Spouses find off-beaten-course outlet for coping with military life
April 21, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 21, 2011) -- They don helmets, mouth guards and knee pads about five days each week. They raise families and hold down careers while their husbands fight for a peaceful nation. And they love to blow off steam by plowing through groups of roller skaters.
The women of the Black River Rollers, especially the military spouses, hold it together as a team and have each others' backs - on and off the course.
The skaters busted their way along the Watertown Arena's 130-foot roller derby course Saturday, during the Black River Rollers' first-ever bout.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Roller Radicals made the four-hour trip to take on the local roller derby team, and after an hour of pushing, shoving and falling, the Radicals beat the Rollers with a score of 141-138.
Roller derby made its debut in 1935. Since then, interest in the sport has risen and fallen, and in 2001 was revived.
Teams are composed of a pivot, the skater who sets the pace for the rest of the team; a jammer, the only skater who can score; and blockers, the skaters who help their jammer score by blocking the opposing team's jammer.
The Black River Rollers, an all-female team founded in January 2010, is composed of 11 competing skaters; six of them are military spouses.
Whitney Walker, who was on a roller derby team in Georgia, joined the team in February 2010 after moving to Fort Drum with her husband, Spc. Cody Walker, 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment.
They have three children, including a 4-month-old infant. Although her husband is deployed, Walker still finds time to make it to practice.
"Roller derby actually helps take my mind off missing my husband," she said, noting that skating a few laps around the derby course also helps relieve stress.
Although Walker does not participate in her husband's unit's family readiness group, she said her teammates are a different type of support group because many of them have been through deployments. This is the Walkers' first deployment together.
Not only are her teammates supportive, but Walker said that before her husband deployed, he attended every practice to cheer his wife on.
Donna Schaefer, also a spouse, said skating kept her busy while her husband was deployed.
One thing the skaters agree on is the fact that their husbands are very supportive of their participation in the sport.
The Black River Rollers' next bout will be May 14, 2011 against the Oz Roller Derby in Oswego, N.Y.