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Suburban Brawl Brings Roller Derby to Yonkers

There's no crying in Yonkers roller derby.

Photo by Larry Lamsa

Suburbia Roller Derby does not need a Jimmy Dugan to dissertate on the incompatibility of skating and crying. But when it's more than hurt feelings at stake, a salty discharge is certainly not tolerated in the "league" Yonkers calls its "own." One need only look to Chappaqua Mom and Suburban Brawl Jammer Jane "Lesley E. Visserate" McManus for the answer.

"Cry," she said of breaking her tailbone in 2008, "I got back up and continued to jam because I didn't want to be a baby about it."

Strategy replaces old time theatrics.

The bravado is more a function of competitiveness than the theatrics of the past. "The WWE component is gone," says the ESPNNY columnist, "and bouts now consist of skill, strategy and endurance."

The objective is for each team's two jammers to pass the opposition's four blockers. In turn, one point is earned per pass. Otherwise, blockers play offense and defense simultaneously. "You're trying to assist your jammers, and at the same time, block the other jammers," she said.

McManus likens the action to controlling the football line of scrimmage. So it's about positioning and making legal contact between the shoulders and thighs. On the other hand, an elbow to the head is a major penalty that you want to avoid, asserts the jammer.

Lesley joins the fray and stays in shape.

Her introduction came in 2006. She was doing a story for The Journal News on a Connecticut roller derby league. As a lifelong athlete, it appealed, but she had reservations about the contact. That is, until considering her past playing pickup basketball with men. "I figured it would be about the same," McManus said.

She first signed on when this skater owned league came to the rink on Tuckahoe Road in 2007. After motherhood called and put a hold on her skates, she eventually regained the outlet. Today, McManus recommends roller derby to any woman who wants to escape the fitness paradigm at the gym. "It's an awful experience where you listen to loud music and will yourself into losing a pound," said McManus.

That's replaced with a competitive determination in which athletes practice two to four times a week for two hours each. Bouts consist of two 30-minute halves, which have skaters on for fifteen two-minute shifts.

Either way, the centrifugal forces don’t really alleviate the human expenditure all that much. “It’s exhausting," she says.

So it helps to have puke buckets handy—even though she's never needed one. But she doesn't want to scare off women with fewer miles on their sports' resume. “There are women who have never played any sport, and after training for a while, they become incredible skaters,” says the columnist.

Additionally, there's room to learn on the "B" team with the Backyard Bullies. “It's a way for us to get our younger players competition," she said.

The A-team makes a big difference.

Of course, the difference separating the A-team from the B is vast. “If you're an "A" player, you have a keener awareness of pack movement and a better understanding of how the action will unfold,” she said.

The same goes for contact. In other words, hitting isn't as effective if you take yourself out of the play and get passed. "It's contact but with more purpose," said McManus

Regardless, skill level doesn't mean less competitiveness. "Why would you be doing this, if you don't want to be as good as you can be," she asks.

So an injured "A" player can create a welcome opening.  "Someone's noticed you," she says, "and that's the moment to shine."

Camaraderie and Role Modeling

But the dark side of black and blues is lightened by the support found on the rink, and a camaraderie that's not at a loss afterward at the pub. "It's just completely wonderful," she said.

It's also a venue in which moms can model themselves in a role exhibiting strength. "Kids love watching their mothers do something powerful," said McManus.

Nonetheless, kids know all about the constraints on crying in case mommy is knocked off her bearings. "They know it's part of the game," she said.

As for her husband, he plays tennis and her belief is that inter-murals make for stronger relationships when both partners have them. Otherwise, new fishnets (which are worn so the skin does not get stuck to the surface in falls) can add a little something to the intramurals, McManus jokes.

How does that sit with fans attracted to the sexy power of roller derby? “Not sure,” she concludes, “you have to ask them.”

If you’d like a sports profile, game coverage and/or photos, please contact me on Facebook at 914 318-0997 or [email protected]

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