By Beth Eberth
Jennifer (Lindow) Eskin, ’98, admits that she was not an athlete in high school or college. The Quiz Bowl team was more her pace. (And she doesn’t count the pickup softball games with the BV staff or intramural bowling.)
But for the past four years she has pursued a passion for speed as a DC Rollergirl in Washington, D.C.’s roller derby league.
Eskin has always had a love for roller skating. Sporting Fisher-Price skates at the age of 4, she recalls whizzing around her local roller rink.
“As a kid I loved going really, really fast and dodging people,” Eskin said. As an adult, she discovered skating was much more fun than going to the gym a few nights a week.
“I like the speed. I like to go as fast as I humanly can,” she said.
The D.C. derby league was truly a grassroots effort that grew from the enthusiasm of a few women who enjoyed open skate night at a Manassas, Va., rink.
In 2006, a group of young women in the Washington, D.C., area decided to form a roller derby league.
Eskin was one of the league’s original skaters. They started recruiting in January 2006 and had their first season the following spring.
Suited up with helmets, padding and mouth guards, they practiced relentlessly wherever they could — parking garages, community centers and an indoor sports complex.
“We held multiple fundraisers, formed a functioning non-profit organization, courted sponsors, and wooed the press,” Eskin explained.
The results, she says, speak for themselves.
The DC Rollergirls have completed four home seasons of inner-league play before ever-increasing audiences. Their most recent bouts were attended by more than 2,000 fans at the historic D.C. Armory.
The DC Rollergirls league consists of three teams — The DC DemonCats, Cherry Blossom Bombshells and Scare Force One. The teams compete during a local season, then the league sports an all-star team that competes along the East Coast. The DC All-Stars are ranked 10th in the East by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association and regularly take on other teams from the U.S. and Canada.
Rollergirls play under quirky names, and Eskin is no different.
As Blonde Fury, Eskin jammed her way through three seasons with the DC DemonCats, and proudly helped her team take home last season’s DC Rollergirls League championship trophy. She was selected to represent DC as an all-star, and was her team’s MVP during a tournament bout last summer against Cleveland.
As an undergrad, Eskin worked tirelessly on the BV, holding positions such as features and copy desk editors. A visual arts and English double-major, paired with an internship at The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts her senior year, Eskin said she learned a lot about public relations and the mechanisms for working with the press.
This served her well in her role as media relations chair of the DC Rollergirls organization.
“I wrote releases, created press kits, facilitated interviews, and worked with reporters and photographers on bout day to ensure they got what they needed and our league was consistently represented in the best light. During my three seasons in this position, the DC Rollergirls were featured by prominent media such as the Washington Post, the Washington Times, and WTOP radio, as well as Washington’s FOX, ABC, and CBS affiliate television stations,” she said.
“I’ve always been proud of the media exposure we’ve received. We’ve tried hard to stress that this is a sport. It’s not fake. This is all very real; we have skill requirements and training. A lot of hard work and athleticism goes into it. Everyone is trained. No one plays without passing a battery of tests,” she said.
Eskin went to Carnegie Mellon for grad school and now works in the Partnership Division of the National Endowment for the Arts in D.C.
Colleagues from work and her other hobby — playing guitar in her church choir — are “definitely surprised” when they learn she’s a roller derby player.
That’s one of the reasons she loves the sport. Everyone — regardless of age, body size or occupation — can find a niche.
“We have stay-at-home mothers, teachers, military personnel, federal employees, artists, psychologists, archivists and bakers,” said Eskin.
The sometimes saucy names and outfits are just part of the skaters’ alter egos.
“It’s a chance to express their individuality and express a persona they don’t get to in everyday life,” she said.
Eskin’s appearance in the East Coast Derby Extravaganza tournament last June was her last as a skater — for now. As a new-mom-to-be, she’s hung up her skates and picked up a clipboard, coaching the DemonCats to their next championship appearance.
Roller derby remains her passion. Her baby already has a T-shirt testifying, “My Mom Skates Faster Than Your Mom” as well as a roller derby name — “Bald Fury.”
| Understanding a Roller Derby Bout:
• Each roller derby game, called a bout, is composed of 60 minutes of play divided into two periods of 30 minutes played between two teams. A play is called a jam and lasts up to 2 minutes.
• Each team will have about 14 skaters on its bench.
• Each team puts five skaters on the track: four are the blockers and behind them is the jammer.
• The blockers from both teams skate together in a “pack,” while the jammer must get through the pack. Blockers protect their team's jammer while impeding the opposing jammer.
• If a jammer is the first to get through the pack without any penalty, she’s known as the lead jammer and can call off the play to prevent her opponent from scoring.
• For every opposing player the jammer laps, her team earns a point. The team with the most points at the end of the bout wins.