Where 'everybody has a place'

The Athens Ohio Roller Derby team welcomes all to their inclusive team and to the high-energy bouts held at OHIO's Ping Recreation Center

Acadia Hansen, '26 | March 21, 2024


Athens Ohio Roller Derby (AORD) held their Mardi Brawl bout on OHIO’s Athens campus in late February. Despite cold temperatures and a recent snowfall, the team was met with excitement by their many fans. The AORD team split into two for the scrimmage, making up the Bayou Bombshells and the Swamp Sirens. 

Members of the AORD shared their experiences on the team. Note that we're using their roller derby persona names, which are just one part of the rich tradition of the sport.

A roller derby athlete skates by a line-up of teammates giving high-fives
Roller derby team members high-five while facing the camera
A roller derby athlete skates past cheering teammates

Campus and community

Many members of AORD also have a connection to OHIO, whether they’re alumni, students, faculty or staff members, or parents of OHIO students.  

Sweet N. Lowdown, a two-time OHIO alumna, won the title of “most valuable player for blocking” in February’s bout. For her, playing at Ping was a kind of homecoming. 

“It’s really cool to come full circle,” she says. “[To] come back to our school and be able to bring something from the community to the university.” 

A young girl watches a roller derby bout

My son… was in diapers when I first started playing roller derby, and now he’s a student at Ohio University. It’s been a lifetime. But I always come back to it because I just love it and it keeps me healthy mentally, physically, and keeps me socially engaged.

Sweet N. Lowdown
Wide shot of roller derby played on a gym floor

Roller Derby bouts are held on an oval track with five players on each team: four blockers and one jammer. The main goal is for the jammer to lap as many opposing players as possible while simultaneously blocking the other team from doing so.

Family ties

One of AORD’s newer members, Mars the Martian works as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and was encouraged to find an outlet that allows them to focus on something outside of the medical field. Mars says that in addition to the community that they have found with the team, roller derby has been the perfect outlet. 

After a visit to Athens when she attended a practice, Mars the Martian’s mother is now thinking of joining a league. 

“The only thing is you have to be 18 [years old] and as long as you can learn and take direction and have a good attitude, everyone’s welcome,” Mars says. 

While some of the falls may hurt, the sport offers players a place to be themselves and enjoy movement. 

Three fans hold signs supporting the player Gorges Curves while a player poses with them

Roller derby players all have a derby persona. While they do wear jerseys during bouts, the sport's culture and tradition encourage self-expression through the other components of their outfits, makeup and derby names.

My favorite part of skating is it’s a time where I can tune out the world and focus on just basic movement of my body. And it ends up being very fun and very therapeutic.

Roller derby players mid-bout

Cheer on the team

AORD's next bout will be held Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m. at the Ping Recreation Center.