Full contact cabaret
Roller Derby is “a pretty extreme sport,” says Michelle Opperman, a member of Regina’s Pile O’ Bones Derby Club. “There’s a lot of hitting, a lot of hitting.” The physically demanding and all-female sport has seen a rapid growth in popularity lately here in Regina, something that could be partly due to the competitors in spandex shorts and fishnet leggings – on top of all the full-contact excitement.
“I remember when I joined they were practicing over at the field house … there were maybe 20 or 25 girls at that time,” says Opperman. The group has grown to its current size of roughly 100 members. “We started kind of growing all of a sudden. We had a steak night a few years ago, and that’s where people started to kind of see what we were all about: we would do a steak dinner, and then do a scrimmage.
Attendance to the club’s events reflects its recent surge in popularity. “We [bring] in 800 to 1000 people [to our games].”
One of the qualities that drew Opperman to the sport was its inclusiveness. “I never was into any other sports; I was never a sporty person. I was looking for something … that would give me an opportunity to be a fierce woman. I never fit in anywhere; [I’ve] always felt that I was different. From the day that I joined, I knew I was in love.” Moreover, Opperman says that you don’t have to have the physical endurance of a tri-athlete to participate in roller derby.
“What I think I like about it is that it’s women of all sizes. It doesn’t discriminate against [anyone]. We have women who are over 200 pounds, and they are never turned away. They are told that yes, they can do this sport … all of our sizes matter on the track. I like that it entails all women [of] all body types.”
The Pile O’ Bones Derby Club is currently in its off-season, but on Saturday, Nov. 6 they’ll be hosting a cabaret at the Distrikt, called These Boots Were Made for Walkin’. The cabaret promises to be an evening full of entertainment. There will be a fashion show by Retrovise, a performance by SheKillsMe, and even a bachelorette auction with one of the derby girls.
Half of the cabaret’s proceeds will be donated to Dress for Success. “We’ve been doing a lot of stuff for us … and we’re at a place where we can do something for somebody else. We’ve always felt that we want to do things for the community … so we decided to do a charity event. Everybody got to pick their favourite charity, and why, and then our committee would vote on it. We voted on Dress for Success, which [is] a really good organization, because they help to clothe women who are going in for new jobs. They help women with resumes – all kinds of stuff [that aides in] getting into the workplace. We thought that was a really good fit with [the derby club].”
The charity is a good fit for the derby girls. Opperman says that her roller derby experience has been about women helping each other out. “It taught me that at thirty years old I can do things that I never ever dreamed possible. I was competing with women who were in sports their whole lives, and I was able to stay in the game, play with them, be as ferocious as them, and I was never an athlete.”
The sport means more to Opperman than just staying physically fit. “It’s not that often you get that many women together. It’s working towards a sport and winning, but it [is] so much more than that; it [is] a lifestyle of sisterhood, of friendships. [The other members became] my family. We all support each other. There’s been women getting pregnant and everybody shares their old stuff.”
As a family, the girls are always there to support each other. “There’s been a lot of sadness. All these years we’ve had women who’ve gone through a lot of troubles, and we’ve always seemed to be there for each other. It’s an empowering thing.” That suits the charity that the proceeds from These Boots Were Made for Walkin’ go towards. “We picked our charity event specifically geared towards women.”
Advance tickets for the cabaret can be bought from any of the derby girls, or from World of Trout location for $20. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $25. For more information on the Pile of Bones Derby Club visit their website.