Featured League: State College Area Roller Derby

Located in the heart of Pennsylvania (USA) and becoming a full WFTDA league member in just 2015, State College Area Roller Derby (SCAR Derby) has wasted no time on flexing their muscle on the track! After jumping 80 spots in the WFTDA rankings last year, SCAR Derby has shown that hard work and dedication isn’t just for established leagues. Learn more about what SCAR Derby has in store for this season and the people behind the scenes that make all the action happen.

Where are you located?
We are located in State College, PA — home of the Pennsylvania State University. State College is smack dab in the center of Pennsylvania.

When was your league formed?
We began organizing and practicing in October 2010. We held our first home team game in February 2011 and debuted our travel team in August 2011.

When did you join WFTDA?
We were accepted to the WFTDA Apprentice Program in January 2014, at the beginning of our fourth season.

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Tina Letter Photography

When did you graduate from the Apprentice Program?
We graduated to become a full WFTDA Member League in March 2015.

How does your season run?
We have a tradition of starting each season in February with a home team game we call the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. We also usually have an outdoor game in July and cap the season off with a third intraleague game in November or early December. In between, we try to schedule one or two games a month for our travel teams. This year we are excited to participate in several doubleheaders to maximize play time for all of our skaters. We typically welcome two Fresh Meat classes each year — one in the spring and another in the fall. We don’t really believe in an off-season; we would miss each other too much!

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Being smack dab in the middle of nowhere somehow works out to being close to everywhere. A major selling point of our community and the university is that we are located in this beautiful, somewhat rural area while still being just a short drive from most of the major metropolitan areas in the Northeast. We’re less than two hours away from Harrisburg Area Roller Derby and Dutchland Derby Rollers, and just a three to four hour drive from Steel City Roller Derby, Philly Roller Derby, Eerie Roller Girls, Wilkes-Barre Scranton Roller Radicals, and at least a half dozen other awesome leagues just inside Pennsylvania — and twice as many in surrounding states.

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have roughly 45 skaters who make up our two home teams and two travel teams. We are also blessed with five member refs and a host of awesome NSOs and volunteers like our amazing EMTs and announcers.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
All skaters who have successfully completed fresh meat and passed their MSRs are drafted to one of our two home teams: the Mt. Nittany Mayhem or the Pennsyltucky Punishers. (Keep an eye out for the addition of a third home team to accommodate our growing numbers!) From those skaters we draft our two WFTDA interleague teams: our A-level team, the Happy Valley Dolls, and our B-level team, Plan B.

Our league is run by an elected board of directors consisting of nine positions, including head coach. Each board member is in charge of various appointed committee heads and their committees. We hold yearly elections for all board positions.

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Juan Paden

Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you’ve played them?
The Roc City B-Sides hosted us in our first Dolls game, six years ago, and we’ve loved them ever since. Roc City has been a great Big Sister league and we have learned so much from them, on the track and off. We have played the B-Sides every season and lost every time until last season when we finally beat them. Their skaters are always a blast and their league is a great role model.

We have a great rivalry with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals. They were also one of the first teams we ever played and they became a full WFTDA league member about the same time we did. We have played each other most seasons, sometimes twice, and it’s usually a tough, close game. Now we have transfers of theirs and they have transfers of ours, which just makes it even more fun to battle it out.

Do you have any sister/brother/junior leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Our big sister league is Roc City Roller Derby. We have learned so much from them about our sport and the roller derby community. They wrote our Letter of Eligibility for the WFTDA Apprentice program. They are great friends and great role models.

We consider ourselves a big sister league to Northern Allegheny Roller Derby. They started a couple of seasons after us and have grown into a tough team. We’re happy to be involved with their continuing success and look forward to helping them enter the WFTDA Apprentice Program.

What are some of the unique challenges of your home town?
Being a college town provides us with unique challenges. The area has a largely transient population. Most people only live here for 2-4 years, a lot of times we’re lucky if we get a full season or two out of any skater that joins our league. All too often, our skaters move away just as they are starting to really “get” roller derby. It’s awesome to see our alums thriving elsewhere but we wish we were able to utilize the talent we helped cultivate! The turnover leaves us with a sizable gap in experience level amongst our skaters. But the transient community works to our benefit, as well, as we luck into some really talented transfer skaters. This year alone we have welcomed: Scott #10 from East Lansing Roller Derby, Lucifer Ace #18 (formally Bassler) from Dutchland Derby Rollers, Disaster Girl #911 from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals, Smash-n-Dash #34 from Hazard County Hellions (a MADE league), Owl-Wreckya #000 from Rainforest Roller Girls (in Alaska). We even had Flying Tomato #19 come back to us after skating with San Diego Derby Dolls.

Another issue is that because our town is built around a huge university with its own large sports and entertainment venues, the outlying community doesn’t have much to offer us in terms of civic or community sports facilities. The constant demand for student housing keeps real estate and building prices high, making it very hard to find a suitable space we could purchase or even rent full time. We are fortunat

e to have a local roller rink for our practice space and game venue. However this means we’re subject to their open skate and private party schedule. Most of our home games are set up, played, and torn down within a tight three-hour window between open skating sessions.

Our game schedule is planned around the Penn State calendar and sporting events to ensure our ability to field a roster and fill seats. SCAR Derby doesn’t host a home game on the same weekend as a Penn State Football home game. Besides the obvious competition for an audience, all area hotels are booked up over a year in advance. Even traveling on a home football weekend is a challenge, as many of our skaters have unavoidable work obligations on those weekends. Various other university and community events pose the same challenges.

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Juan Paden

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have mandatory two-hour practices on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Mondays are our scrimmage nights and Wednesdays are more for skill building. We occasionally have optional Sunday morning practices or scrimmages dubbed “derby church.” Sunday evening practices are for fresh meat but are open to more advanced skaters looking for additional rink time. In general, everyone except fresh meat practices together. When we have an upcoming game, we tailor our scrimmages and drills to help prepare our travel teams.

What are your biggest training challenges?
One of our biggest challenges is the large gap in experience level we see because of our community’s transient nature. Our league is made up of a mix of veteran skaters who have been with us since the beginning (or close to it) and skaters who have been with us for less than two years. In our limited and shared practice time, it is a struggle to design training that challenges the experienced skaters without overwhelming the newer skaters.

Many of our skaters are college students and some return home or travel for winter break and the summer months. This can mean little to no practice for weeks or even months at a time, which is especially detrimental to new skaters who are very susceptible to the summer slide. We see many promising skaters struggle to progress because of these breaks in training.

Tell us about your training facilities:
Our practice and game facility is our local roller skating rink, Penn Skates. It has a temperamental coated concrete floor that seems like a completely different surface from week to week depending on the weather and humidity. The actual skating floor is very large with plenty of space for a standard track and room on each end for additional practice space. We periodically assist the rink staff in resurfacing the floor, which allows us to have our track permanently painted onto the floor, making scrimmage practice and game set-up much easier.

Where do you hold your public games?
Most of our home games take place at Penn Skates. We also hold a yearly game — and the occasional practice — at the State College YMCA’s outdoor skating rink.

Last year we got the chance to skate an exhibition game in the shadow of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium as part of Central PA 4th Fest. We are excited to do it again this year!

Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
Our head coach loves to look at stats, so based on our 2016 season here are some skaters who really stood out:

Kyssing Kaos #80 was our “MVP jammer”

The Ovarian Fyst #420 was awarded our “Best Defensive Player” and “MVP Blocker”

Em Munition #16 was our “Best Offensive Player”.

Claire Violent #6 was awarded our “Cleanest Player” with only 8 penalties across 9 games.

Danni Savage #69 and Anya Arson #0 were awarded “Best Blocking Duo” last season and also recently represented our league on The PA All-Stars Roller Derby team at The Battle of the All-Stars “State Tournament”.

Zombabe #75 in her first season was voted “Dolls MVP” by her teammates. Dubbed “Paper Mario”, Zombabe came to us from Orange County Roller Derby where she skated for their junior team. We hope she is the first of many junior derby graduates drawn to Penn State and SCAR Derby.

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Neil Briggs

Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
We have six founding members still actively skating with our league who have all committed years of hard work to our organization. Blackout Betty and the Ovarian Fyst have both served as league president and head coach. Danni Savage’s artistic instinct makes our league’s creative some of the coolest around. Em Munition and Suenami have served in multiple board of director positions and as team captains. Chris Brace has been an amazing asset, serving as our head coach for two years and as head referee for several seasons.

Longtime member LaSassin’s work as treasurer was invaluable to completing our journey to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. She also maintained her position as league president throughout her recent pregnancy. She’s currently a huge asset in our mission to gain more sponsors.

Without our non-skating officials and volunteers we wouldn’t be where we are today. Our dedicated EMT, Ray Masters, attends Monday scrimmages, home games, and even travels with our team to away games. He coordinates our EMT staff for all of our home events and his wife, Ellen Houser, is one of our biggest fans. Mark “Mongo the Geek” and Ida “Stacked and Whacked” Lively are two of our longtime NSOs who are a reliable duo for our home games as well as some travel games. Jim “Papa” Zuck has remained a loyal videographer and fan for our home games, even after his daughter transferred to DC Rollergirls.

Our league strives to keep everyone involved in different ways. Through the use of committees and task forces, everyone in our league contributes to our overall success in different ways. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our awesome SCAR Derby family.

What are some of your league’s biggest accomplishments?
Becoming a 501(c)(3) and a full WFTDA Member League were both the culmination of years of work by many people.

In 2016, we were prominently featured as part of Central PA’s 4th Fest, one of the nation’s largest Independence Day celebrations and firework shows.

As a newly minted WFTDA league, we played two games in our first WFTDA tournament at ECDX 2015.

We’re also very proud of all of the skaters who got their start with SCAR Derby and have since gone on to be successful with other leagues. You can find SCAR alumni skating all across the country! Here are the WFTDA leagues where our former league-mates have found new homes:

Angel City Derby Girls
Boston Roller Derby
DC Rollergirls
Greenville Derby Dames
Harrisburg Area Roller Derby
Junction City Roller Dolls
Mason-Dixon Roller Vixens
Nashville Rollergirls
New Hampshire Roller Derby
Peninsula Roller Girls
Philly Roller Derby
Rat City Rollergirls
Sick Town Derby Dames
SoCal Derby
Steel City Roller Derby
Suburbia Roller Derby
Treasure Valley Roller Derby
Vette City Roller Derby
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals
Windy City Rollers

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Tina Letter Photography

You just completed an extraordinarily successful 2016 season where we jumped 80 spots in rankings! What were some of the concentrated efforts to make that jump happen, and who were some of the key people a part of that effort?
We really concentrated our efforts on working as a team and updating our formation and strategy. Head coach Blackout Betty created practices that involved repeating concepts and cumulative drills to reinforce strategies and keep us focused. 2016 Dolls Captains, Em Munition and Kyssing Kaos, were also instrumental in building competitive rosters and lines to really bring this strategy to life and bring us together as a cohesive team. We focused on sending out skaters who played well together, based on what we would see during our scrimmages and practices in the weeks leading up to our games. We were also constantly evaluating the success of our strategy during gameplay; if something wasn’t working for us, we adapted. Using statistics was also a large component of deciding our jammer rotation, making sure that we were using our strongest jammers throughout the season.

Through this leadership, and with the help of our Plan B captain Placid Acid #0260, the entire league stepped up their play and worked hard to contribute to the success of the Dolls and make for a fun 2016 season. The captains and coach provided skater feedback on a regular basis and our skaters were amazingly receptive. Not only did they graciously accept the feedback, but they also used it to take their skating to the next level. With this feedback being applied on every level, we were also fortunate enough to have talent developing on our B team, always ready to integrate with our A team. We had a great mix of seasoned talent and fresh energy that has continued to expand, leading into the 2017 season.

Do you have any big games and/or other tournaments coming up that you are looking forward to in 2017?
We are excited to have four doubleheaders on the schedule for this season. This creates a lot of opportunity for our skaters of all levels. The Happy Valley Dolls have an exciting year ahead and will finally be taking on ROC City’s Roc Stars after 6 match-ups against their B-Sides! Additionally, the Dolls will be playing in the River Valley Riot tournament hosted by Ohio Valley Roller Girls this coming November. Plan B will be taking on the B-Sides from Roc City for the first time, as well as making their debut at ECDX, hosted by Philly Roller Derby.

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Tina Letter Photography

July will be a busy month of home events for SCAR Derby. We will be returning to the Central PA 4th Fest for the Parade of Heroes and to showcase our talent on the track. For the first time, we will be hosting a Sur5al challenge tournament that will be open to skaters from other leagues.

We are eager to see where 2017 will take us!

Do you have any video footage from games or other events that you would like to share? Please provide a link to the footage and any content for viewers.
Mannequin Challenge! We like to have some fun at the beginning or end of practice to keep our fans entertained in between games.

Happy Valley Dolls vs. Diamond State Roller Derby

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
105.9 QWIK Rock, a local radio station, is one of our favorite sponsors to work with. Their DJs always know how to guide the radio interviews to highlight the inclusive and competitive nature of our league. They bring us along to their PR events, including several parades around the area in the summer months. They currently sponsor our penalty box and we look forward to working with them for years to come.

The State College YMCA is almost like a second home. They allow us to use their outdoor facilities to practice in the weeks leading up to our annual outdoor events.

Maggie Yesko Photography knows how to make our league look good. Current league member, Rigor Moretits, is also a photographer who takes beautiful headshots of our skaters that are both tough and lighthearted.

State College Area Roller Derby - WFTDA Featured League
Photo by Maggie Yesko Photography

Do you have a special message for your fans?
Thank you, thank you! We love our fans — from the die hard fans wearing their favorite SCAR Derby merch at every game to our first-time fans trying to understand the sport. To our youngest supporters: you are the future of our sport, and there is nothing better than being asked for an autograph at the end of the game. We are honored to have the support of our fans; they keep us skating! As SCAR Derby continues to grow, our hope is to build our fan base, to continue involvement in our community, and to increase awareness of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.