Allison Reynolds in the Breakfast Club. Danielle Larusso in The Karate Kid. Beca Mitchell in Pitch Perfect. At the root of it, the so-called “outcasts” of your favorite cult classic movies are really just characters who felt like they didn’t belong. But with some movie magic, these characters suddenly find their place of belonging. It doesn’t have to be reserved for the movies, for the detention hours in the library, the karate dōjōs or the acapella group rehearsals. Finding a sense of belonging, a second family, and a space that encourages you to be the best version of yourself can be found right here in Fargo—on the track with the FM Derby Girls. Roller derby originally made its way to American sports culture in the 1930s, with credited founder, Leo Seltzer, claiming it was a sport for everyone. The intention for a humble, family sport quickly turned into a show of theatricals and dramatics, becoming known for its violence on the track. Roller derby was about drawing in a crowd to see the violent take outs as fists were being thrown from player to player, and skaters tackled anyone who got in their way. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that roller derby began to take on a new meaning. Some credit the newer, competitive, nature of roller derby to the Riot Grrrl movement which introduced a feminist lens to the sport. Roller derby wasn’t just for show anymore—it was a way for women to show their competitive side and let out their inner athlete.
Formed in 2008, the Fargo Moorhead Derby Girls live by their mission of “empowering individuals to fulfill their potential, both on and off the track.” This is more than just pushing and shoving while trying to stay balanced on a pair of quad roller skates.
Skater Katie AKA Artachoker, has been a part of the FMDG for more than 10 years. Being on the team has been more rewarding than she would have ever imagined.
“I was out one night and I saw these girls come in and I thought, ‘those girls are so cool. I want to be cool,’” Katie said. “They told me that Fresh Meat was starting and that I could come. Two days later I’m buying skates and pads. It’s been amazing ever since then.”
Fresh Meat, the training camp for new skaters, happens ideally twice a year. For anyone interested in joining roller derby, this is the first step—and it doesn’t matter if you have never skated in your entire life or are a professional on skates, you’re allowed to come out.
“There are very few of us on the team that have had experience with this type of sport before,” Katie said. “The last time I skated before roller derby was in middle school when we went to Skate City for a party, and it took me a while to get to where I am now.”
Katie says it’s not uncommon for the FMDG to get former college hockey players to join the team as a way to stay active in a contact sport. Other athletes from sports like lacrosse or rugby have joined the team as well, but Katie likes to reassure people that athletic and skating experience is not necessary to join.
“We have a big training committee and great coaches that really help us,” Katie said. In addition to help from coaches, the Fresh Meat training program teaches everything roller derby related: how to skate, how to stop, how to safely fall, the rules of the game, and more. Skaters, new and old, work on their individual skills and endurance so they are ready for game day.
Skater Jenna AKA Tasmanian Rebel went to Fresh Meat training in 2016 not having any experience and has been skating with the FMDG ever since.
“Obviously a cool pair of skates are essential to roller derby, but so is hard work,” Jenna said. “You need to be willing to not give up and have a lot of determination.”
In the past, games were commonly referred to as a bout, now simply being referred to as a game. In a normal season from March to September, the FMDG plays one to two games a month. In addition to that, they also hold two-hour practices, twice a week, in order to help further develop endurance and skills. Katie suggests those who are interested in roller derby to come to a practice to see what it’s all about—at the John E. Coliseum at North High School in the summertime then Skate City in the fall.
To reassure any more reluctant or anxious thoughts of whether or not to try roller derby, Katie strongly reiterates the fact that everyone on the team is always learning and skill level doesn’t matter.
Meet The FMDG Team!
#14: Radioactive Rabbit
#23: Hockey Balboa
#94: Tasmanian Rebel
#203: Vanilla Jice
#222: Anita Knapp
#687: Sarin Dipity
In 2020 and 2021, the FMDG did not have any organized practice sessions or games, which meant for about two years, some of the derby girls weren’t skating at all. Getting back into the groove of all things roller derby hasn’t been the easiest, for both the pro and novice skaters.
“We all took a while for our skate legs to come back,” Katie said.
One thing that the FMDG is always striving to make a priority is involvement in the community through charity and relationships.
“We have a nonprofit status so we give back to the community,” Katie said. “We give backpacks for backpack drives and part of the money we make goes to an organization that helps women and children.” On the team, all skaters are welcome.
“It doesn’t matter your size, your shape, or your athletic type—you can be any body type and you’ll be good for roller derby,” Katie said. “We have big blockers that are tall and big, and then we have small jammers that are quick and fast. It’s a perfect sport for anybody.”
The community within the team is something that Katie says makes it all worth it.
Jenna echoes Katie’s appreciation for the community, and more, saying: “I love the people, but I also love that you get to work on skills and accomplish things. I feel like as adults, you don’t get to be proud of yourself very often, but here you can.”
The other women she skates with became like a second family and the skating track became a second home. She found her place of belonging, not in an 80s rom-com or coming-of-age independent film but on the roller derby track with her teammates—and you can find yours right there, too.
If you’d like to learn more about the FM roller derby scene, check out the FMDG’s Facebook page, @fmderbygirls for more information about involvement in the league. Or, email them at email@example.com for questions about watching a practice or enrolling in the Fresh Meat training program.