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Naptown Roller Derby is getting the skates rolling again after 2-year pause

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Posted at 4:02 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 19:10:44-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Naptown Roller Derby is getting the skates rolling again after the pandemic forced a 2-year pause of the full-contact sport.

Naptown Roller Derby is one of more than 400 leagues in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

The sport has significantly grown in popularity since WFTDA was founded in 2004. Roller derby is said to be more aggressive than football or rugby — and these women pay to play, more ways than one.

It's a sport that requires dedication and heart.

Take it from Amber Wilson (AKA Amelia B. Killya) who's worked her way from Naptown Roller Derby's C team, the "Third Alarm," to the B team, "Warning Belles," and now up to the A team, the "Tornado Sirens."

Wilson, understandably, has had several injuries since joining the league in 2012, but says it's worth it to be part of the roller derby community.

"I have played so many roles here," Wilson told WRTV. "I started off as a brand new fresh meat skater. The very first scrimmage I was able to participate in, after passing the minimum skills, I had to have ACL surgery. But I stuck around with the team, and started on the very bottom," she continued. "And I'm finally up here!"

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Inside the Circle City Roller Derby practice facility in May 2022.

Roller derby stands out as an amateur sport that truly makes its own rules and isn't afraid to stand out. It's an expansive community with traditions and values many people, especially young girls and women, look up to.

The league welcomes transgender, intersex, and gender-expansive skaters. It also does not have an age limit, allowing anyone over the age of 18 to compete.

"Roller derby has been a safe space for a lot of people just looking to be accepted, looking to find something," Wilson explained.

Wilson, now a captain of the Naptown Roller Derby, says it's a community of empowerment.

"It is very hard being in contact with other skaters getting hit all over the place and everything, but it's really rewarding when you're doing it with a bunch of people who just love each other and care for each other, we pick each other up," Wilson explained.

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The logo for Naptown Roller Derby.
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Amber Wilson, AKA Amelia B. Killya, has been with Naptown Roller Derby since 2012.

Despite growing notoriety and a respectful nod from just about anyone familiar with the sport, Naptown has almost wholly rebuilt its league since coming back in March.

Naptown knew it had work to do after its first bout in January 2020 against the Cincinnati Rollergirls, a few months before everything shut down due to the pandemic, Wilson said.

Then, the 2-year hiatus made practices challenging.

When Naptown reconvened, it knew it had significant changes to make.

"We just basically kind of gave our league an overhaul," Wilson said.

Naptown Roller Derby built an entirely new board of directors. It sold its old practice space. Plus, it went into the new season with only about 10 veteran skaters.

"What happens when you stop playing (is)all the people who've been playing forever, their bodies catch up with them. Because we're not skating anymore. We're actually healing a little bit. So I think what happened was when the pandemic hit a lot of our skaters who have skated for, you know, seven, eight, 10 years, thought, 'OK, I think I put in enough time; I think I'm ready to just rest now.'"

After a few workshops and eventual tryouts, Naptown now has a full roster of 40 skaters. They're anywhere from age 18 to 50.

"We do have a lot of newer skaters and it's been great training them," Wilson said. "We try to reach all the different levels of skaters. So we have two right now that are kind of higher-level, and then some skills, and then one practice strictly for newer skaters to build their skills."

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Now, as they continue to roll out the kinks to make a total bounce back, Naptown is also looking for a home venue before its eventual first bout of the season come fall.

As of right now, the league is scheduling only away bouts, and currently practicing in the Circle City Roller Derby (CCRD) bounce house. CCRD is the second WFTDA league in Indy.

"It's very hard to find a venue that will house roller derby teams," Wilson explained. "So, if anybody knows a good place to house a roller derby team for bouts, we are very interested in that!"

As the league works to complete its rebound, Wilson says her fellow co-captain, Roulette Wheels, and the four-person coaching staff know there is a lot of interest from people in the community wanting to join. The crew says to give it a try: They're always hosting events and workshops.

"There's a reason why people skate for years and years and years, over the injuries and everything. That's because it's such a great community," Wilson said.

Wilson adds that although it is not a sport for the faint of heart, it is a sport for those looking to be around a supportive, inclusive, and empowering group of women.

The Naptown captain shared that when she was considering not following through with tryouts 10 years ago, it was a seasoned skater who helped her continue on. Now she couldn't imagine not being where she is today.

"Back then, they had four different workshops then a tryout. So it was intense. And each of these workshops was 2hours long," Wilson said. "I was like, 'I don't think I'm gonna make it.' Like, 'I don't know if I can do this; this is challenging.' But one of the veteran skaters came up to me and said, 'You're struggling a little bit, but,' she said, 'You remind me of me when I was just starting out. You fall and fall and fall, but you never quit and you keep going.' And I was like, 'You're right! I do keep going! OK, I'm gonna come back!'"

If you're interested in housing the Naptown Roller Derby or joining, email join@naptownrollerderby.com. Check out the league's Facebook, Instagram, and website to follow their journey.

WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at shakkira.harris@wrtv.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.