OVRG: Much more than brawling babes

ROLLER DERBY has been around since the mid-1930s. Developing from speed and endurance races on roller skates, the modern form of the sport grew to be quite popular in the 1960s and ’70s. Whatever popularity it might have lost towards the end of the 20th century, however, is quickly being regained.

The sport of roller derby has seen a revival, and now the all-female, full-contact sport has over 1,200 leagues around the world – one of which is based right here in the Ohio Valley.

The Ohio Valley Roller Girls (OVRG) is a non-profit, skater-operated organization. Its skaters are all local women who love competing in the sport and having a chance to help their community while providing family-friendly entertainment. Although only women may skate, men are also a part of the organization as referees, photographers and other volunteer positions. OVRG members come from all walks of life.

“We are university professors, medical workers, DJs, pipeliners, waitresses, realtors and stay-at-home moms,” said Shannon Wood, who has been skating with OVRG since 2012. “We’ve had skaters as young as 18 and as old as their 50s. We have clean cut slacks-and-blouses types to tattooed band-shirt and jeans types. We are all-inclusive.”

Wood skates under the name Amy Roundhouse, as all of the OVRG skaters use a pseudonym – usually one that plays on a famous name. Some other skaters include Lorena Vomit, Dorian Slay, Gnarly Manson and Bella Bones.

It takes much more than a clever name to be a roller girl, however.

“Derby is a full contact sport,” Wood said. “We accelerate into hard hip and body checks, which can cause a lot of bumps and bruises. Those are just derby kisses. They don’t stop us from jumping back up and pressing on.”

As tough as these women are, they do have a soft side as well.

“For each of our home bouts, we pick a local charity or non-profit organization as our charity of the month,” Wood said. “We do a 50/50 raffle during both bouts, and the combined proceeds are donated to the chosen charity. We present a representative of the charity with a giant check at the end of the last bout of the weekend.”

In the past, OVRG has donated to Crittenton Services, Webark Estates, the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless, Belmont County Animal Shelter, Look Good Feel Better and Camp Catch Your Breath.

“We try to keep it local,” Wood said of OVRG’s charity work.

In addition to all the altruism and charitable donations, the ladies of OVRG actually pay to play the sport they love. All the costs – uniforms, skates, pads, etc. – come from their own pockets.

The price to skate is a small one to pay though, as many of the skaters pride themselves on the charitable work they are able to accomplish through the OVRG organization. As the organization continues to grow, it will be able to contribute more and more to the welfare of this area.

OVRG is always willing to accept new volunteers, whether to skate, referee, work the concession stands or anything else that will contribute. Additionally, the organization allows vendors to set up at their events.

“We have vendor space available,” Wood said. “People with small businesses, like crafters who sell on Etsy for example, can reserve vendor space to sell their goods. They’re set up in the main lobby where all bout attendees will be passing by. It can be a great way to spread the word about your business and make some sales.”

Every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., OVRG holds a training class for new skaters and referees at the Martins Ferry Rec. Center, where the skaters practice regularly. OVRG is also recruiting young skaters (ages 8-17) for its non-contact junior derby league.

The next OVRG event will be held at the James E. Carnes Center in St. Clairsville on May 17 against the Morgantown Roller Vixens and on May 18 against the Jewel City Roller Girls. Children under 12 are admitted for free, and there will be halftime games in which kids may participate.

For more information about the Ohio Valley Roller Girls, please visit www.ohiovalleyrollergirls.com. To apply as a skater or volunteer, please email recruitment@ohiovalleyrollergirls.com.

Scott can be reach at jscott@timesleaderonline.com.