Rollin’ with the punches

Story by Anna Soldner

It’s a sport that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Bright colors, old-fashioned roller skates and more attitude than you could fit in your backpack. The Chippewa Valley Roller Girls have been a roller derby team since 2009 and are continuing to grow. Meet three members of the Chippewa Valley Roller Girls — Referee Rich ‘Hard Left’ Harder, Team Captain Jane ‘Call a Doctor’ Munkwitz and roller girl Jennifer ‘Jinx’d Karma’ Zech. Staff writer Anna Soldner met up with them during practice to ask them all about what they do best — having fun, playing fair, and kicking ass.


“Hard Left”

Anna Soldner: How did you first get involved with the Chippewa Valley Roller Girls, and how long have you
been officiating? 

Rick Harder: About a year. A friend and coworker was starting out in derby here and she raved about how much fun it was and said they needed refs. I had a history of skating way back in my past so I came out and watched a couple and just kind of
got hooked.


AS: What’s the meaning behind your name?

RH: Well, as you can see “Harder” is my last name, I’m left handed, and also what do you do when you get to the end of the straight away? You take a
hard left.


AS: Can you explain the basics and objectives of the game?

RH: There are 10 skaters on the track at any given time (five from each team). Four of each team are what are called blockers and they line up towards the front of the straight-away. The two people who wear stars on their helmets are called the jammers and they’re the point-scorers. Their job is to get through the pack as they skate around, lap the whole field and then as they come around for every subsequent pass, every opponent skater that they pass is a point.


AS: How often do you encounter illegal acts of violence or aggression on the rink?

RH: Rarely, if ever. It’s very codified as far as how you can hit and who you can hit and whatnot.  I have only, in my history, seen one skater actually ejected for being flagrant about content. So, again, it’s our job to help enforce those things because we want this to be a safe sport. But obviously there’s twisted ankles and things like that that
happen all the time

AS: What do you love about your job?

RH: First off, I don’t consider this a job at all. I’m doing this totally for fun. It’s not something where we make any money. We have to pay for our equipment, we have to pay for our transportation to away bouts, everything like that. I mean, we don’t do this for money. What do I love about it? I’m skating, I’m interacting, I’ve got a lot of respect for the ladies on the track and the abilities that they present. Just watching them do their thing is very impressive, and it just gets me out of the house!


“Jinx’d Karma”

AS: Do you remember the first time you saw roller derby? What did you think of it?

Jennifer Zech: Yes, I thought it was awesome. Within about 10 minutes I knew I wanted to do it.


AS: How did you first get involved with the Chippewa Valley Roller Girls, and how long have you been playing? 

JZ: They had a ‘Fresh Meat’ meeting the Tuesday after the bout (I saw last February). I started in March of 2011.


AS: Which position do you play? 

JZ: Blocker.


AS: What’s your role as blocker?

JZ: To both assist your own jammer, to get through the pack and block the other jammer.


AS: So on the rink you’re Jinx’d Karma and off the rink you’re Jen Zech. How do you balance your two lives or personas on and off the rink?

JZ: They’re very opposite. In my real life I’m a massage therapist/personal trainer, which is kind of laid back, down-to-earth, easy-going, so this is sort of being on stage. I like being on stage because it allows you to be a very different person than you are in everyday regular life.


AS: Roller derby is an extremely high contact sport. Have you suffered or witnessed any injuries that stick out in your mind? 

JZ: I’ve suffered a couple (laughs). I tore my MCL in my left knee in July, and then I had a concussion two weeks ago.


AS: So if injuries are the worst part, what’s the best part of being a Chippewa Valley Roller Girl? 

JZ: The people on our team. Everybody is really supportive of each other, it’s a really good community of people. We give back to the community which makes me feel really good. There’s a charity for every bout that we donate to, and we do volunteer work with those charities as well. There’s a good balancing aspect. It brings my worlds together.
So supporting the community and then giving back.

AS: What are the most common misconceptions surrounding derby?

JZ: I hear a lot of, ‘Do you get in fights? Do you get punched? Do you clothesline people?’ People think it’s like the old days on TV where it’s very theatrical, but it’s not that.


AS: What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to a new skater joining derby for the first time?

JZ: Come to a ‘Fresh Meat’ meeting;  those are meetings that we hold the first practice of the month for people who are interested. There’s no commitment. And talk to as many of us as you can; we’re all friendly and easygoing and … normal (laughs).


“Call A doctor”

AS: How did you first get involved with the Chippewa Valley
Roller Girls

Jayne Munkwitz: I saw an ad in Volume One newspaper and they (the team) was having their first meeting at a park here in Eau Claire for interested people. I went to that, and I’ve been in it since day one.


 AS: Are there any age, height, or weight requirements in order to be an eligible player?

JM: You do have to be 21 or older. There’s nothing as far as height or weight or anything like that. We
actually will accept refs 18 years or older and they can be male or female.  The only other requirement we have is they have to have
health insurance.


AS: Do you think the 2009 film “Whip It” (starring Ellen Page) is an accurate portrayal of
derby subculture?

JM: No, I really don’t. I mean it was much more violent. There are so many more rules that we have to follow here, and obviously we’re on a flat track not a banked track.


AS: What has been your proudest moment as a captain of the CVRGs?

JM: I think just watching some of the skaters build their skills and start out as a skater where you’re not sure how well they’re going to advance or how well they’re going to do and then come out at the end of the season and be one of your standout players. That’s been pretty neat. That really has nothing to do with me, per se, but the whole team of encouragement that people get from each other here is pretty exciting.