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“If I am capable, anyone can do it,” she said. “All they have to do is not give up. Don’t give up. And push yourself. That’s the only way it will happen.” — GingerDread

“Our team is made up of professionals, including engineers and environmental scientists, stay at home moms and full time students, young adults and grandmothers,” said Lauren Fackler, who goes by the roller derby name GingerDread. “Many of us have little in common except derby, but that all fades away when we’re together. Whether we’re suffering together during endurance drills, encouraging each other when practicing new drills or skills, working hard while volunteering or promoting or partying after a bout, it feels like family and we’re always having fun and supporting one another.”

The team will once again be supporting one another at their next bout, or game, on Saturday, May 18 at the Rink DeLand, 1779 N Spring Garden Ave, DeLand. Tickets are $5 with online pre-sales. Kids under 12 are free with a paid adult. Tickets are $8 at the door. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18.

GingerDread and the rest of Thunder City Derby Sirens will be kicking off their season that day.

“I have a lot more nerves going into the first bout,” Fackler said. “But once it starts, that mostly goes away. As the season goes on it gets easier and easier.”

The simplified rules for a bout features a team of five women from each team. Four are “blockers” and one is the “jammer.” The designated jammer has to break through the blockers of the opposing team. For each opposing team member the jammer passes that team scores a point. There are two, 30-minutes halves which include a multitude of 2-minute “jams” followed by a short break to shuffle the lineup on the marked oval course in the middle of the rink.

Fackler is one of the blockers for the Thunder City Derby Sirens, and if anyone doubts that derby is a sport, she would be quick to correct them.

“They obviously haven’t ever watched roller derby,” Fackler said. “We sweat entirely too much.”

The team sweats on and off the track on a regular basis. Not only do they compete with other teams, but they train every week. They have team practices about five hours a week, plus they throw in a trail skate or skatepark outing when they can.

“We encourage all skaters to cross train weekly,” Fackler said. “I belong to a boxing gym and workout there twice a week as well with a few of my teammates.”

The camradorie the team experiences isn’t limited just to their teammates.

At a bout, the Sirens will battle it out, fighting for all they are worth to compete against the rival team. But as soon as the final whistle blows, those two teams look more like long lost friends than enemies, each hugging one another.

“I think it’s something that is not common in other sports and sets a great example to younger athletes,” Fackler/GingerDread said. “My daughter couldn’t believe it after watching a bout, how serious we are out on the track, but then friendly with the other team for group pictures and the after party. I think that was a huge lesson for her. We take our sport and opponents seriously, even being violent at times, but we can all be friends afterwards.”

GingerDread and the Sirens may be inspiring younger athletes, but the team can also encourage older individuals to take a chance on the sport. She had been introduced to the sport years ago when a friend and she decided to attend a roller derby bout in Asheville.

“We had no idea what was going on, but I remember telling my friend that I should’ve played roller derby when I was younger,” GingerDread said.

She had no idea she still could play, and wouldn’t realize that fact until she moved to Florida and saw a Facebook post by the Thunder City Derby Sirens. One post said, “You are never too old to play roller derby” and another one said, “Your never too out of shape to play roller derby.:

“Those were my two excuses for not pursuing it, so I felt like this was speaking specifically to me,” GingerDread said. “I thought my husband would think I was insane, but when I finally mentioned it to him, he was so ecstatic! He said he thought that this was something that had been missing from my life.”

After Fackler went out for the team, she found herself training and building up her skills. But the power of roller derby is not just a physical one. It helps many people feel empowered.

“Being a part of this team has helped me build self-confidence, become more extroverted and gain leadership skills,” GingerDread said.

GingerDread sees the same empowerment in other players.

“It’s amazing to see how far everyone has come,” she said. “Watching newbies learn skills and gain confidence is an easy thing to see. But watching the entire team progress and get better and better is so much fun. Just watching bouts from last season compared to this season shows the progress. We have quite a few introverted skaters and to see them come out of their shells is the most amazing thing. Watching those more introverted skaters step up into leadership is so much fun.”

Every new recruit has to come up with a derby name though when they join, and GingerDread was no exception. But how did she come up with her name?

“I knew it had to be something to do with my read hair and dreads,” Fackler said. “I’ve been called Ginger before… (and) dread also means fear, so GingerDread seemed like a great fit.”

New recruits not only create new names, but they take on other roles within the Thunder City Derby Sirens structure. It’s not just about playing on the track.

“The teams are skater run, just like a business,” GingerDread said. “We have committees and board of directors. We all pay dues and every single skater has a job and responsibilities. There is so much work that happens on a daily basis, that for some of us, it is like having a part-time job. I am so proud of the fact that we re a 501c3 and have been able to donate thousands of dollars this year and countless volunteer hours to support other local organizations.”

The team has a wide variety of positions where anyone can jump in and help.

And if anyone has any doubts, Falker says they need to forget them.

“If I am capable, anyone can do it,” she said. “All they have to do is not give up. Don’t give up. And push yourself. That’s the only way it will happen.”

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