Rockin’ rollers

Silicon Valley Derby Girls, top row from left, Rebecca Spencer,

Brand new roller derby team setting its course in Gilroy
Attention women of Gilroy: The South County Derby Girls want you.

Decked out in colorful gear, from helmets, pink elbow and knee pads and rainbow socks, a group of eight women ages 18 to 33 worked on roller skating moves and fundamentals as a small crowd of girls gathered to watch practice Wednesday evening on a cement slab at Las Animas Park.

A newly formed team, captained by Kimberly Merrill, or as she is known with her skates on, Lucy Stars, the South County Derby Girls are looking for a permanent home in Gilroy.

“We are in the recruiting stage and pulling everything together,” said Merrill, 33, a mother of three and business owner. “We are in search of a home, which is often the most difficult thing for new leagues.”

Modeled after the Silicon Valley Roller Girls in San Jose and the Santa Cruz Derby Girls, Merrill and company are spreading the word to attract more participants, taking advantage of the sport’s growing popularity as they grind through the early phases of establishing themselves.

“With roller derby, it’s a female-dominated sport and so I find that really appealing,” Merrill said. “There’s not a whole lot out there for grown women. When this fell into my lap, I wanted to do this. We want to show that women can be tough and strong.”

Motivated by various reasons such as, philanthropic work, to just wanting to encourage women to embrace the beauty and power they can express, and physical fitness, the Derby Girls are aiming to attract at least 40 members to form two or three teams.

Another main objective for the team, and perhaps the cause closest to the hearts of the members, is to help raise money for 4-year-old Johnathan Spencer, who has Niemann-Pick Type C, a terminal disease. His mother, Rebecca Spencer, Merrill’s younger sister, is also on the team.

“It was one of my main reasons to do this,” Merrill said.

The formation process may take up to a year, with obstacles like insurance and liability and venue availability standing in the way, but co-captain Pepper Aahz, aka Pepper Spray, is leading the public relations effort.

“One of our ideas is potentially offering a Parks and Recreation class teaching young kids how to skate and maybe starting a junior derby team in exchange for letting us use a certain place to skate as a home,” she said.

“We have been working with (the city) to find a home. We are not going to quit until we find one. If it means we are skating in a park for a year, then we are skating in a park.”

Aahz, 31, who also has three children, said that once the team has a venue to hold bouts against other leagues, the money from ticket, concession and merchandise sales will be put toward three areas, the city, charity and paying for equipment. The players will pocket none of the proceeds.

Denise Lackie (or Boo Tattoo) spotted a flier and convinced a friend to join the team with her.

“I frickin’ love it,” Lackie, 18, said. “This is an amazing hobby for me. Roller derby is coming back. It’s a great sport. It’s a really good emotional builder as well as a physical one.”

Though designated as the captain, Merrill stresses the importance of team chemistry and bases all future success on the strength of being one cohesive unit.

“Everyone has a voice on our team,” she said. “We feel our strong points are our passion to learn and our sisterhood philosophy. We encourage our skaters no matter where they are at in derby (skill).”

It’s that bond that has provided the team with a solid foundation and attracted players such as, Nichole Harvey (Jenna Jammerson), Kira Miller (Lil’ Ms. Magik), DeVonne Sarabia (Desire Flesh) and newest member Amanda Marshall-Kapp, who has yet to decide her derby name, to join the squad.

“There is so much sisterly love out here,” Aahz said. “It’s just a sense of empowerment. It doesn’t matter your shape or size, or your ability to skate, you can come out here and succeed in something. We develop friendships. It’s a sense of accomplishment.”

Note: Any women 18 years and up are encouraged to join. It is a pay-to-play sport with membership dues of $30 per skater per month. Practices are held twice a week along with one free-skate day. For more information about the team and how to join or help send e-mails to [email protected]

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