When Geneva Payne began seeking skaters via social media to join her on the track, the possibility of forming a roller derby team closer to home was within reach.
“The thought of getting together a local team seemed like an idea,” she said. “We weren't sure if there was going to be enough interest.”
Payne, 42, who has played for the Fredericksburg Roller Derby for three years until COVID-19 put operations on hold, has had 20 people show interest in joining the short track recreational team.
“Hopefully, if we can get the word out more, we can get more interested people and start actually set up something at least (to) practice...before we actually start competing or trying to skate against each other,” she said.
Payne and fellow team mate Sandra “Money” Lance have been skating at the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreational Facility on Saturday mornings and invite those interested to come out. They ask participants to be at least 18-years-old.
According to Atlanta Roller Derby’s website, roller derby transformed into what it is presently in late 1937 when event promoter Leo Seltzer realized the skating walkathons he was hosting were becoming stale to audiences. With the help of sportswriter Damon Runyon, the pair created the thrilling contact sport crowds still enjoy almost 85 years later.
Never played roller derby before? No problem, Payne said.
“You learn as you go,” she said. “That’s the best part about roller derby as a whole. It’s all inclusive.”
Each team consists of blockers and jammers. In each flat track bout, a match, five players from each team are on the track - a jammer from each team, whose job is to lap the other team in order to score points, and four blockers, who attempt to stop the other team’s jammer and clear a path for their own jammer.
When the bout is set to begin, the referee blows their whistle signalling the blockers to begin skating. Behind the group of blockers are the jammers. After the blockers begin to skate away, a second whistle blows, which signals the jammers take off after the blockers. Once a jammer gets through the pack, they speed around the track again in order to collect points.
Payne, a blocker, isn’t looking for anyone within a certain age range or body type.
“Everybody is unique,” she continued. “Size doesn’t matter. None of that matters.”
However, a basic level of skill on skates and safety gear are important, she continued.
“If you have the drive and you want to try something different and kind of really push yourself out of your comfort zone and up your confidence, roller derby, in my opinion, 100% the way to do it.”
Despite being a contact sport, Payne said, it’s not as dangerous as football or rugby.
“As long as you are confident in your abilities and you know where you're at levelwise,” she said. “I think you can go into it as safe as possible, but I mean you’re on wheels so there’s always a risk.”
Derby names and personas, Payne argues, are perhaps the most fun part of derby.
Payne derived her name, Evil Genevil, from her love of Pennywise and evil clowns. Other derby names can be references to a player’s physical attributes like height, a personality trait, a play on a celebrity’s name and more.
“Nobody thinks today they're going to put on a pair of skates and a bunch of pads and start hitting people,” she said. “It really brings out something in you that I don’t think anybody knows they even have.”