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Students wreak havoc on rink

Sharon Martin

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Sarena Kirk, a senior sociology and women’s studies major, speeds around the rink for the Nor Cal Roller Girls. Photo credit: Quinn Western.


Cal Skate Chico, n
ormally home to children’s birthday parties and elementary school field trips, transforms into an intense roller derby rink home to the Nor Cal Roller Girls.

Roller derby is a contact sport that involves two teams of five members. The Nor Cal Roller Girls have been a team since 2006.

For Chico State students Sarena Kirk and Shannon Simmons, roller derby is more than just a sport, but a tool to help deal with everyday stress.

Simmons has been competing in roller derby for two and half years. She goes by the name “Bad Vibrations” on the rink. Off the rink, she is a graduate student in the social work program and works with adults with developmental disabilities.

“When you’re in school and you’re busy and things are stressful, you come to practice and everything just melts away,” Simmons said.

Simmons is a blocker on the team. Her objective is to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from getting through the pack and scoring.

“My mindset is to kill the jammer and help my jammer out when I can,” Simmons said. “I’m good at sitting on people and making them pay.”

Kirk, a senior sociology and women’s studies double major, has been a part of the team for about a year and a half. She chose to join a roller derby team after seeing the Santa Cruz Derby Girls compete and watching the movie “Whip It.”

“I started because I was looking for a physical activity that I enjoyed,” Kirk said. “I stayed because it’s so much more than that. It’s just an amazing and empowering thing to be a part of.”

Kirk is known as “Raina D. Pain” on the rink and plays as a blocker and occasionally as a jammer. Kirk made sure to pick something fitting while choosing a derby name.

“I wanted to do something with my own name in it and that was more fierce than how I feel inside,” Kirk said.

Like many other contact sports, roller derby comes with health risks. Both Simmons and Kirk have experienced occasional bruises.

However, the toughest part about the game is avoiding penalties, Simmons said.

While challenging, roller derby has also proved beneficial in everyday life. Kirk uses derby as a motivational tool, she said.

“I use it to build myself up,” Kirk said. “If I’m afraid to ask someone out, I tell myself, ‘Come on Sarena, you can jam, so you can do this.'”

Between school and work, Simmons must sacrifice time to make room for derby, she said. However, the sacrifice has been helpful when it comes to family.

“It’s a sacrifice I make with my family and school, but it’s also cyclical,” she said. “It gives me the presence of mind to be more present with school and family.”

The rush that comes with the game helps Kirk stay energized and able to balance school and derby, she said.

“I can push off sleeping, taking naps, showering, seeing my family — but derby is a set time for myself,” Kirk said. “When I go to derby, I leave feeling so pumped up, so it gives me energy rather than take it away.”

The inclusiveness of the sport appealed to both Simmons and Kirk. Simmons has embraced the game and encourages everyone to give roller derby a chance.

“Everyone is embraced,” Simmons said. “There is no type, size or whatever. Everyone can play roller derby.”

Sharon Martin can be reached at [email protected] or @SharonBMartin on Twitter.

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Students wreak havoc on rink