Many young and rebellious teenage gals, like Bliss Cavendar in Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It, may dream about one day becoming a rollergirl. Lucky for the ladies in Austin, this town is home to two roller derby leagues, the Texas Rollergirls and the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. The main difference between the two is the track – Texas Rollergirls play on a flat track and TXRD on bank track – but both leagues of ladies possess the same wild style and knack for athleticism and badassery.
Ever since I attended my first Texas Rollergirl bout, or match, back in 2005, I’ve fantasized about being one in the same: basically a hardcore chic showing off my guns and skating skills as I sucker punch and tackle bigger and more frightening chics around the track. Unfortunately, I don’t have any skating skills and I am terrified of losing my teeth. So I stick to the sidelines and watch the bouts, as any die-hard fan would do, bragging about the one time when a Hot Rod Honey called Rice Rocket took a hit in front of me and jammed her skate into my chest.
Whip It does a nice job painting a picture of the Austin roller derby scene. It’s the classic coming-of-age story about Bliss, a young alternative high school girl from a small Texas town who finds herself enamored with the badassery of the Austin rollergirls. She joins the worst team in the league, the Hurl Scouts, and learns a lot about boys and growing up as she helps the team make it to the championship bout. The cast is mostly hilarious: Drew Barrymore plays a kind of psychotic rollergirl with an affection for beating people up, and Juliette Lewis is the rival rollergirl with mad skating skills and a serious distaste for Bliss.
It was cute watching the movie and seeing shots of Austin hot spots like the Alamo Ritz, Home Slice on South Congress, and the “Hi, How Are You?” wall. However, I could have gone without the silly “girl likes boy in a band” part of the plot. I am not going to give anything else away about this scenario, but it sort of made me cringe, just so you know.
In the end, all I wanted was to become a rollergirl. I wanted to skate, dress up in a freaky uniform, and have a stellar rollergirl name. But what does it really take to become a Texas Rollergirl?
1. Skills – Basic skills like forward skating and balancing are all that seems to be required to become a rollergirl at first. After making one of the teams you learn more derby-specific skills like skating low, jumping, and hitting. If the exact rules of roller derby still seem kind of foreign to you, this video explains how the game works.
2. No fear – Roller derby is a contact sport, meaning there is a lot of pushing, shoving, and downright smacking in each bout. There is also a lot of falling, so rollergirls have to know how to recover quickly and get back in the game.
3. Attitude – Like with any competitive activity, good sportsmanship and a positive attitude can get you a long way.
4. Commitment – Rollergirls practice two to three times a week with matches once a week. They also help with other charity and fundraising events. It’s a serious time commitment, but it’s probably worth all the fun.