Event backers hope to boost roller derby’s profile
Despite Spokane’s five roller derby teams, local coach and skater Naomi Weitz said the sport hasn’t caught on in this area.
She’s hoping this weekend will change that. The women of roller derby are taking over the Spokane Convention Center for Spokane’s first major tournament.
Twenty teams of 20 women each are in town through Sunday. Weitz’s team, Spokannibals, is the event host along with the Spokane Regional Sports Commission. They are the only Spokane team participating in the tournament, dubbed Spokarnage. Others are traveling from Montana, Idaho, Canada and Western Washington.
“Nothing like this has ever been done in this area,” Weitz said.
Spokane’s first roller derby team was established in 2006. There are teams for both men and women.
Weitz, who with her team has spent the better part of a year organizing the tournament, said they are hoping to attract new fans.
“You don’t have to know all the intricacies,” she said.
In each game, called a “bout,” each team has five skaters on the floor at one time. One player, called the jammer, has to get past the other team’s four blockers. She gets one point for every blocker she passes as they skate around the rink.
The full-contact bouts will run on two tracks in the convention center.
“If you stand in the beer garden in the middle, you can watch both games at once,” Weitz said.
The action started Friday and runs through the championship bout Sunday. The double-elimination tournament, which they hope to make an annual event, offers cash prizes to the top three teams.
Weitz – whose roller derby name is Sweetart – described the action as rough but family-friendly.
The women see themselves as role models, especially for young girls, she said.
Weitz even uses roller derby as an example for the teenagers she works with in her day job as a mental health therapist with Family Service Spokane.
“We’re all moms and professionals, but you can also be strong and do something thrilling,” she said.