Concussions & Community: Rolling through life


Jason May

Naomi Asbock and Marena Clark-Lazaire go head to head during a practice short track derby at club practice on Nov. 14. Asbock joined the new PAC class to learn how to skate.

Audrey Anderson, Sports Contributor

When Jade Minzlaff, a 4th-year chemical engineering student at Oregon State University, is asked about her favorite sport, she answers with roller derby.

Many others when asked what their favorite sport is, will reply with answers such as football, basketball, soccer and sometimes even golf, but Minzlaff’s answer is shared by a group at OSU.

To most, roller derby might seem like a sport that promotes aggression and wearing fishnet tights. That roller derby is for the outcasts that break the rules and can’t function properly in our so-called real world.

To Minzlaff, commonly known by her derby name “Gorilla Warfare,” roller derby is much more. Jade and many others have found a community within OSU that promotes unity, encouragement and positivity.

OSU has been taking strides to provide unique opportunities to students and promote fascinating sports like roller derby.

They have teamed up with the Sick Town Derby Dames, the local roller derby league, and a volunteer-run non-profit organization in Corvallis, to create a Roller Skate and Derby Skills Physical Activity Course class and a roller derby club.

The Roller Skate and Derby Skills PAC class is offered during the fall, winter and spring terms and allows around 30 OSU students to learn the

fundamentals of skating and roller derby.

The class teaches various skills, including how to safely fall while roller skating, perform specific stops and bumps in roller derby.

Along with teaching valuable skills and performing particular drills, the PAC class also incorporates the interesting and physical so-called hot dog tag game, a game in which lying on the ground and screaming, “I need buns,” is highly encouraged.

The roller derby club is a student-led club that focuses on educating others about roller derby and becoming a pivotal part of the roller derby community.

At this time, the roller derby club cannot hold skating sessions as they are not covered by insurance. Still, they are making headway in providing members opportunities to contribute to the Sick Town Derby Dames by volunteering acts and advertising to the public.

Julia Colling, also known as “Smear” and as a chemical engineering student at OSU expresses, “I’ve learned how to get more involved with the community. We do a lot of community service and fundraising.”

Malinda Shell, the current president of Sick Town Derby Dames and Instructor of the Derby Skill PAC class, explains, “We’re trying to provide things for students to do, and we find that a lot of people just want to skate.”

Malinda, known as “Malicious” along with Adrienne Ewanchyna, the Head of Training for the Sick Town Derby Dames and bearer of the name “Blade,” believes that the offered PAC class at OSU provides community members with a safe environment that is welcoming to all and teaches essential life skills.

Randalynn Keeny, a sophomore studying Marine biology and commonly known as “Killer Tidalwave” confirmed that she has grown as a person claiming, “I’ve had issues where I push myself a little too much or too hard and put a lot on my plate, but it [roller derby] helps me with that.”

She also explained how her confidence in herself has grown since starting roller derby, now running for secretary of the roller derby club and becoming a pivotal part of her sorority.

Another claim by Adrienne Ewanchya and Malinda Shell is that roller derby promotes body positivity and empowerment.

“I think it’s just changed my perception of how I feel about myself,” Ewanchya said.

I can be a little bit heavier, but I could still be fit. I could still be strong. It is a sport where body types of all shapes and sizes are a benefit,” Ewanchya explained.

The Sick Town Derby Dames and the instructors of the PAC class encourage all students to clap when others fall and cheer for each other while they’re doing laps or other challenging activities.

Morgan O’Rourke-Liggett, a grad student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation Department and a new skater called “Critical Roller,” described, “Falling means that you pushed yourself and that you are trying harder to push yourself.”

Instead of looking down upon others when they fall or mess up, the Roller Skate and Derby Skills PAC class inspires people to realize human imperfections and acknowledge the strength one has for getting up and continuing with such a physically demanding sport.

Self-expression and one’s ability to be themselves are essential to the Sick Town Derby Dames, according to Marena Clark- Lazaire, commonly known as “ClobberHer.”

Marena, who has played roller derby for about ten years and is finishing up an animal science major at Oregon State, claims, “We all have our quirks, and we mesh well together.”

To the Sick Town Derby Dames, finding oneself and feeling comfortable in your skin is much more important than blocking the jammer or scoring points.

With growing interest and awareness of Roller derby within the OSU community, Malinda and Adrienne, along with many others, encourage all to experience the benefits of roller derby firsthand by joining the PAC class, roller derby club or skating with some friends at one of their many open skate events.


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