APEX, N.C. — In 2004, a group of North Carolina women got together to create the Carolina Roller Derby team, which became a founding member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). Twenty years later, the league is not just in action, but growing.

What You Need To Know

  • Both the Women's Flat Track Derby Association and the The Carolina Roller Derby Team will be celebrating their 20th anniversary this Saturday

  • Tickets for this Saturday's doubleheader against River City Virginia can be purchased here

  • A full calendar of Carolina Roller Derby's events can be found here

  • People wishing to get involved with Carolina Roller Derby as a skater, referee or volunteer can head here

In 2004, the WFTDA would sometimes compete at Dorton Arena at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, and this Saturday, the North Carolina squad is returning to action at Dorton Arena to take on River City Virginia in a double-header matchup.

Roller derby as a sport for both men and women has been around longer than some professional sports leagues, like the NBA. The sport was most popular in the 1940's and 1970's, and in the early 21st century, it's picking back up again.

"You can't swing a cat without hitting a league somewhere," Carolina Roller Derby Head Coach and former player Karen Hutcheson said. "I started in 2006, I was a mother of two, 36 years old. Coming into this, I was like, 'I wanna do that, I'm gonna make it happen,' and I made it happen. You have to give it to these athletes, because they're in here, 87 degrees, sometimes in the summer it can get up into the 90's, no air conditioning."

The Carolina Roller Derby team has been providing opportunities for people of all skating levels to not just compete, but also learn about the game. There are many different levels people can compete at, and the sport and team prides itself on being open to anyone. That includes mothers like Deidre Newport, known to her teammates as Fanny-Pack-A-Punch, who has been skating with the team since 2014.

"I never thought I could be physical in a non-contact kind of way. I was a runner before. So I always did individual sports," Newport said. "This is nice. There are moms, but we're cool moms. And then there is students and everybody else. It's not just a sport. It's a community, so I've built long-lasting friendships. And it also came to me at a time where I didn't know how I could be an athlete again."

Newport loves the sport of roller skating, but says she occasionally needs to educate people on the proper lingo of the sport, especially since it's not as mainstream and relevant in popular culture as sports like football or baseball. 

"Usually it will be family who don't know about roller derby, and they'll be like, 'How's the roller blading going?' and I'm like, 'Noooo, mom, it's roller skating,'" Newport said. "You know, it's four wheels in a line, so it's more like ice-skating. We are skating derby, we use quads."

However, educating people on the lingo from the roller skating sport isn't the only teaching that happens thanks to the sport. Newport says taking part in roller skating and having her kids watch her compete in an incredibly physical sport allows her to teach her children valuable life lessons. 

"My daughter is just naturally a little more reserved and timid, and sometimes, she'd be scared to do things, but I say, 'Hey, when you see mommy, and she falls down, what does she do?' And I remember her little [voice], 'gets back up again,'" Newport said.

The Carolina Roller Derby team practices in the Peak Auto warehouse in Apex, North Carolina, on the side of US-64 highway. There's no air conditioning in the building, making skating in the summer very difficult, when temperatures can reach into the high 80s and 90s. However, roller derby has taught these athletes not to give up. That includes promoting the sport through competition and through building the sport as an ambassador. 

Carolina Roller Derby is volunteer-ran, as athletes even pay for their own ability to play. People who are interested in becoming a referee for the league or a volunteer with the team can head to this link

People who are interested in learning more about the sport, whether it be just as a beginner who wants to skate, or someone who wants to help the Carolina Roller Derby team dominate, can head to this link. The spring new skater class is finishing up in a couple of weeks, but a new skater class will begin in the fall. Hutcheson says the team and league is a year-round sport, and there's never a bad time to join in the fun.