If you have seen the film “Whip It,” then you ought to know the L.A. Derby Dolls (LADD). The film was directed by Drew Barrymore and written by Shauna Cross, who was a former Derby Doll, code named “Maggie Mayhem.” The fire, the passion, and the dedication have been inherited by Derby Girls for generations since the sport was first created in 1935.
L.A. Derby Dolls don’t have much presence in the mainstream presentation of Los Angeles; they are a community of their own. Founded in 2003, LADD is one of California’s largest all-female derby leagues with more than 150 adult skaters and 130 junior skaters.
They used to be located at “The Doll Factory” in Filipinotown, but when the wave of gentrification hit the neighborhood, LADD had to move because their old building was turned into a new condo. LADD successfully crowd funded $100,000 through Indiegogo and officially settled down in East Los Angeles, a five-minute drive from Cal State LA.
Skaters at LADD come from all over the country, with very distinctive ethnicities and backgrounds. They have a few adult teams competing actively like Fight Crew, Sirens, Tough Cookies, Varsity Brawlers, and their all-star team the L.A. Ri Ettes. They also have training programs including Junior Derby Dolls, Derby Por Vida, Fresh Meat, March Radness Derby Camp, and wRECK League. Everyone can get involved at the LADD and learn to skate the Derby way.
If you’ve never been to a Derby game, it kind of resembles football. There are two teams competing against each other, five players on each team, and everyone starts in the box area on the banked oval track. Four players of the team are blockers while one is the jammer. The blockers are guided by the “pivot,” which is the leader of the four and usually with a striped helmet. The blockers have to help their jammer pass through while blocking the jammer from the other team. The jammer has to pass through blockers from the opposing team and in the second round, every person she passes counts as a point. The jammer has 60 seconds to score and usually wears a helmet with stars on it. The team that scores the highest points wins.
The game consists of two halves, and each half has two 12-minute periods. It is highly intense with much action. Poliana, a.k.a. Napoleona Dynamite, has been skating for five years and is in her fourth season with the Varsity Brawlers.
“I [first] came with a friend to watch a Derby game and I was captured the very moment,” she told the University Times. “I tried out at their community class Derby Por Vida and I was hooked. I got my own gears right after that and I haven’t stopped [skating] since.”
Poliana also coaches the junior teams, and when asked what was the most important thing is in this sport, she said teamwork with no hesitation. “There are five million things going on at once when you’re doing Roller Derby. You need to communicate with your team and to work together to accomplish your strategies.” Poliana is very excited about the ongoing season.
Katherine, a.k.a. Kitty Cat Go Boom, also emphasized teamwork as the most important component of a winning team. Originally from Burbank, she has been skating since 2010 and been with the L.A. Derby Dolls since 2014.
“The importance is to get in the zone of being one,” she said. “[We need to] figure out how to work as a team. Jammers have to read their blockers and their blockers have to read the jammers.” Katherine was attracted to this Roller Derby for being a female dominant sport. She thought it was very empowering for women.
Now residing in East Los Angeles, LADD has already started to attract the local crowds. They are a completely volunteer-run organization. Heather, PR manager of the LADD, expressed that they are a community with family and friends. “We are all volunteers who dedicate their free time to the Derby Dolls. All our families come here, and we almost live here,” she said. “L.A. Derby Dolls is a little hidden world that you didn’t know about.”
The games have been very popular due to their exciting nature as an intense female contact sport. “We love the energy [the skaters] bring to every game,” said Noel and Robert, fans and friends of the LADD. “It’s really empowering to see women going out there to play such a compact sport. It really is a divey and fun place to spend your Saturday night.”
If you are interested in checking out the newly in town skater girls next door, you can find their game schedules on http://derbydolls.com/seasonschedule/. L.A. Derby Girls also offer discounts on student tickets.