derby, often cluing people into that the sport still exists. However, Tozier says that as much as this community outreach helps, the primary support comes from the skaters themselves. These women plan and organize all events, games, trainings and other duties that are required out of a non-profit organization.

They are always seeking volunteers to referee and officiate games, bringing the community into the skating league to reap the same benefits that the skaters do themselves. Tozier says that none of this would be possible without the help of volunteers and they are always willing to welcome people into the skating community, with full training, of course.

"We keep spreading the word about the sport and its positive impact on women and girls as much as we can," Tozier says. "Internally, we stress the right attitude toward oneself and abilities, from positive self talk to external positive reinforcement. We believe that all women can be courageous and each person who comes to us has a skill or ability that can help us all be stronger. Roller derby has helped women of all sizes, athletic ability and backgrounds build confidence and strength, on the track and off."

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