This post was contributed by Lucy Hough, a freelance writer from Marquette. She’s also a master’s student at NMU. You can also follow her on Twitter at @yes_lucy. Photo courtesy of Lynne Whitehorn on Flickr
Don’t let the name scare you. Flat-track roller derby team, the Escanaba Rollin Hellcats, is showing the Upper Peninsula what they’re made of. One of many derby teams cropping up in the U.P., the Rollin Hellcats are creating an identity for themselves. According to team coach, Kym “Bella Beatya” Segorski, the Escanaba team is known for being small and fast.
The other teams in the U.P., ranging from Kingsford to Sault Ste. Marie, all have identities unique to the women on the team. The Kingsford Krush are known for being tall and stong. All teams are gaining momentum and names for themselves throughout the region.
Still in their infancy, the U.P. teams don’t have as many bouts (or games) as teams might in more urban areas, but that lends itself to a year-round season. These teams typically have one bout a month and sometimes travel to Appleton or Green Bay to play nearby teams and gain experience. In fact, Marquette’s Dead River Derby will travel downstate for its first official bout against the Mid Michigan Derby Girls on Saturday, March 9. Bouts or not, though, the teams are always practicing.
“It’s tough, the training is really hard and it’s a huge commitment, but the girls who do it really feel fulfilled by it,” Segorski says.
This routine is familiar with Segorski. She brought derby to Escanaba after being on derby teams in Wisconsin and even a traveling national team. After moving back to the U.P., she played on the Kingsford team for a while before starting a team closer to home, in Esky.
“We’d rather just have a team at home and try to have more teams in the U.P. for everybody, so that’s when we kind of separated and went off on our own and started recruiting,” she says.
She’s excited to bring the passion to the Upper Peninsula. She says that other than being a little more determined and tougher, Yooper derby girls aren’t much different than other women she’s played with.
“It’s a family,” she says. “It’s a different lifestyle and once you’re into the derby world, you acclimate yourself to it. It’s something you don’t want to stop once you get started, and that’s pretty much how anyone who’s on a team feels about it.”
Women on the team range in ages from 18 to 39. There’s also a team for girls younger than 18 to learn the sport. Once people on that team reach 18, they can join the adult team.
To connect with the community, Segorski chose the high school’s colors black and orange for the derby team’s color. And it’s not just the women who are participating but they’re whole families are coming out to volunteer, cheer, and help in any way they can. What’s more, the team often raises money for important causes, like local breast cancer treatments and medical expenses for a local family.
We highly suggest that you check out a bout, whether it’s here in the Upper Peninsula or wherever you’re located. To find out more about the Upper Peninsula teams and to get involved you can find more information for each of the teams below.