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Hell Betties shred in Athens County
While the looming winter weather has forced many students to bundle up, a small contingent of women have been working up a sweat in Nelsonville in preparation for the coming roller derby season.
The Appalachian Hell Betties have begun preparing for their 2013 season by holding weekly informal practice sessions on Sunday and Tuesday evenings in Dow’s Rollarena in Nelsonville. In January, the team will also hold a set of clinics and a tryout for prospective recruits.
Started in 2010 by Jessica Beckford, the Hell Betties have slowly become a local favorite among Athens County residents.
After packing a thawed Bird Arena with roller derby fans from around the area during one of last summer’s bouts, the Hell Betties are now looking to match their gradual growth in popularity with an expanded roster.
Loran Marsan, an Athens resident and Ohio University professor teaching women’s and gender studies, has been with the team since October 2011. She said that the Hell Betties are setting the bar low for new recruits in order to promote women with a passion — or even curiosity — for the game to join.
“They don’t even have to know how to skate to get into (the Hell Betties),” Marsan said. “If they’re dedicated and want to try, we definitely want to have space for these players on the team.”
The Hell Betties will look to strike another deal with Ohio men’s hockey head coach and Bird Arena director Dan Morris to rent and convert the rink for upcoming practices and bouts. The venue, a drastic improvement over the limitations of the aging Dow’s, proved beneficial for the team last season.
Morris, who estimated last season’s price tag for renting Bird at “between $6,000 and $7,000,” said that he is interested in hosting the Hell Betties for their next season because it provides him an opportunity to support something important to Athens County.
“When the Hell Betties are here, students are not, so their reach is entirely to the community and they do a great job with it,” Morris said.
To pay the fee for using Bird Arena, the team holds fundraisers, said Corina Hurley, who joined the team last March. This year’s fundraiser is still in its early planning stages.
Halfway through January — the exact dates are yet to be decided — the Hell Betties will host four “Fresh Meat Clinics.” These meetings will provide interested newcomers an opportunity to learn the rules and requirements of roller derby, as well as an introduction to some of the sport’s basic skills.
Following these clinics will be team tryouts, where women of all ages can come and attempt to earn a spot on the roster. Marsan said new recruits “may or may not be tested on limited skill sets taught in the clinics.”
Membership on the team carries a $20 price tag, which helps to cover renting practice space.
Sallie Sauber, an Athens resident and 1991 OU graduate in communications, first became a fan of the Hell Betties after watching a home bout last June. She had been learning the ins and outs of roller derby this past summer, and is working to become a member in January.
She said that while she has had difficulty keeping up with the younger “spring chickens” on the team at age 43, the experience has been rewarding up to this point.
“Everybody on the team has each others’ backs,” Sauber said. “It’s empowering, encouraging and it’s a place that I’ve never been before — it’s nice to have that experience and sisterhood in my life.”