Lansing roller derby team finds strength in community

Lansing roller derby team finds strength in community

To succeed in most traditional sports like basketball or cross-country there’s an ideal body type an athlete strives for. For basketball you’re told you need to be tall and muscular, a successful runner is typically lean. 

For roller derby all you need is you — whatever size or height — and a pair of skates. The Lansing Derby Vixens say the inclusivity of the derby world is just one aspect that makes the sport special and empowering for them.

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“I think what I really love about this sport is that it celebrates every single body type,” Lansing resident Pierce “Shiv Tyler” Wiselogle said. “They take you in and teach you how to use your body the way it is, and I think ... that’s something you don’t see in a lot of places.”

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Haslett resident Kathleen Rhoades echoed Wiselogle’s sentiment.

“I think derby teaches you how to take up space, how to use your body, how to really take ownership of your physical space, physical form and I think that’s really cool,” Rhoades said.

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For those who don’t find the idea of getting hit or checking others on the track exciting, 30-year old Lansing resident Jenny “Jenergy” Mensch says that “there’s just a lot of space for people to make it what they want,” even if it’s just by officiating games or cheering on the team from the safety of the stands. 

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The Vixens won their most recent home match, 171-168, March 16 against Hammer City at Aim High Sports in East Lansing. Win or lose, the team is always in high spirits after a match.

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The players find their way down to their favorite bar, The Dispatch, after home games to celebrate with tacos and drinks with fellow teammates and their opposing team. 

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They’re not just a team of athletes, but a team of moms, students, professionals, art teachers, knife collectors and anything else you can think of. 

While they’re tough on the track, they have also built a community of love and support. 

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For Lansing resident Amber “War-Haul” Crosby Boerma, who started skating three years ago, the team’s encouragement helped support her journey to motherhood. 

“It really was these ladies who got me physically fit enough that I was able to have a baby,” she said. “Having this community to help support through this entire thing is kind of amazing.”

The Vixens’ inter-league event coordinator and All-Star member Meredeth “Evasive Species” Crane, 37, says the cycle of teaching new skaters is something that makes the team special.  

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“There’s this need to bring people up, so they’re already invested in you, and so you instantly have this community of people that want you to succeed and are willing to help you get there,” Crane said.

For some, it comes down to the community and the acceptance they find within it.

  “I’ve played sports my entire life and this is by far the most fun and rewarding,” All-Star captain Courtney Mellburg said. “They really feel like my people.”

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