After a successful 2012 season, the Soul City Sirens are ready to roll back into bone-crunching action.
The Sirens will take on longtime rival the Richland County Regulators, of Columbia, at Red Wing Rollerway, 3065 Washington Road, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24; doors open at 5:30. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Children younger than 12 are admitted free.
Now in its fifth year, the team expects to build on its loyal fan base. The Sirens boast an average of more than 350 fans at home bouts, and those fans might not be the usual suspects, Siren jammer Kristina Perez said.
“We had a knitting group come to our last bout last year,” she said. “It was seriously a bunch of older ladies. We’ve had a bunch of bikers in one corner. The MMA guys came. It’s just a huge variety.”
Roller derby bouts, according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association handbook, last 60 minutes and are divided into two 30-minute periods. Those periods are divided into 2-minute “jams” where the point-scoring happens. Jams end when the time limit is reached, or when the lead jammer calls off the jam. The team with the most points at the end of the bout is the winner.
The team roster can have up to 14 players – with five on the rink at a time – who fit into one of three categories: jammers, blockers and pivots. Only one jammer per team is allowed, and teams can earn points each time the jammer passes members of the opposing team. The blocker tries to prevent jammers from passing, and prevent other blockers from impeding the progress of her own jammer.
Pivots, a special classification of blocker, are the quarterbacks of the team, calling plays and monitoring the outlook of the bout, head coach Jason Craig said.
Though it might seem as if a roller derby bout isn’t the ideal place for children or the elderly, the team tries to cater to fans of all ages and backgrounds, former Siren Kim Smock said.
“We always have something at halftime for the kids,” she said. “All kinds of games, cake-eating contests, bounce houses. We try to appeal to the family.”
Roller derby, however, isn’t always fun and games. Injuries can happen as jammers try to slide their way past blockers to earn points. Players must adhere to strict rules of engagement, including no elbows, tripping or fighting. Like hockey, players who commit a penalty must sit in a penalty box while the jam continues.
The rules give roller derby structure just like any other organized sport, but the fan experience is unlike anything else, Craig said.
“There is a 10-foot buffer between you and the game,” he said. “There is no wall between you and them. If you come around a curve and someone hits you, you slide and you slide right into the fans. You can catch a baseball at a baseball game, but there’s not that many sports where you can catch a player. It makes you feel like you’re part of the action.”