The spectator sport of roller derby reached its zenith in the United States in the halcyon days before early 1970 fuel shortages and spiraling prices grounded barnstorming.
However, a recent revival of the sport originating in Austin is slowly bringing it back to East Texas and elsewhere.
The East Texas Bombers are part of this nascent resurgence, and they’re looking for a few good ladies to join in the fun.
Leslie Cox of Henderson, a veteran of the all-female sport, explained that the Bombers are a member-owned and operated flat-track roller derby team on a mission.
“We’re trying to bring roller derby back to the East Texas area,” Cox said.
Like other ladies on the team, Cox has a regular job and day-to-day responsibilities.
It just so happens that, in her spare time, Cox enjoys hurtling around a circuit track at top speed in a sweaty full-contact sport.
“I live and work in Henderson,” Cox said. “I’m a hospice nurse by day and then a roller derby girl at night.”
Jessica Gable, the team’s manager, said that the Bombers have a variety of “day jobs” amongst them. There are four nurses, a zookeeper, a social worker, an artist, an oilfield office manager, an auto mechanic, a banking associate, a National Guard combat medic, and a handful of stay-at-home moms, too.
“Almost all of our girls have kids in sports each season, which we are active in as well,” Gable added.
Described as “anarchy on four wheels” the competitors are armed only with helmets, some rudimentary padded protection and their wits as they whiz around the level track as fast as their two legs can carry them.
Each team has five skaters on the track who skate in a series of “Jams” that last two minutes. One team member is the Jammer and the other four are Blockers.
As the pack of eight blockers moves around the track, the Jammers try to get through and pass them while the Blockers try their best to stop them. The first Jammer through the pack becomes the lead Jammer who is then able to score points for the team by passing the opposition’s Blockers.
To impede the progress of the opposing team’s Jammer, players may block using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands, and head. Elbows may not be used in blocking, and cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent or teammate’s arm.
Each game consists of two 30-minute periods. At the end of each Jam, teams field another lineup of players and the next Jam starts exactly 30 seconds later.
Penalties are given to skaters who block illegally, fight or behave in an unsporting manner, or otherwise break the rules. Possible penalties include sending players to a penalty box, as well as expulsion of players.
A skater goes to the penalty box for one minute immediately upon incurring a major penalty, or after accumulating four minor penalties.
With the combination of speed and contact involved, endurance is crucial to being competitive.
Currently, the Bombers have 16 members and a small but loyal following, but recruitment in ongoing and the hype is building.
“I don’t think a lot of people in East Texas are aware of just how big this sport has gotten in recent years, but roller derby is back,” Cox said. “It’s already big in larger cities like Austin, Dallas and Houston, but we’re hoping to bring it to East Texas in a big way.”
Gable agrees, saying there’s a place for anyone interested in getting involved.
“We’re always looking for new skaters, referees and volunteers,” Gable said. “As well as any non-profit organizations that we can benefit.”
For more information about the Bombers, or to request a tryout, visit their website at: EastTexasBombers.com