Local women excel in roller derby

MARIETTA – Fun, teamwork and travel go with the thrills, spills and aches for the First Settlement Roller Derby Dames.

“It can be painful, but it is all worth it,” said LeeAnn Ruffo of Belpre who goes by her derby name Lovette Ruff. “There’s nothing like roller derby.”

The league, also known as Hades’ Ladies, has been around for almost two years after Sally Thompson, aka Lay’em Down Sally, when she became interested in the rough and tumble sport and wanted to do something for herself and other women.

The Hades Ladies was not the first team Thompson joined. She learned the basics of roller derby with the Appalachian Hell Betties in Athens, which started it all.

“I wanted to do something different for myself, to prove I could and I figured there were other women like me who would join,” said Thompson, who co-owns the Marietta Roller Rink with her husband, Michael Gibeaut.

The local team first formed with a small group in September 2011 and has spent the majority of that time learning and recruiting 18 members.

“This is our first official season and we’re having a blast,” Thompson said.

So far, the team has traveled and held bouts, scrimmages and games about once a month with co-ed and all female teams, including the Ohio Valley Roller Girls of St. Clairsville, Ohio, Central Ohio Roller Dolls of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Heart of Appalachia Roller Derby of Charleston and the Pennsylvania Underground Roller Derby Rebellion of Hermitage.

“We play all over and because of that we have to practice often,” Thompson said.

Roller derby is among the few sports that is never about the individual members, Coach Kathy Wood of Marietta said.

“It is complete team work, unlike anything else,” she said. “It is awesome to see how the girls work together because if one person doesn’t do their part, it is all over.”

The derby is more than practice and bouts, member Cassy Fenton of Williamstown said.

“It kind of takes over your life,” she said.

Teammate LeeAnn Ruffo of Belpre agreed.

“It is one heck of a time commitment, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else with my time,” Ruffo said. “It’s fun and we get to help others.”

Most of the bouts are fundraisers for individuals and organizations in need of help.

In June, the team held its first bout open to the public at the Washington County Fairgrounds, which raised $600 for a local man needing to pay medical bills.

The Humane Society of the Ohio Valley will be the recipient of funds from the Nov. 9 Hades Ladies home bout, known as the Rink Rash for Rescues.

The team will hold a meet and greet at 7 p.m. on July 18 at the Norwood Tavern on Greene Street, Marietta, and a yard sale on Lakeview Drive, Parkersburg, on July 19 and 20 to raise money for the November bout.

Women’s roller derby became popular in the 1930s and 40s and made comebacks in the 1970s and 2000s.

For many skaters, an appealing aspect is the ability to create a different persona, complete with costume and unique skater name.

It is also a full-contact sport that, regardless of stamina, strength or skill level can result in serious injury. Participants are required to sign a waiver.

Regardless of the risk of injury, participants entered the world of roller derby without regrets.

Area women ages 18 and over who have an interest in roller derby, regardless of skill level, are invited to attend practices held 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and roller derby boot camp at 9 a.m. each Saturday, both at the Marietta Roller Rink at the Washington County Fairgrounds off Front Street, Marietta. The cost of the boot camp is $5.