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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on March 8th, 2011, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 11, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 11, Issue 52

Liftoff, we have liftoff

Despite a roller derby squad's break-up, the sport's still alive in Santa Maria


We’re jammin’:
Rocketeer Rollers’ team president Sarah Nemeth, a.k.a. Madam Nuclear Winter, plies her trade at the Central Coast Sports Arena on March 5.

Exit the Ruff Rollerz, and enter the Rocketeer Rollers.

Last summer, Santa Maria came face to face with the spectacle of roller derby, with the Ruff Rollerz drawing raucous crowds to the Fairpark’s indoor flat track on a regular basis. However, issues with team management caused a rift among the players, and organizers walked away from the venture, leading the club to split. Rocketeer Rollers emerged from the dust.

Rollers’ team president Sarah Nemeth, who skates under the nickname Madam Nuclear Winter, was one of the original Ruff Rollerz. She said the decision to form the new team came during the last meeting of the season.

“We thought, ‘We really want to play,’ but we didn’t think any of the other teams in the area really fit our personality,” she explained. “We said, ‘We’ll try to make our own team.’ So that’s what we did.”

Unlike Nemeth’s old squad, the Rollers are a nonprofit venture, run by the skaters themselves with all decisions made by committee. After a successful meet and greet event on Feb. 26, the roster currently stands at 18 skaters, but just five of them have had experience in actual derby bouts.

The team is still recruiting players, and is especially on the hunt for big, strong blockers, said Rollers’ head coach Daniel George, a.k.a. Geek Dad. George, a former “Freshmeat” coach for the Ruff Rollerz, encouraged females from all walks of life to consider trying out, regardless of skating prowess.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities for women to be athletes, especially once you get out of high school,” he said. “This is a chance for women to be athletes and superstars and just do something spectacular.” According to George, it can take skaters three to six months to reach a level of competitive ability for actual derby bouts, though the learning curve varies.

“It’s really about getting the skater to the point where they forget they’re on their skates,” he said. “Then you can start to worry about strategies and tactics.”

Of the founding group, Nemeth probably has the most experience, skating for a year and a half. Safety is the top concern, she said, even if it means not having games right away.

 Rollers’ blocker Courtney Munoz—a.k.a. Miss Lady Dozer—knows the importance of safety all too well. She broke her ankle in the last game of the Ruff Rollerz’ season and is just beginning to return to form.

“I had fun [last year], but I think a lot of us were thrown into games before we were ready,” she said. “I’m glad this time around we’re going to give the girls so much more time and learning experience, and they’re going to have to do the testing. They’re going to be ready to play.”

Not tied to any particular city, the Rocketeer Rollers are so named because a handful of the skaters live or work at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Erin Wudarzewski, a.k.a. Voodoo Bitch Doctor, joined the team as a way to pass the time while her husband is overseas in Afghanistan.

Push and shove:
Members of the Rocketeer Rollers jockey for position during practice on March 5.

“I’d seen it, but it looks like wrestling. It looks kind of fake,” she said. “I didn’t realize that they’re truly hitting each other out there, but it’s fun.”

Even though the sport may look violent on its face, Wudarzewski said, it all comes down to having a good time with like-minded girls.

“I really like the camaraderie of it, because off the track we’re all like sisters,” she said. “Even though we’re pushing each other around and beating each other up, once we get off, it’s just beers and good times. What’s not to love about that?”

The skaters pay about $50 a month to play, and the Rollers have raised money for the team’s operation through pizza parties, fundraisers, and garage sales, with more on the way. Though this year’s schedule isn’t yet set, the team will be ready for action by August, most likely playing all its games on the road, since their practice venue, the Central Coast Sports Arena, is too small to hold contests.

The biggest goal for the team’s inaugural season is to break even, said coach George, who’s already trying to foment a positive attitude among the players.

“I want to lift these girls up,” he said. “That’s the atmosphere we want to see here. They’re paying money to play. You’ve got to make it fun.”

The Rollers currently hold open practice three times a week—Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays—at the Sports Arena. Team organizers also plan on starting a junior team for girls ages 10 to 17. Though Nemeth said there’s plenty of local interest in participation, skaters are still battling the misconception that the sport is only for rough, tattooed troublemakers.

“I would encourage people not to be too judgmental,” she said. “It’s a real sport, it’s really hard, and we’re absolutely like the girl next door—moms and teachers. Everybody knows somebody who would fit in our roller derby league.”

Munoz said skaters interested in the sport shouldn’t be scared off by not being athletic enough or by roller derby’s reputation for violence.

“There’s just a lot of preconceived notions about the sport and the girls who play,” Munoz said. “We’re trying to get our name out there and let people see that we’re not this hardcore group of girls that beat you up or something.” 

Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas’ roller derby nickname would be Whoop-Ass Goldberg. Contact him at

Weekly Poll
How should the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District improve its A-G completion rates?

Align graduation requirements with university entrance requirements.
Ensure that students and parents are well aware of A-Gs and what they are before high school.
Improve support services and summer school classes for students who fall behind.
Completion rates are fine as is. Not everyone wants to go to a four-year college!

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