After a year of tragedy, Sarah Daniels found solace in flat track roller derby.
Daniels, a fourth-year sociology major at SUNY Purchase, recently broke up with her boyfriend, lost her home, her mother passed away and almost dropped out of college. Despite these obstacles she is able to stay optimistic. She said everything changed when she joined the roller derby team and was nicknamed “Honey Punches ‘nd Gloats.”
“Playing roller derby is the best life-choice I’ve ever made,” Daniels said.
She became a part of the Hyde Park Hudson Valley Horrors Roller Derby team (HVHRD) last February. HVHRD formed in June of 2006 and has two teams, “the Horrors” and the “ZomBs.” Since she is a beginner – also known as “fresh meat” – Daniels is currently skating for the ZomB squad.
According to Daniels, the ZomB squad practices twice a week for three hours at a time. This season they have had four games, two were home and two were away.
“I’ve been through a lot in 2011 and in many ways I would consider this one of the worst, most brutal years of my life,” Daniels said. “At the same time, 2011 has brought me a huge positive point to rally around: flat track roller derby. Frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without it.”
One of the main reasons Daniels was comforted by Derby was its welcoming members and the familial atmosphere.
“The girls on the team look out for each other and take care of one another on and off the track,” said Marie Baxter (“Mirakle Whipe”), a 21-year-old fellow ZomB. “It’s like gaining a whole new family that you’re actually proud to be a part of.”
The family aspect of the team brings everyone together and makes for an enjoyable environment all around.
“It’s not often you can walk into a room after a hard day and see 30 smiling faces that totally understand your need to hit someone and they’ll hit you back,” said Erin McDowell (“Vanilla Niiice”), a current ZomB member.
Robyn Largeca (“S. Scar Go”), a 48-year-old ZomB teammate echoes McDowell’s sentiment, feeling that derby is great for bringing people together in a relaxed environment. While she is not competitive, she said derby is still a sport she thoroughly enjoys.
Although they are pushing and shoving each other on the track, Daniels said “the girls on the other teams are just as great.”
“On the track we may act all strong and mean, but when we get together at the after party we’re like new great friends and if you lay a hit on someone during they game they love you all the more for it,” Daniels said.
Daniels said that each derby member must be charismatic and respectful of their team members and the sport as a whole. This makes it easier for everyone to get along and want to keep coming back year after year in spite of the dangers involved.
Next year Daniels hopes to continue derby and possibly gain a committee position as membership director. HVHRD’s final home bout of the 2011 season will be “the Rocky Horror Showdown,” held on Oct. 22. Try-outs for next year’s Horrors and ZomBs are on Jan. 16 and 19.
More information on HVHRD can be found at www.horrorsrollerderby.com.