Love, skating and bruises

Jessie Fisher shares how roller derby has become more than just a hobby for her and many of her teammates

By Todd Travis

Roller derby makes its comeback

Roller derby has had somewhat of a resurgence since its heyday in the early to mid- 1900s. Some recent popularity came with the release of the 2009 movie “Whip It”, featuring a star-studded cast of actors highlighting the high-contact sport. Jessie Fisher, an A-Level player for “The Socialites” in the Circle City Roller Derby league, got involved in the sport around that time. Back then she was skating under the name “Juke Skywalker” although today she just skates under her real name. “It was like the Wild West back then because there wasn’t regulations on gear and wearing helmets all the time. Now we have it down to a science as more skaters begin to join the leagues,” Fisher shared.

An evolving sport

The sport has had quite an evolution that many people may not realize. “It’s grown from something that people remember from the ’70s with staged matches and fights. It’s not that way today. We don’t know who’s going to win and we’re not out there elbowing each other. So when people come to a match, they realize that and appreciate the entertainment just because it’s a real sport. It’s intense in a good way and not in a staged way,” Fisher mentioned. “There’s still really hard hits, fast skating and unfortunately, injuries too. But there’s strategy to it and rules we have to abide by. It’s definitely not cat fights and things like that,” she added.

The Battle of the B’s on June 4. (Photo by Greg Dunn)

More than a hobby

Roller derby is an amateur sport that welcomes players of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds. But it is not a sport for the faint of heart. “For a lot of us, it’s a game of attrition. Some people within their first year of skating realize they can’t make the time commitment, or they have an injury that they don’t come back from. Some people realize they’re not into a full contact sport – they’re really into it until they get hit for the first time,” Fisher explained. “For those of us who stick around long-term, it just becomes part of who you are. For me, after a couple years of just enjoying the fun, I started working a full-time job and maintaining a home and it became my release,” she continued. Today, Fisher maintains her commitment to derby while balancing family responsibilities as a full-time parent. “Roller derby has been a wonderful thing to have in my life. It’s a sense of community that can be hard to find as an adult,” she described.

Circle City Roller Derby. (Photo by Cori Arkins)

Circle City Roller Derby is the first league to get back to public bouting in Indiana after the pandemic. “We’re the lucky ones because we came out of Covid with our space still, where a lot of leagues had to give it up because of financial reasons. Our league prioritized and paid our monthly dues throughout the pandemic so we could pay our rent. We knew the likelihood to find a space after the pandemic would be nearly impossible, so we doubled down and made sure that was a priority,” Fisher said. “Now, all the leagues in Indianapolis skate at our practice facility.” The league also remains dedicated in supporting their partner, Rock Steady Boxing, that uses boxing as a method to help people who have Parkinson’s.

Spectate, support or join a league

Circle City will have a new member workshop in October. “We literally start everybody from scratch. They have their own dedicated practice for a month where they learn basic skating skills and derby 101. Once you’ve completed that workshop you can choose to become a member of the league,” Fisher explained.

Jessie Fisher. (Photo by Greg Dunn)

The next game will be Saturday, July 23 at Perry Park. The first game will be at 6 p.m. with the Socialites matching up against Gem City Roller Derby from Dayton, Ohio. Following that game will be the B-Team game where the Party Crashers will face the Glass City Rollers of Toledo, Ohio. For more information on the Circle City Roller Derby league, visit CircleCityRollerDerby.com.