June 8, 2014

Devin Golden: Roller derby team to host bout Saturday

If you’re looking for something different this weekend in Dalton, there’s a growing-in-popularity sport rooting at The Zone Skate Center.

The North Georgia Roller Girls, a female roller derby team that practices and plays home bouts in Dalton, will hold its next bout Saturday at The Zone. Again, it’s something a little different — but different often times is a good thing — and it starts at 7 p.m. with the doors opening at 6 p.m. The event is titled “Scars and Strikes,” and tickets cost $10 at the door and $8 in advance. To purchase ahead of time, contact the team via message through its Facebook page, titled “North Georgia Roller Girls.” Children 6-12 year olds cost $4 and kids 5-and-under are free.

As of a year and a half ago, the team was called the Tennessee River Rollers. The name changed to the Derby South All-Stars earlier this year and then the current name around two months ago. It’s comprised of players from the northwest Georgia and Chattanooga areas.

“As this team, this is only our second home game,” said Rhonda Austin Cook, one of the players who goes by the pseudonym of “Cookie Mobster.”

“The fans do really enjoy it. Some fans dress up.”

The team doesn’t compete in a league, Cook said, but has had two contests already and at least three more after Saturday. Cook said approximately 100 attended in April for the first home event. This one is against the “Southeast Subs,” which Cook said is a mixture of players from different teams.

“We were really surprised because we’re new,” Cook said, noting Chattanooga’s roller derby team is extremely popular. “We didn’t think we’d have many people. We brought 50 chairs, and they were all used plus we had people on the floor.”

If you hold assumptions about the sport based on cable television in the 1980s and 90s, then don’t worry. There isn’t a script. This isn’t World Wrestling Entertainment.

“That is one of the most common things people think,” Cook said. “It’s exciting, but there’s nothing staged at all.”

A team earns points when its jammer skates past the opposing team’s blockers. Skating past each blocker earns one point and the jammer can earn as many points as possible during the jam session, which lasts a maximum of two minutes. The first of the two jammers to make it through all of the opposing blockers once becomes the “lead jammer,” and the lead jammer can stop each jam prior to the two-minute limit.

Jammers from each team try scoring at the same time, so blockers are trying to help their jammer while also defend against the opposing one. Each bout has two 30-minute halves.

“Usually the jammers are small and fast,” Cook said.

“So they’re good at weasling their way through stuff.”

Even if the rules seem confusing, no worries. You still can enjoy watching the sport for its fast pace and non-stop action.

“When I started playing, I didn’t know anything about it,"' Cook said.

The team, which currently has about 20 girls all participating for fun, practices Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at The Zone, at 611 Sheridan Ave.

• On the heels of a visit from some internationally known karate instructors to the area last week, another local martial arts studio is excited about a special instructor who will teach classes for them.

Dalton's Martial Traditions, at 617-A E. Morris St., will welcome judo instructor Bob Byrd for classes beginning this week.

According to a release from Martial Traditions, Byrd is a three-time world masters champion and a seventh-degree black belt in Kodokan judo. According to Byrd's website, he has more than 45 years of experience in the sport.

The co-ed classes will be available on Thursdays and range from elementary age (4 p.m.) to middle school (5 p.m.) to adult beginners (6 p.m.) and advanced students (7 p.m.). The studio is offering an introductory special for the weekly classes, which follow Byrd's monthly visits over the past two years.

To learn more, contact Larry Taylor at (706) 529-0320 or visit martialtraditionsofdalton.com.

Devin Golden is a sports writer with The Daily Citizen. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenDev or email him at devingolden@daltoncitizen.com.

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