By Kelley Christensen
The Montana Standard, Butte.
Empowerment. Athletic training. Personal growth. Volunteering. Positive role modeling.
That’s the mantra of Angela Welles, a Butte nurse who is in the process of founding the Copper City Queens, a roller derby club.
Contrary to derby’s reputation for alligator pits and theatrics, modern roller derby is a sport growing in popularity internationally, with more than 400 clubs worldwide.
Butte is Montana’s only large city without a club.
Welles is setting out to change that, and she’s hosting an informational meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16 at the Hops Pub at the Best Western Butte Plaza Inn to recruit men and women 18 or older to the club. No experience in derby or skating is needed.
“This isn’t a bunch of clowns out there,” Welles said. “It’s not women beating each other to a bloody pulp. These women are athletes and this game is strategy.”
Welles said she hopes the Copper City Queens can grow into a club focused not only on enjoying a growing sport, but also into a club that prioritizes public service.
“This is more than a skating commitment,” she said. “It’s a heck of a workout and a community commitment. My goal for the organization is to give back to the community.”
Roller derby started in the 1920s as skating races. In the 1930s, skating began to evolve into a marathon skating race that emphasized physical collision between participants. By the 1960s the sport had become little more than a joke.
But in the early 2000s, a group of girls in Texas decided to make a sport of it once again. They founded the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the nonprofit governing body of the sport.
And sport it is. The rule book has 50-some pages. Roller derby training camps and competitions are held all over the country. There’s a required skill level for participants to take part in “bouts.”