Roller derby sees its stock rise in Nebraska
June 15th, 2012
Lincoln, NE – Roller derby has gone from theatrical entertainment to a potential Olympic sport, and its popularity in Nebraska has skyrocketed.
Emily Epperson did some moving around before she got to where she is now. The 25-year-old Lincoln native had a two-semester stint at a small college in California before working for a magazine on the East Coast. She now finds herself back in Nebraska, working as a nanny.
“I have a really great job,” she said with a laugh. “I get to take a nap … I don’t know too many people that get to take a nap during the day.”
Epperson works for a couple in a small house on the south side of Lincoln. On a Wednesday afternoon, the house was quiet as the couple’s two infant boys came in and out of naps. The welcome break gave her a chance to take a breather.
“During the day, like I said, I nanny and I get to hang out with these two little guys, and I love doing this,” Epperson said. “I’ve kind of always kept myself on that childcare kind of track.”
But childcare isn’t the only track on which you can find Epperson.
Enter Bully McSkater.
“I try not to have necessarily too much of an alter ego, or I try not to be too much of a bully, per se,” Epperson said. “Bully’s feisty. She’s spunky, she’s got heart, she loves to play derby … It’s pretty easy to switch into power mode or to switch into bully mode at night.”
Epperson, aka Bully McSkater, is a member of the Mad Maxines, an all-star women’s flat-track roller derby team based in Lincoln. The team is a part of a larger, locally-based league called the No Coast Derby Girls. The league also includes junior varsity team The Road Warriors.
The Mad Maxines and Road Warriors have been a small part of an expanding picture. For the past ten years, that picture has shown a female-dominated amateur sport quickly on the rise in the United States and across the world, both on a competitive and spectator level.
Andrea Tarnick is executive director of the No Coast Derby Girls and team captain for the Mad Maxines.
“There are probably 400 to 500 teams in our country. They just sprout up everywhere,” Tarnick said. “I think it’s the uniqueness of it. The fast-paced, physical part of it is attractive to men and women alike who like an aggressive sport.”
A changing sport
You might remember the flamboyance and theatrics that came with the popularity of roller derby in the 60s and 70s. You’d find a far different game now, as it’s crossed over from the realm of sports entertainment with predetermined winners to a full-contact sport where anything can happen. The athleticism has grown. The fans are die-hard. And the hits are real.
Bruised, with cracked pads, Epperson is a walking – or rather, skating – example of derby’s intensity.
“People usually ask me if we can punch each other in the face,” Epperson said. “I broke my arm last year and it was during practice, that was even kind of crazy. Shows you how hardcore our practice are. Right now, I kind of have a little bit of a shoulder issue. Other than that, you can see, obviously I’m cracking pads even more. But I’m pretty well-protected and covered.”
Well-protected or no, in last Saturday’s bout alone, two members of the Omaha Rollergirls had to be carted off on a stretcher by paramedics.
The sport continues to grow. Last summer, the International Olympic Committee announced the possibility of including roller derby in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Whether or not the sport ventures that far, Epperson said she’ll be along for the ride.
“I would love, love, love to be a paid athlete – that would be awesome!” she said. “Or at least have it be like the NBA someday. Or, just have it really blow up like that … You can see now they have snowboarding, BMX biking and all of that. Roller derby is a sport, and it’s something people are passionate about.
“If we could make it all the way to the Olympics, Bully McSkater would definitely try to make it on to the Olympic team,” she added. “Definitely.”