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March 4, 2009 > Passion on wheels

Passion on wheels

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By Bill Mancebo

Often, as viewers of sports, we become accustomed to top-quality athletes taking a little off the accelerator in order to maintain a clean bill of health in hopes of landing a high-paying contract. When age is showing signs of breaking down a body of said-athlete, passion for the sport he or she plays plummets while financial security for the family - and generations down the line - becomes the focal point.

Not for the women of the Silicon Valley Roller Girls (SVRG).

Passion for their sport, roller derby, will never take a back seat to individual accolades or lucrative opportunities in regards to their sport. And age will never slow down their adrenalin when stepping onto the track.

Roller derby has been coined a phrase for a sport - and some cases a form of physical entertainment - for several decades. It has become more popular in recent years with the development of leagues nationwide: some more experienced than other. However, SVRG is a young team.

Established in 2007, SVRG is a nonprofit all-women roller derby league that is entirely operated by the skaters. The team dresses two squads: the main travel team, Dot Kamikazes, and the secondary team, KillaBytes. Each team travels to bout with other teams from separate leagues.

In order to make these bouts possible, SVRG will conduct fund raisers that will help pay for uniforms, travel expenses, time at the rink, etc. Still, with the raised money, and a small stipend that covers some travel expense provided by the home team, money has occasionally come directly out of the pockets of the skaters.

SVRG is run by three coaches: Kristie Kloeppel, Megan Williams and Fremont native, Misty Greer, affectionately known as Brawllen Angel, Pandamonium and Pia Mess, respectively. With the experience these three have garnered in previous leagues, they help lead SVRG each bout; they also receive some guidance by SVRG skater T.C. Kinzy's husband and volunteer, Dennis Hall.

Roller derby is played on a flat-track oval-shaped surface. There are at least two teams on the track at all times, no more than five on each side. The five skaters are made up of one pivot, three blockers and one jammer.

A pivot is the leader of the pack, and acts as the last line of defense on the opposition's jammer; blockers purpose is to not allow the opposition's jammer to pass them while teaming with their fellow blockers to allow its jammer to scoot through; and the jammer is the person who tallies all the points. Jammers start 20 feet behind the pack and have to skate through, pass and lap them before scoring points. Each player passed is a point. Bouts are 60 minutes.

In SVRG's first season, they accumulated a record of 4-3. This year, with the tutelage of Greer, Kloeppel and Williams, the girls are looking to improve off of their inaugural campaign.

Greer has had five years of experience in roller derby, and teaches strategies and skill sets to the girls. But she knew she wanted to be involved with roller derby from a very young age.

"I used to watch old school roller derby on TV with my dad every weekend when I was 6," said Greer. "Anytime anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say, 'A roller derby queen!' "

All the skaters come from different backgrounds. They range in age from as young as 18 to some women in their 50s, according to Greer. The majority, however, are mid-20s. While all the women on the team may come from different walks of life, they share one bond.

Whether it's at a fundraiser, skate-a-thon, car-washing promotion, or setting up and breaking down the equipment for bouts, the girls at SVRG share that common thread - passion for roller derby.

And not a single dime goes in the pockets of any one of these passionate, hard-working, never-wavering athletes. They give their all each bout (not to mention three nights a week of practice) for the sheer love of the game.

SVRG strives to connect with the local community. They support community enhancements by donating their time and money to their nonprofit partners. SVRG teaches those to support local charities and gain social value through compassion to others. SVRG is continuously looking for new organizations to support that share the same values within the community.

For more on SVRG's community outreach, the team roster, schedule and everything roller derby, visit the team's Web site at www.svrollergirls.com.

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