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Watch out for ‘Dora the Destroyer’



Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2015
At not quite 5 feet, and weighing just 120 pounds, Ally Fife is not the most imposing roller derby player on the rink. But, what the 17-year-old lacks in bulk, she makes up for in grit, skills and fearlessness — at least once the game clock starts.

“[Beforehand] I definitely have a lot of nerves, ‘I’m not going to be able to get through the pack. They’re going to destroy me. I’m going to injure myself,’ ” the Antrim resident said recently at an interview at ConVal High School, where she is a senior. “[But] an advantage of being the height I am is that it’s a lot easier to sneak around people. Also, I have a low center of gravity. It’s easier for me to stay on my feet.”

Besides, she added, “Most people haven’t been hitting and skating against adults since they were 12.”

Fife is a veteran of the Mad Knockers, a team that practices at Great Brook School and whose home rink is at New England College in Henniker. Fife joined the Monadnock region’s roller derby team when she was in seventh grade. She convinced her mother, Karen, and older sister, Shelby, to join with her.

Fife once dreamed of skating for Team USA. Now, she just skates for fun and to release some healthy aggression. Roller derby, after all, is a physical sport.

The goal of a roller derby bout is for one skater — known as the jammer — to score as many points as possible by lapping the opposing team on a circuit track. The blockers (the jammer’s five teammates) check and change positions to help the jammer through the pack. The catch is blockers must also prevent the other team’s jammer from passing them.

Each of these jams occurs at two-minute intervals, and the whole bout is two periods, 30 minutes each.

All players must wear a helmet and pads. A referee inspects the players’ equipment before the start of a bout. Luckily, Fife’s only injuries have been bloody noises and nasty bruises (knock on wood).

Fife is often the team’s jammer because of her skill set and size. Because she is under 18, she can only scrimmage with the Mad Knockers in bouts that are unofficial. But, she is a force for the Mad Knocker’s junior team. She enjoys how physical roller derby is. But, her favorite move isn’t checking opponents. It’s avoiding them with a juke move.

All of this plays into Fife’s alter ego — “Dora the Destroyer,” a twist on the animated series on Nickelodeon. A roller derby player often comes up with a pseudonym that she wears on her derby jersey. Derby names are notorious for being satirical word plays, puns, and controversial pop culture allusions. Fife and her mother stumbled on “Dora the Destroyer,” because it matched Fife’s playing style. Karen Fife’s name is “the Helenator,” after her nickname in high school. And Ally’s older sister, Shelby, is “Dipsie Chick.”

Uniforms, or “boutfits,” are often just as edgy as derby names. A uniform might be part punk rock, part burlesque, with players often sporting tattoos, tutus and fishnet stockings. Fife’s outfit, by this measure, is conservative — except she is known for wearing leg warmers. She explained her gray leg warmers are more utilitarian than anything. She wears them to stay warm, and to prevent rink rash — when a player slips on the track and rubs her skin against the surface.

When Fife isn’t skating laps on the circuit track, she is on the turf at ConVal, playing field hockey for the Cougars. But, she acknowledges that roller derby does something special for her.

“It’s the best stress reliever,” she said. “I definitely can tell when I haven’t played in a long time.” She said she misses checking opponents, skating and even the feeling of her wheels rolling over the rink.

“You definitely feel like it’s a need you have. ‘I need to skate.’”



Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com. Follow him on Twitter @Benji_Rosen.