- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Before their first season game March 5, the Cajun Rollergirls gathered at Aggie’s Skate Connection for practice.

As soon as the ladies arrived at the rink on March 1, they laced up their skates, fastened their knee pads and helmets and hit the rink.

As each one did laps around the wooden-laced rink, it sounded like cars zooming by on a highway.

Some of the ladies held onto each other as they skated, while others skated past them with their knees bent low and faces looking sternly forward.

One of their coaches yelled, “I wanna see y’all running to accelerate,” and the ladies did just that as they seemed to roll around the rink even faster than they did the first couple of times.

Many of this year’s team members were “fresh meat,” or newbies to the team as many Cajun Rollergirls retired last year.

Although to the inexperienced eye, it simply looked like any other roller derby team.

Jewel Vegas, known on the rink as Cat-O’Lust, said the team is rebuilding as a result of retiring derby girls.

“We have, I think 18 (ladies) right now,” Vegas said. “One girl moved, a couple became mommies, which we love, and some vets retired.”

Vegas is one of the team’s two captains and is also team vice president.

After moving back down the bayou from New Orleans a few years ago, Vegas sought an activity that would keep her active and fit.

And after watching only one practice, she said she fell in love with the sport.

“I hadn’t skated in 15 years and I practically busted my butt the first day, but it got easier as it went along,” she recalled. “I made so many friends. It’s not just a team, it’s family.”

In addition to Vegas’ role as vice president and team captain, she’s also a team jammer - the person who scores points.

During a roller derby game, each team has one blocker and four jammers.

“The way you want to work through the game is to help your jammer (pass through the blocker) and stop the jammer from the opposing team from getting through,” Vegas said.

A single game typically has two 30 minute periods, which can sometimes last as long as two hours.

To prepare for the game, Cajun Rollergirls practice for two hours, three times a week.

Because the sport is so athletically demanding, some of the ladies compare their training to having a gym membership.

“I canceled my gym membership when I started because it’s a good way to workout,” Hester Serrano said. “It’s a whole lot of endurance training for two hours.”

Serrano is a former team president and newly retired player. While she won’t be jamming through blockers and scoring points this season, she will return to the rink as a referee.

The 35-year-old mother said she loved being on the team, but it became difficult to be a mom and a team member.

“I was president for four years so it’s a lot of commitment,” she said. “I love it. I just can’t commit time to the business side and be a mom.”

Serrano isn’t the only teammate with large responsibilities outside the rink, however.

Some of them are single mothers, teachers, students and librarians. Serrano herself is a parole officer.

The season lasts roughly six months, between March and September with a month break in the middle.

This season the ladies are scheduled to play nine games, with five of them to be played at the Warren J. Harang Municipal Auditorium, 310 N. Canal Blvd., Thibodaux.

“The schedule this year is tough because the teams they’re playing aren’t rebuilding,” Serrano said. “But this is probably the best team of new girls. Their improvement is off the charts.”

Winning isn’t the only thing that this team is focused on, however.

For many of them, joining the team was about building a camaraderie with others.

“It’s very empowering for women,” Serrano said. “We don’t have that here, in fact, many places don’t have that so it’s about bringing in a sport where women can be themselves and be accepted.”

Head Coach Corey Callegan was a huge fan and friend of the team long before he began coaching them.

After watching the team compete over the years, Callegan said the ladies have kept the same spirit.

“They’re pretty intense and serious,” he said. “But it’s a way for them to get out of their every day lives and have a little fun, too.”

The Cajun Rollergirls’ next home match up will be against the Tallahassee Rollergirls April 9.


Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide