But for the past two years, the derby team hasn’t had a place to call home for practice, and team members have been forced to drive more than an hour for one practice session a week.
The team’s vice president, Angela Guy, said that the Roller Girls are actively looking for an empty space to hold their practice sessions, since the weekly drive to an out-of-the-way rink in Marion, Virginia, cost the team some valuable members and practice time.
“We’ve lost a tremendous amount of people,” Guy said.
Guy said she believes the lack of a close practice space has shaved numbers off the team — from about 20 members to just 10.
Guy said this hurts the team’s ability to be able to afford possible rent of a practice location because the dues paid by team members wouldn’t be enough to cover all their expenses, even with the help their nonprofit status offers.
Guy added that the team would need a building somewhere in the Tri-Cities that’s at least 5,000 square feet and clear space for a viable practice area three days a week, but they’re really shooting for a 10,000-square-foot space so the LCRG could host games.
And with the $10 ticket charge for games, Guy said a potential renter could possibly benefit from renting out the space as well.
Even though the Roller Girls have lost some members due to their plight, others have stuck with the team, like Elizabeth Johnson. Johnson has been with the Little City Roller Girls for about a year now, and said that while the drive to practice in Marion takes up almost the whole day Saturday, the reward for being on the team is worth it.
Johnson and her husband moved to Johnson City two years ago for him to study at East Tennessee State University’s College of Medicine. Johnson, a teacher, left what she called a 100-mile-per-hour life of being a full-time teacher and raising three children to being a stay-at-home mom without any close family.
Then she joined the Roller Girls.
“I kind of fell like the ball dropped out from under me,” Johnson said. “What derby did for me, it gave me a community, it gave me exercise. It gave me a sense of community that I was missing from work.”
The team has its effect on all members — Guy said joining the team has also made a positive impact in her life, both physically and mentally, and both women said they love the sense of community that being on the team gives them.
And Guy added that she hopes a team with a permanent practice space closer to home will bring back the roaring fans the team had when it used to play bouts at Freedom Hall.
“A lot of people think we don’t even still exist,” Guy said. “Through the past few years, I’ve made some lasting friendships with some incredible women. The sport’s given me strength and courage. It takes blood, sweat and tears.”
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected]. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.