Thursday, November 10, 2011

WFTDA Championships: Transfer skaters strive for their chance at gold

UPDATE: Cheri "Wild Cherri" Kresge will transfer back to the South Central Region, joining the Atlanta Rollergirls after a season playing for Gotham . 

"My love life takes me there," Kresge said. "I really wish I didn't have to leave Gotham. They were an amazing team to work with. Gotham is my N.Y. family  - the closest friends I have up here. I'm going to miss all of them."

Kresge was a part of the Gotham's 2011 Women's Flat Track Derby Association championship team, winning first place during Continental Divide and Conquer, the WFTDA's championship tournament, in Denver, Colorado.

Atlanta currently sits fourth in the WFTDA South Central standings and ranked 30th in the world on Atlanta finished fourth in the WFTDA South Central 2011 tournament Show Me Der-B-Q in Kansas City, Mo.

"With the Atlanta Rollergirls, I hope I find a happy derby home and I plan to sit put for awhile," Kresge said. "I will be trying out for the travel team and hope to help build a collection of Ws going into regionals this year." 

Atlanta is 1-1 for the 2012 season. Atlanta defeated Maine 181 to 114 on Feb. 18, 2012, but lost to Nashville 166 to 136 on March 24, 2012.

In professional sports, players are released, picked up, pulled up from the minors and traded based on the business acumen of the team owners. In the largely amateur sport of roller derby, in which players are not paid to play, there is no salary cap, no waivers, and for the most part, no trading of players.

Roller derby leagues are largely self-regulated under the umbrella guidance of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, but with little formal standards to regulate skaters from moving to another league.

On the surface the decision seems like it would be easy: Continue to play for a team that has only managed regional tournament appearances or play for a team that has championship caliber.

Since the 2010 WFTDA championship tournament Uproar on the Lakeshore in Chicago, several skaters have moved to other leagues.

Cheri “Wild Cherri” Kresge, formerly skating for Tampa Bay Derby Darlins, moved to New York and started training in the Fall 2010. During East Coast Derby Extravaganza and Nightmare on 95, the East Region Playoff Tournament, she brought the skill and skating ability that made her a top Tampa player to the solid game of Gotham.

The All-Stars are like a well-oiled machine and we are very close to being finely tuned,” Kresge said.

 Gotham is currently (November 2011) ranked No. 1 in the world according to, and

“Trying out for Gotham was one of the most nerve racking derby moments I have had so far,” said Kresge, one of four transfers to Gotham. “Gotham provided me with the challenge I personally needed and at first it is intimidating. You have world-wide recognized skaters on the track with you.” 
Davey "Davey Blockit" Wade signs autographs
for her young fans.
Blockit (929) played all three positions in her five years with
Arch Rival Roller GIrls, but primarily focuses on blocking
now that she plays for Gotham.

Gotham bolstered its pack by acquiring Davey “Davey Blockit” Wade, a former Arch Rivals skater. The St. Louis native can now add playing for a No.1 ranked team to her sport resume, which includes volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball.

Wade found derby nearly five years ago when she joined Arch Rivals in the league’s early goings.

“After college sports, I had been looking for other competitive sports but I was getting stuck in non-competitive hobby sports like kickball teams, dodgeball teams, recreational volleyball teams. It just wasn’t competitive enough for me. When I found roller derby, I was like ‘this seems fun. I can hit people. I’m big. I’m good at roller skating, I’ll try it.’”

Wade played all three positions for Arch Rivals before transferring to Gotham, but now primarily focuses on blocking.

“I had been planning on moving to New York for a couple of years, because my husband at the time wanted to move to New York for music,” She said. “So we had been planning on it. When that didn’t work out, I was like ‘Man, I still really want to live in New York.’ I really want to play more competitive roller derby than was available to me in St. Louis.”

Wade hopes to add winning the gold medal at championships to her list of accomplishments.

“That was why I wanted to play for a team the caliber of Gotham, or Oly or Rocky Mountain,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer my body is going to let me play roller derby and I want a chance to play at championships. I didn’t see it happening with Arch Rival within the time limit that I’m going to be playing derby. Even though they’re playing at a fast rate. I didn’t see them being a team like Gotham in the next three or four years.”

Beside Kresge and Wade, Gotham also managed to pick up Sexie Slaydie, formerly of Nashville, and Splint Her, formerly of San Diego Derby Dolls.

Blockit and Cherri traveled some distance to find their new home. One skater didn’t have to go very far to find her new league.

Melissa “MEDUSA” Hopper captained the North Star Rollergirls' travel team, the Supernovas, a team that has been part of WFTDA since December 2008.

North Star hasn’t earned a championship bid despite two North Central Region Tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010. Hopper made the switch to the Minnesota RollerGirls, playing for the team in the 2011 season, while managing to travel the least geographical difference in her transfer.

Minnesota has been a perennial contender and even managed a championship tournament appearance in 2010, losing 249-118 to Charm City in the opening round. (Charm City and Minnesota will again play in the first round of the WFTDA championship tournament on Nov. 11, 2011.)

Much more can go into a decision to transfer to another league. 

“Honestly the majority of my reasons for leaving weren’t even related to (the) skating level,” Hopper said. “I had been volunteering an unhealthy amount of hours to administrative duties since I joined in 2006 and I was on the verge of burnout.”

“Having the option of continuing to play with another league and getting a chance to focus more on my skating was better than considering life without derby,” she said.

Larger cities already draw from a larger pool of potential skaters. Recruiting from nearby simply isn’t done, even without a governing transfer policy, Hopper suggests. Instead leagues generally self-regulate she said.

“If I were going to consider moving to another city for work or just for a change of scenery, of course I would look more seriously at cities that have a great derby league,” Hopper said. “But I also know some leagues actually have it written into their code of conduct that they are NOT allowed to attempt to recruit skaters from other leagues.”

Currently WFTDA doesn’t govern league transfers.

“WFTDA doesn’t regulate transfers at all, beyond facilitating any changes to the charters for the teams involved,” said Julian “Bloody Mary” Gonzales, WFTDA executive director. “WFTDA chartered teams can change the skaters listed on their charter up to 6 times per calendar year, so the new team will need to use one of those changes to add a transfer.”

 To Wade’s knowledge, neither she nor Kresge were “recruited” to Gotham.

“I’d never seen or been aware of Gotham recruiting. I don’t know if they ‘recruit’ anybody,” she said. “I certainly wasn’t recruited. I don’t think Wild Cherri was recruited.”

“As a derby player you always strive to be the best, the best athlete the best roller girl, or whatever sport you are playing. ... I don’t think they do any recruiting it’s just so many girls want to be on a No. 1 team, and New York is such an awesome place to live.”