Students at Arizona State University are always striving to be innovative both academically and athletically. ASU’s club sports team, the Derby Devils is one of just five collegiate roller derby teams in existence and the club’s popularity is only continuing to grow.
The Derby Devils initially formed as an interest group whose mission was to introduce and promote the sport of roller derby. However, the club eventually realized it would be more beneficial to educate students hands-on by creating a team and recruiting new athletes.
Roller derby has been an official club sport at ASU since September of 2013, and has continuously added new members each year. The Derby Devils have been working with this year’s new skaters, or “fresh meat,” since September.
“We have around 12 new skaters and it’s more than we’ve ever had,” Derby Devils president Vivian Benjes says. Though roller derby is traditionally a female-dominated sport, the Derby Devils strive to include as many new athletes as possible.
“We don’t have any tryouts,” Benjes says. “All skill levels, all genders and all ages are welcome as long as you’re a student at ASU.”
Roller derby is a highly physical and competitive sport that is not simply won by speed. “It’s super tactical and there is a lot of strategy behind it,” Benjes says.
Teams participate in matches called bouts and each team has five skaters on the track at a time, one jammer and four blockers. Teams earn points when a jammer laps blockers from the opposing team. The blockers’ goal is to prevent the jammer from passing while opening gaps for its own jammer.
Jeffrey Watkins is an 18-year-old chemical engineering major whose interest in inline skating led him to joining the Derby Devils in September. “I saw the Derby Devils table at Devils on Mill and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun,” Watkins says.
While the sophomore does have skating experience, he admitted learning the sport of roller derby has not been easy, “I really push myself and sometimes it’s hard to push past that fear of getting hurt and learn new skills.”
Senior Cass Murphy is an English and creative writing major who has been involved with the Derby Devils since 2013.
“[I have] been here for each semester and it’s been really exciting to see each successive ‘fresh meat’ class of skaters go through training,” Murphy says. “My favorite thing is watching the progression of the new skaters through the semester. Many of them come in never having skated before— not being able to start or stop.”
The Derby Devils made history last year when they competed in the first-ever collegiate roller derby bout at the University of Arizona in front of a crowd of 400 fans. Many ASU students, as well as the school’s mascot Sparky, attended the bout and supported the Derby Devils.
ASU Derby Devils participate in at least one bout per semester. The team is currently training to compete in a scrimmage against the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University on Dec. 5.
For more information about the ASU Derby Devils visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/asurollerderby.