‘A small but mighty team’
Looking for a fun community event involving an exciting, full-contact sport? Look no further – roller derby is the place for you.
Two Rivers Roller Derby is a nonprofit, inclusive, flat track roller derby league serving Eastern Pennsylvania and Northwest New Jersey.
“We aim to provide a haven of athleticism, sportsmanship and fun,” boasts the league’s Facebook page.
The league was launched in 2012 and is comprised of women ranging in ages from late teens to their forties.
“We started out as two women with an overwhelming passion for the sport of roller derby, and we have grown in numbers over the years,” according to Christine Marto, 2RRD president, nicknamed Apocalypse Frau.
“It was brought to life as a league to create a space where anyone could succeed at roller derby, feel a part of something positive and have fun while pursuing their athletic goals,” said Jessica McGinley, team vice president, nicknamed Alexandra Slamilton.
Rachael Ross, a skater from Whitehall, nicknamed Likeaross, joined the league in 2015 after moving to the area from Pittsburgh.
“Having recently moved to a new place where I knew very few people, the opportunity to gain such a huge community overnight was too good to pass up,” she said of her first recruitment event. Ross rowed crew in college and missed the team element.
“I had no idea that by joining Two Rivers Roller Derby, I would gain not only a team, but also a family,” she said.
She remembered her first official bout with the team in 2016; despite being nervous, she felt a sense of security surrounded by her teammates and seasoned derby veterans. She spent the next few years growing and learning as much as she could, and in 2018, she joined the coaching ranks. Ross then took on the role of head of athletics. She continues to work with the coaching committee to help increase strategy and the athleticism of the team.
Ross said she enjoys the community aspect of the league.
She has been able to “adventure throughout the Lehigh Valley and experience so many things [she] never would have without the team.”
Some examples include taking part in the Easton Halloween parade, the Warren County fair and other community events.
“Joining roller derby pushes you to explore past your comfort zone in the most rewarding way,” she said, adding that she enjoys bonding with her teammates while traveling for away games.
McGinley, of Bethlehem, joined the league in 2017. She first became interested in roller derby while living in Philadelphia. It was not until seeing an advertisement for a 2RRD recruitment event that she felt she could participate, and she remembers walking into a room of friendly and encouraging faces.
“I’d played sports my entire life, so I considered myself athletic, but there was quite a learning curve with skates on my feet,” McGinley said. “Our coaches were wonderful about teaching us rookie skaters how to stay on our feet and master the skills crucial to being able to play roller derby.”
She began practicing in February 2017, played her first game in July 2017 and was awarded her first MVP award at a bout in August 2017.
“Coming into this sport with little knowledge and almost no skating experience to getting an MVP award in my first season was a great esteem boost and made me fall even more in love with the sport,” McGinley said.
As of 2019, the 2RRD is a fully ranked Women’s Flat Track Derby Association member. The worldwide association offers benefits and support to member and affiliate leagues and provides guidance and resources to the sport of flat track derby. According to McGinley, the league has about 20 skaters, which is on the smaller side. They are constantly recruiting and looking for new skaters, officials, volunteers and fans.
“We are the definition of a small but mighty team,” Ross said.
“We’re very proud of the way that our teammates build each other up and empower each other constantly,” McGinley said.
Roller derby is a great support system – and not just locally. The WFTDA is a worldwide association, and McGinley makes sure to check in on the local derby leagues when she has to travel for work.
“To date, I’ve practiced with leagues in Denver and Florida and attended clinics taught by the highest level skaters from New York City, Texas, California and Canada,” she said. “It has been great to see different coaching and training styles.”
She even reminisced about meeting a derby skater in Belgium.
“It was lovely to meet skaters from another country who share the same passion for the sport that I do,” she said. “It was thrilling to see how their facilities and games differ from our own.”
The only real negative McGinley noted about the sport is the potential for injury since it is a full-contact sport. She said she is sidelined for the remainder of this season and potentially next season due to a knee injury.
“I’m grateful for the friendships and for learning how strong I am and can be,” McGinley said. “It’s been a truly wonderful experience, and I’m so excited to get back to skating once I’m cleared following my knee surgeries.”
“Becoming a part of this team has taught me so much about myself and exactly how strong and resilient I can be,” Ross said.
She added how proud she is to be part of an organization so focused on empowering women.
2RRD started its home season with a bout June 29. There is another home bout July 27.
The annual FUN bout – a themed, mix-up scrimmage featuring skaters from neighboring leagues with a menu of game-altering options to choose from – is scheduled for Aug. 17.
All the home bouts start 6 p.m. and are held at Bethlehem Ice Rink, 345 Illicks Mill Road.
The team is all set up in its new practice space – the former Old Navy at Phillipsburg Mall.
For more information on the team, check out the 2RRD website, tworiversrollerderby.com.