It’s a chilly sunday night in Allmend and the world seems to have gone to sleep, only the lights of the Swiss Arena and the Messe are a reminder that, come day light, this place will return to be one of the busiest areas of Luzern. But for now there is barely a sound, in fact nobody would suspect that only a few meters away, behind the closed doors of a small sports hall, there is a group of woman who are far from resting: they jump on their skates, they do push ups and crunches, they roll on the floor and stand up again. Why? Because its all part of their training as together they form The Hellveticats, Luzern’s Roller derby Team. Yes: Roller Derby Lucern. You didn’t see that one coming, did you?
The fact is that this noble contact sport originated in the 1930’s and popularized in the 40’s, in the United States as an”entertaining show of pretty girls in itsy-bitty uniforms” doesn’t really have a lot to do with the swiss tradition. For that matter, nor does it have a lot in common with the professional 70 pages rules book sport it turned into since its “revival” 14 years ago. For the Hellveticats, the story began as team captain Miranda Comeaux (a.k.a Kitty La Bang) fell in love with it in the United States and upon returning to Switzerland decided to put together a team: one little kitten, two little kittens, and all of the sudden she had a full roster of 14 players.
The game consists of two teams that skate around a track in “packs” of five players. Two “jammers” (one per team), remain detached from the groups and can score points each time they are able to lapp players of the opposite team. The whole “match” lasts an hour, and each “Jamm”, (when the action really happens) is only two minutes. That means each “bout” has plenty of “jamms” in it!
Once you get your head round it, it is quite fun to watch as the girls plot their strategies and display their different skills.”A great thing about this sport is that it really is for any body type. The jammers are usually quite lean and athletic so they can squeeze into the tiniest spaces and score points. They have a lot of endurance and are usually quite fast. The blockers who are at times bigger and stronger and are fundamentally are responsible for ensuring that the pack stays together and that the oponnent’s jammer doesn’t manage to get through. As for the pivots, they are versatile players as they are the only ones that can replace a jammer. However the important qualities to anyone attempting the game is the ability to multitask: skate, think, and control the upper part of their body”. States the Comeaux, and she should know: along with colleague Missy la Strange she has been recently asked to join the Swiss national Roller derby team.
As one of the “cats” hits the floor hard, Miranda shrugs her shoulders and explains that the first thing they teach the newbies is how to fall “you need to loose the fear to get hurt or hurt others and you need to learn how to take a fall and get back in your feet”. Apparently the lessons pay up: seeing them roll, its obvious that these woman truly don’t hold back. And yes, she agrees that minor accidents do happen but interestingly enough, the most frequent injuries are not unlike many other sports, . “We also get quite a few bruises but we carry them with pride like war wounds. In fact we have have a whole Facebook group called “the wall of pain” where we upload them. And all in all, we loose more players to pregnancies than to sprained ankles”. Says Mrs. “La bang” who following the tradition of adopting aliases came up with her name after some hard thinking because taking up a nickname unique to you is pretty much an unspoken rule. “Sometimes the name is given to you by your team mates after a certain characteristic like being fast, or aggressive. The nicknames can be of importance as for some players they are like an alter ego: some girls can be very shy off the tracks and completely different once they puts the skates on and regain their confidence”,
So there you have it. If you are interested but not enough to get off the couch, you may wanna get hold of a copy of the film Whip it, a very much hollywood glamorized version of the Roller Derby world starring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore. Now, if you are in for the real deal then you are in luck: The Hellveticats are having trials December 7th. Remember the hard training previously described? Well there is no way to become one of the “cats” unless you are willing to put up with some hell!