Like a Phoenix, Swan City Roller Derby Rises

swancitylogo“What matters in the end is that you get back up and keep trying.” Those words from Rosaline Cabrera describe her attempts to master roller derby skating. But they also describe efforts to keep the sport alive in Lakeland as a new league has formed and is looking for players.

Swan City Roller Derby Inc. incorporated as a non-profit organization in March to replace a for-profit entity that last fielded a team in October, Cabrera said.

The league is holding a recruiting event Monday at 7 p.m. at the Lake Parker Rink, 500 E. Robson St., and emphasizes that skating experience is not needed. They’re looking for women skaters, as well as referees and volunteers.

The group currently has 20 members — some new and some who skated with the previous organization — and they’re hoping to reach 40 or 50 members in order to field multiple teams. Ages range from early 20s to 40s.

Some trainees can be ready to compete in three or four months, Cabrera said. For others, it takes six months or a year.

The training involves building skills and endurance. “We started out not even knowing how to stop on skates to being able to skate backwards really fast,” said Savannah Vrana, another Swan City roller. A test that shows readiness to compete includes 27 laps in five minutes — “It’s really fast speed skating and you’re constantly turning … but you build it. They teach you how to do it,” Vrana said.

Want to know more about roller derby? This video explains the sport:

Cabrera herself is fairly new to the game and hasn’t competed yet, but said she loves the camaraderie, the fun workout and the release of a contact sport.

Rosaline Cabrera
Rosaline Cabrera

What attracted Cabrera, a 29-year-old IT professional of compact build, to the sometimes bruising game? “I’m gonna be honest. Hitting people is pretty sweet. I mean, come on, I work an 8-to-5 job, smiling every day, so just having the ability to go out and hit somebody is pretty nice.”

She smiled and laughed when she said that, but her roller derby nickname is Rose Rage.

Team leaders, including their roller derby handles, are coach Brandy “Cannoy” Burry and league president Shelby “Shelbizzle Fo Shizzle” Hanselman, Cabrera said.

The rink where Swan City Rollers practices is part of the city’s Lake Parker Park, and it is shared with hockey and lacrosse teams. The rink does not meet standards set by the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association, so the team will travel to play teams in other Florida cities.

Ultimately, the team plans to hold fund-raisers to upgrade the rink and invite out-of-town teams to play here.

“We want to provide entertainment for the community,” Cabrera said.

Scenes from a recent practice: