By Derek Smallwood
Charma Geddons family needs padding and helmets when they get together — and skates, too.
Charma grew up in Erwin, and has lived here for all but two years of her life, but the name may not be familiar. She is probably better known as Shelley Edens.
The Edens have been involved in the Little City Roller Girls organization since 2009. Roller derby is a way for the family to have fun and put back into the community.
Charma is Edens roller derby name. Her daughters are also involved. Gracie, 13, is known as Minx La Mae, Sydney, 17, is Kippie VonStryker and Linnie, who is about 2, already has her derby name — E. LinnienateHer.
Everyone involved with derby gets names which they use much as an actor has a stage name. The derby names are creatively linked to the individuals personality. Usually, the player picks the names, but sometimes their teammates help.
Some names are a take on their birth names, The Jenerator, Gingeraffe, and toXic MaTerryl. Others have a more competitive nature in line with roller derby such as PsychoSamatic, Joy Bomber, Devilique and Riot Earp.
Shannon Brown, or Big Daddy Voodoo, is one of the volunteers for Little City. Other personalities involved in the derby are the referees, street teams that help with promoting the team and other support people called non skating officials.
Nobody has one job in roller derby, Big Daddy Voodoo said. I am the announcer, webmaster and water boy. I try to help with the video production. I have helped them with marketing, with branding, dealing with the media. I just help wherever they need me.
Edens daughters are a big reason the family is involved in derby.
We went to a bout in February, Edens said. I saw it in the paper and the family went. Two days later, the girls started juniors. The juniors had just started their team, and the girls decided they wanted to do it. I think the juniors had just had two practices beforehand. The more I watched, the more I wanted to do it.
Edens quickly became interested in competing herself.
I lost a bet in June that I couldnt do it. I kind of wanted to, so I lost the bet, she said emphasizing lost.
I started fresh meat in June, and started with the team in September. I skated a little bit as a kid, but it came back, she said. She also used to skate a little with her daughters when they were younger.
Fresh meat teaches the basics of roller derby and allows the skaters to become familiar with skating, so prior skating experience is not required. Fresh meat runs about three months, but you can continue until you are comfortable on skates, she said.
Roller derby has been around in one form or another since before the 1900s. There is an older roller derby that runs on banked track, but the Little City Roller Girls are based on the Womens Flat Track Derby Association rules. I had watched it on Saturdays when I was little, but this is nothing like I watched on TV, said Edens.
Flat track is just easier to have a venue. Banked track you have to take with you and its a lot more expensive and there are only certain places you can set it up, she said.
WFTDA is a fast growing sports league. According to their website there are currently 109 full member leagues and 53 apprentice leagues since they began operating in 2004.
It was only a couple of years before some area skaters became interested in roller derby. Edens said in 2007, Noli ChuckYa and Chick Norris had been going to Asheville and practicing. They decided they wanted to try to get a team together locally instead of driving for 90 minutes a couple of times a week. They started in the open skates at the Johnson City Family Skate Center seeking for fresh meat to join the team.
It took only about three years to build the team. Last July, WFTDA announced the Little City Roller Girls had been accepted into the apprentice program.
In addition to the Junior Rollers, the Little City Derby Brats are for girls ages three to 11. Our juniors run from 11 to 17 years old. Most start from 12 and some even older, said Edens. I think Madison (N.C.) starts at eight because they dont have the brats.
The Little City Junior Rollers were the first Juniors/Brats team in the state of Tennessee and are charter members in the Junior Roller Derby Association.
Not all teams have a junior team. Nashville just started their junior team in November. Blue Ridge started their team, the Madison Dirty Divas about April last year. They are cropping up, Edens said. We had a request from a team in Indiana, but that is a little far for us right now. But there is a junior conference in Ohio that we are hoping to attend.
The Junior Rollers and Derby Brats have bouts just like the big girls. The Brats have their bouts (at the Johnson City Family Skate Center), she said.
The Juniors have gotten to skate with the Blue Ridge Roller Girls and they got to skate at Freedom Hall before our bout began. The Juniors have been invited to skate at the Freedom Hall bout on June 25th. They are very excited, she said.
There are a couple of the brats that have been around since the start of the program and those kids are rockin, Big Daddy Voodoo said.
Imagine when the Brats team gets to the adult level. They will have more skating experience than anyone currently on the team. Roller derby will change because of that, he said.
In addition to her team responsibilities, Edens works with the Junior Rollers. She said Devilique coaches the team, Wyatt Erp is the assistant and Edens is her assistant.
The juniors are getting better and better. Its getting to a point where you almost cant tell the juniors from the grownups the way they play, Big Daddy Voodoo said.
According to Edens she helps the new girls learn the ropes. I usually train the fresh meat, the new girls, Edens said. I take them to the side and show them how to fall, to stop correctly, and make sure they are suited up right.
Roller derby is a contact sport, so injures are possible, but learning skills help to keep injuries to a minimum. Also, protective gear is a required.
Were required (to have) helmets, mouth guards, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards, Edens said. Other than the most common bumps and bruises, she has pulled a quadriceps muscle. She said one girl had just rejoined the team after breaking her wrist.
Roller derby bouts are played anywhere there is room to set up a track. Each bout lasts an hour and is divided into halves. The halves are divided into jams. Teams score points by passing opposing players. There are halftime shows to keep the energy level high.
The nature of roller derby is eclectic. We have had bands, such as local favorites the Jones Boys and Demon Waffle, Big Daddy Voodoo said. One time we had a band that played grunge versions of video game themes. Sometimes we have done giant twister on a huge twister board. We get fans, and play Twister for a while. I start eliminating lines and it gets real cut throat.
We do give-aways from local businesses. We actually take requests for half time shows, Big Daddy Voodoo said, laughing.
There are four blockers and a jammer for each team. The jammer wears a star on their helmet. The lead jammer is determined by which jammer is ahead of the other after the first lap. The lead jammer can call the jam off at any time up to two minutes, after that time the jam is over.
The jammers are the only ones that score points, Edens explained. They score after the first time through the pack. For every opposing player they pass they get a point. If they pass the other jammer they get another point.
You get points for anybody in the penalty box every time you pass them. The blockers can make you a path or if you are a better jammer you make your own path.
With those rules, roller derby is fast-paced and high-scoring. Some bouts finish with scores as high as 147-134, in the May 2009 bout with the Charlotte Rollergirls with Little City taking the win.
I have no idea how fast we are going. It just seems we are flying for two minutes, she said.
It will get real competitive in about a month or so to be able to skate in a bout, said Edens. Currently there are about 20 girls on the team and 10 in fresh meat. There can only be 14 girls on the roster, she said. Everybody wants to be in the bouts.
Little City Roller Girls are more than just the team members. There are support personnel involved with the team. Each one are volunteers who love the sport and helping out the community. One way that Little City reaches out is with a fitness and health program the derby girls are doing in some schools.
There is a program that Joy Bomber had put together where the girls will travel around to the schools and talk to the kids about roller derby, fitness and how to stay healthy. And the kids really respond to it, Big Daddy Voodoo said.
Putting back into the community is something that Little City, the groups non-profit organization, is all about.
Every single bout, since the first one in 2008, a percentage of everything we make goes to a charity. Each one is a different charity, said Big Daddy Voodoo. They are all local charities. We have done national charities, but we do it through the local representative. We try to spread it around; there are so many local charities that could use help.
When we do fundraising were trying to help the community and bring attention to these different things. When we put on a bout, everything from the concessions, the spread we put out in the locker room, the chairs; everything is local. We go to local people in the community to give back. Then we bring them in and entertain them.
Big Daddy Voodoo said charities have included Relay For Life, Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Johnson City School System, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Red Cross, Girls on the Run and Agape Womens Center.
Each skater has something that means something to them, Big Daddy Voodoo explained. We have a meeting and we all go around talking about what charities we would like to do. We look at those, and vote to narrow it down. We always welcome any charity that needs help. Let us know, thats what were here for.
Recently the Sullivan County Humane Society has been receiving assistance from Little City.
Monday, March 21 was an event where pet owners could bring their pets to have them groomed by a roller girl for a donation to help the SCHS low-cost spay and neuter program and fund the care of homeless animals at the Kingsport Animal Shelter. The girls also collected food and supplies for the shelter
We made almost $700 for the Sullivan County Humane Society, Edens said. Some was payment for washes, some just donated money. We washed 27 dogs. Also some people came in and donated dog food, cat food, bleach and some canned foods.
On Thursday, April 7, from noon until 3 p.m., the group will be helping the society with its Adopt-a-Pet program at the Kingsport Pet Smart.
These events are just a part of the support given SCHS. The next bout will donate a percent of what is taken in to the SCHS. It will be held on Saturday, April 9.
It is a double-header called Double-Dog Dare Ya and will be at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray. The doors open at 4 and the bout starts at 5 p.m.
This is Little City versus two teams. We have done other double-headers, but this time its just Little City versus Star City and then Little City versus Music City Brawl Stars. Were gonna see what we got, said Big Daddy Voodoo.
The Star City Rollergirls are from Roanoke, Va. and the Music City Brawl Stars are from Nashville.
The girls are ready; the training they are doing is so intensive. People who were here a year ago are coming back and saying I cant keep up. It is pro sports level training.
Fourteen players make a full roster. You can have 20 players on a team for a tournament. So for the double header, the group will have 20 players and will be able to mix them up between bouts.
According to Big Daddy Voodoo, fans usually fill the building in Gray, so the public is encouraged to come early.
If you want to be close to the action, you can sit in the suicide seating.
You have to be 18 to sit in the suicide seating, said Edens. It is three feet from the line. You could end up with a roller girl in your lap.
Visit www.littlecityrollergirls.com for more information.