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As a roller derby player, Michelle Crescente knows that derby can be hard, painful and time consuming. But the rewards are immeasurable.

“It took me two years and a broken ankle before I was able to become rostered and I wouldn’t change that even if I could,” said Crescente, who plays for the DeLand-based Thunder City Derby Sirens. “All the cheers and celebrations I’ve shared with my friends – friends I had before and friends I made through the team — all of the encouragement, all of the new experiences, all of the things I’ve learned about myself, it’s one hundred percent worth every tear and every drop of sweat.”

Crescente, joined the team in August of 2016 and goes by the derby name Gorificus.


Gorificus plays the blocker position for the team.

“If you’re someone like me who was never particularly active, it can be frustrating trying to make your body do things it’s never really done before, and it’s not something that has to happen overnight,” she said. “Confidence has been one of my biggest challenges throughout my experience in derby. It’s one thing to know that you can perform a sill or move, it’s another thing to feel confidence enough to do it without thinking or realizing you’re doing it.”

But Crescente has built her confidence and skills up thanks to her teammates.

“Luckily, (Thunder City Derby Sirens) is full of people who can be overwhelmingly understanding and are always trying to help everyone do their best,” Crescente said. “And practice until their feet are numb to help make everyone a better skater.”

It’s an environment Crescente has grown stronger in since joining the team thanks an old high school friend, Ashley Johnson. She had run into Johnson from her DeLand High School days, and Johnson was a part of the Thunder City Derby Sirens at the time.

“I was immediately awed and jealous,” Crescente said. “She told me that the team was having their recruit night the following week, and I was like, ‘That’s it, I have to go!’ I’d seen the movie ‘Whip It,’ and I was just thinking that it would be so cool to do something like that, but was it was really out of my personality: I’ve never been daring or anything close to athletic.”

But Crescente was determined to try for the team.

“I convinced as many of my friends as I could to go with me to the recruit, hoping that not being completely surrounded by strangers would make it easier and more comfortable,” Crescente said. “Thinking back on it, I did so much worse that I expected or hoped I would do, I have no clue why I kept going back, because, again, it was very out of character for me, but I’m so glad that I did.”

Along the way, Crescente has also had the support of her husband, Richard.

“Luckily, my husband is very supportive of my playing derby,” Crescente said. “He’ll come to games and open team events and has even said that’ll drive to games that are three plus hours away so that I don’t have to drive home tired after playing if I don’t want to spend the night.”

It can be quite the juggle with all the responsibilities roller derby involves. Teams not only have hours of practice, but also operate the team like a business. 

Unlike some sports, the team doesn’t have a team owner… they actually “own” the team, and all the work that goes into keeping the team functioning. That can include anything from venue booking, promotions and lining up teams to compete with.

“Whenever there are stretches of time when I have a lot of extra derby related things to do, (Richard) just tells me he feels he hasn’t seen me in a while and we make time,” Crescente said. “There are other times when I decide to skip going on a trail skate or open skate if I know he doesn’t have any plans and we could do something together instead. Support, good communication and willingness to compromise are crucial to any relationship, but even more so when one of the parties is committed to something that can be so time consuming. Your partner is your teammate too.”


Roller derby can be an incredibly time consuming sport, with teams not only having to have hours of practice, but also operating the team like a business.

Unlike some sports, the team doesn’t have a team owner… they actually “own” the team, and all the work that goes into keeping the team functioning. That can include anything from venue booking, promotions and lining up teams to compete with.

“Nothing about roller derby is easy,” said Laura Jordan, who goes by the roller derby name  SiNnamon Roll  and plays for the DeLand-based Thunder City Derby Sirens. “The skating is exhausting, the time commitment is hard, it’s financially draining, dealing with all the personalities is hard. That being said, it’s very rewarding if you stick with it. You will find out more about yourself then you ever imagined and what you are capable of.”

The work required to participate in derby can be stressful though, and some of the derby players’ significant others can feel left out. Those individuals are known as “derby widows.”

“I remember my husband saying, ‘I didn’t sign up for this,’” Jordan said. “He meant me being gone all the time and having all these new responsibilities. I became vice president after being with the team for four months. I remember him coming to my first game and being miserable. He had no idea what was going on, he didn’t know anyone, it was all so new to him.”


But, like many derby widows, her husband, Jeremy, gravitated to the sport himself.

“What he did see was how much I loved it and how important it was to me, so he decided to get involved,” Jordan said. “He learned derby, the rules, strategy and knows most of the players by derby name. For the last few years he’s been our team photographer and more recently, this season, he’s been our bout videographer. He’s the face behind some of our promo videos and bout recap videos.”

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.

Jordan plays the blocker position and has been a part of the team since 2013.

“I have skated my entire life,” Jordan said. “I grew up in a small town in south Florida where the entertainment options were movies or skating and I always chose skating. When I moved her to go the University of Central Florida I needed a hobby. Some friends and I had met one of the referees for the Thunder City Derby Sirens at a public skate session and he suggested I try it. I came to my first recruit night in July 2013. I fell in love with the camaraderie and ‘toughness,’ both mentally and physically, and have been coming ever since.”

One thing that keeps Jordan coming back is the team’s camaraderie.

“We do a lot of volunteering and promoting together outside of practice and those events are always really fun,” Jordan said. “Of course we have our cliques that sign up to attend the same events, so we are actually hanging out with our best friends, but we also do fun team bonding things, like camping together.”

The bonds the team form can be extremely strong because of how much time they spend together.

“Roller derby has so many highs and so many lows,” Jordan said. “Injuries and friends leaving the team are lows, but highs, like girls leveling up, playing their first game, choosing a derby name, winning their first MVPs are the best highs.”



“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.”

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.


“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

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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