Ann Arbor Derby Dimes—All Welcome to Lace Up and Race

. June 22, 2018.

It’s chilly for June, but the bleachers at Buhr Park are packed for the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes’ first home game of the season. The announcer’s play-by-play is lost behind the referee whistles and the scrape of the skates as Whisk’ya Sours, #40, flies around the track. There is a white star on her helmet, setting her apart from her team’s blockers. Sours is the jammer for the Ypsilanti Vigilantes, one of the three teams that make up Ann Arbor’s roller derby league.

The jammer is like a ball that hits back, according to Amelia Spareparts, league president. The jammer’s job is to earn points by racing around the track as many times as they can; the job of the opposing team’s blockers is to stop them. Sours strikes the cement, elbows-first, but scrambles to her feet and shoulders an opposing blocker to the ground. Every player is wearing pads on their knees and elbows, and some are wearing mouth guards and safety glasses. Taking a hit looks like as much a part of the sport as skating is, and the players bounce back into play moments after hitting the ground. “Roller derby is the only place where I see people lay each other out, and then high-five,” Spareparts says.

(Left) Amelia Spareparts. (Right) Michelle O'Bombya.

(Left) Amelia Spareparts. (Right) Michelle O’Bombya.

Michelle O’Bombya rode horses since she was a kid, but had never played a team sport before discovering roller derby. She was recruited at a gas station in 2010—a girl was filling up next to her when a skate fell out of her car, sparking a conversation about the league, and an invitation to practice. O’Bombya was hooked.

Spareparts’ entry was not as smooth. She failed the skill test at the end of her first training wave, and had to repeat the 18-week boot camp. She was tempted to quit then, and many times since, especially as she struggles with chronic illness. The sense of community is what kept her invested. “Roller derby is, culturally, an experience I had never had anywhere else. The ongoing theme is just to accept your body, and nowhere else in my adult life, or even in my childhood, have I seen a group of women just want each other to accept themselves so passionately.”

Cheer for queer

Roller derby has also built up a reputation for being “super queer,” according to O’Bombya, a community where players of any sexual orientation or gender identity can feel comfortable. “It’s taken off almost faster than the rest of the world can catch up, because this is a place where everyone can just exist comfortably, and at the same time support each other.”

Last year, a series of injuries convinced O’Bombya that it was time to stop competing, and she now runs the new skater program. She likes the training aspect of it, but more than anything, she loves to welcome newcomers into the fold. “When I think of roller derby, I think of the community. The community is very much what makes it whole and keeps people in.”

Spareparts agrees. “It’s a lifestyle. You don’t get other hobbies—this is what you do. But if you’re ever looking for 80 new best friends, this is where you’ll find them.”

$12 in advance. $15 at the door | Doors open at 5:00.

Next home bout June 30th.

Buhr Park | 2751 Packard Rd, Ann Arbor

Brawlstars vs Detroit Roller Derby: All-Stars A
Arbor Bruising Company vs Detroit Roller Derby: All-Stars B

a2derbydimes.org | recruitment@a2derbydimes.org

Trending

Project 206 continues to push the limits of jazz with new ‘Volatile’ EP

Project 206 masterfully melds freak-out jazz sensibilities with progressive rock tendencies on their instrumental, four-track sophomore EP, Volatile.

Venue Spotlight Series: The Ark

All live music venues are vital. That’s our starting point for this series. The stories we’re sharing here demonstrate that local establishments hosting performances by local musicians should never be taken for granted— particularly in a post-pandemic world.  When it comes to the Ark, you could argue that there’s been a dedicated constituency that has

The Truth About Human Trafficking: Local expert Bridgette Carr dispels common myths and offers real solutions

The phrase “human trafficking” can conjure up terrifying images of teenage girls being snatched up at the local mall— a problematic misconception about the realities of human trafficking.  Bridgette Carr, director of the University of Michigan Law Human Trafficking Clinic, explains that “buying into this type of narrative is harming those who are actual victims

MICNP Fundraiser Helps Deliver Face Shields to Nurses in Michigan

The Sharing for Shields fundraising program successfully delivered face shields to professionals at the University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners (MICNP) was able to donate over 1,100 face shields during the pandemic crisis. Face shields were received from individuals and businesses across Michigan, with