After School Special: Teacher victoriously skates into new season of roller derby

lakegroupBy: Sommer Danielsen

The smell of dust rose as skates scraped across the cement floor of the McElroy Auditorium in Waterloo on Saturday, Jan. 24. Number 305 swept to the right, blocking the opposing jammer yet again. The force of the block sent the jammer reeling, trying to regain her balance, but she toppled back, meeting the floor with the side of her body.

The back of player 305’s jersey read, “After School Special”. As the name leads you to believe, Special just might be one of the teachers here at Cedar Falls High.

Social studies teacher Traci Lake has been a part of the Push-Brawlers roller derby team since March of 2011, after being inspired to skate by her sister, who was on another derby team at the time.

Lake, like all other newbies, was required to endure 12 weeks of rigorous “fresh meat” training. During this time, skaters learn essential skills such as balance, blocking, strategy, rules and, of course, how to fall properly, utilizing protective gear. After completing 12 weeks of training, Lake competed in her first game, known as a bout, and hasn’t stopped since.

The Push-up Brawlers host bouts each season at the McElroy Auditorium. Each bout is divided into two 30-minute periods, and those periods are made up of two minute jams. The team’s goal is to get their offensive player, known as their jammer, through the opposing team’s defense to score, while simultaneously blocking the opposing jammer.

This objective is anything but easy. All positions require a tremendous amount of athleticism and time to master. The Brawlers practice twice a week for two-three hours, with some of the members, like Lake, committing even more time to cross training, maximizing their performance.

This unique and arduous sport is not new in the United States, originating in the early 20th century, but is definitely gaining popularity. In the past, roller derby has been first and foremost, a source of entertainment, but the modernized sport has evolved into a highly athletic and competitive activity.

Jessica Scott, who works with the Brawlers, has really seen the sport grow. “In the five years that I have been with roller derby, it has exploded here in the Midwest,” she said. “There are now 11 teams in Iowa.”

Cedar Falls High School is home to many roller derby supporters. Art teacher Lisa Klenske has gone to the derby since it started in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Klenske enjoys the bouts because “It’s a different kind of sport. It’s offbeat, and it’s fun when you know the players.”

Junior Andrew Nurse had the opportunity to watch the roller derby when he performed at halftime with the all male dance team. “I enjoyed the roller derby because it was quite inspirational. Seeing the women race around the track and pummel each other was an exhilarating experience. Getting to perform with my teammates at such an exotic event made the derby so much more fun for us and the fans.” Among the crowd that night was also senior Haley Alexander who enjoyed experiencing the Derby for herself. “It was fun for sure because it was something new, and also because we knew Ms. Lake.”

So far this season, The Brawlers have won their first bout by a landslide and are preparing for their next bout against Confluence Crush. Come out on Feb. 14 at 6 p.m., to McElroy Auditorium in Waterloo and witness the derby for yourself. Chances are it will be more fun than any Valentine’s Day plans you have, and showing your support for the local derby will make it more worthwhile too.

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