When the Vice City Rollers roller derby team practice at Sunland Roller Hockey Rink next to Palmetto Golf Course, a speaker playing rock music sits in the middle of the rink. The team members skate in circles and stretch to warm up their muscles.
During a recent practice, Precious Navarro, a 19-year-old mathematics major at Kendall Campus, was sidelined due to a knee injury.
With the Vice City Rollers, Navarro mainly plays as a blocker, though she has played as a jammer. In the rink, she goes by the name Kraken Skulls.
“My favorite animals are in the cephalopod group,” Navarro said. “So I thought of a pun involving the Kraken.”
Navarro is one of several Miami Dade College students participating in the Miami Roller Derby league. She became interested in roller derby after watching Whip It, a 2009 film directed by Drew Barrymore and starring Ellen Page. After watching a Vice City Rollers game, she decided that she wanted to join.
At 15, she became part of Miami’s Lil’ Miss Demeanors, the roller derby team for girl ages 9 to 17. She now plays with the Vice City Rollers.
There are two positions in roller derby, blockers and jammers. Blockers are skaters whose job it is to block other team’s jammers. Jammers are skaters that score points and are the ones identified by the star on their helmet. There is also the pivot, who is also a blocker, but they have to stay in the front and regulate the speed of the track. Pivots can be identified by the stripe on their helmet.
Jammers will not get points if they pass illegally, and earn a penalty. Passing illegally means using elbows, tripping, back blocking, and passing out of bounds.
“It’s very physically and mentally challenging, and the community is very diverse and supportive,” Navarro said. “Being one who has never been athletic before roller derby, seeing other people like myself be successful in it keeps me going.”
In the game, players make up a set of eight blockers, referred to as a pack. They are put in front. Behind them are two jammers, each from different teams. Jammers have to skate through the pack and come out the other side. Blockers will attempt to prevent jammers from passing by using their hips, rear and shoulders. Jammers score points every time they legally pass a member of the opposing team. The team with the most points wins.
The 30 minute halves are split into shifts called jams. These end when the lead jammer places her hands on her hips or when two minutes have elapsed.
“She is a solid skater,” Jessica Giraldo, a veteran skater who goes by Shakesfear, said of Navarro. “She is the type of skater that will not give up. She could be dying, dying, but she will not give up.”
Navarro is so passionate about roller derby, she even got her boyfriend, Diego Scarsi, to join.
Scarsi, 19, is a computer programing major at Kendall Campus. At night, he is training as referee for the Vice City Rollers. He is still thinking of a nickname to go by. So far, he calls himself Scar City.
Scar City started in October of 2015. He previously played football and soccer before putting on a pair of skates, so contact sports were not something new to him.
Starting out in roller derby was hard.
“I couldn’t skate,” Scarsi said. “I was falling the entire time.”
Scarsi did not let that stop him, only received minor injuries.
There are currently six members on their roster. Vice City Rollers leadership revamped the program in order to recruit more people. Now, there are currently 10 new recruits, known as fresh meats in roller derby terminology, being trained. If they advance, there will be 16 official members. Their goal is to have two home teams.
The Rollers started in 2011, currently in their fifth year. They have had four seasons, each one seven games long. Traditionally, they play against Florida teams, such as the South Florida Rollergirls from Ft. Pierce, Molly Roger Rollergirls from Melbourne and Sintral Florida Derby Demons from Ormond Beach. The most recent game was against the Bradentucky Bombers from Bradenton. Two seasons ago they played in Savannah, Georgia, which is the farthest they have gone. This year, they were not able to have a season.
The first level is learning how to skate independently. The second is learning to skate with other people in close proximity. The third is when physical contact begins, and this is the level when players start playing with other people.
“Derby to me is the ultimate motivator,” Giraldo said. “When you start playing derby, and you start realizing what your body can do, how it can change, how fast it can go, you’re gonna want to get better, you’re gonna want to get stronger… You work for it, and that’s what makes it so empowering.”
For more information about the Miami Roller Derby visit miamirollerderby.com