Are you ready to roll? Roller derby team forming in Cullman

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Roller derby stock image courtesy of Pixabay

CULLMAN, Ala.  For many people in Cullman County, organized sports end after high school or college. Cullman resident Joe Conkle II is looking to change that by bringing roller derby to the area to compete with other teams in the region.

To find out more about this team (known as the Mud Angels at the moment), The Tribune talked with Conkle, who is the team manager.

What inspired you to form a roller derby team?

“The idea for starting a roller derby team here in Cullman came about almost naturally. Cullman is at least 40 minutes from everything outside of itself and situated right off of an interstate highway. I personally became interested in women’s roller derby when I lived in Huntsville, having many friends who were involved with the Dixie Derby Girls. I moved to Cullman in 2014 to live with my fiancée (we will be married in September). Noticing Cullman’s unique location and equal proximity to cities such as Birmingham, Huntsville, Albertville/Guntersville, Arab and more, I have always felt that Cullman could offer a great deal to north Alabama in regards to sports and entertainment. Rock the South is a great example of that fact.

“But I chose roller derby, a sport that I have become familiar with over the past few years through friends. Cullman has never had any sort of sports team beyond high school and Wallace State to represent this area. We have never had a minor league team or semi-professional in any sport. And unlike other sports, roller derby is one that prides itself on helping the community. The vast majority of roller derby teams out there (over 400 across six continents) are organized as nonprofit organizations that help raise awareness and funding for other charities in their area. To me it is the only sport that is truly giving back.”

When did the team officially form?

“This team has yet to officially form according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (https://wftda.com/). The organization that oversees all of the rules and regulations of this sport is currently in its season and will not be accepting new teams until early next year. Until then, our focus is on recruiting, organizing and training. When it comes time to become official, we want to stand ready as serious contenders to the other teams in the Southeast. Currently we are holding open practices for anyone who wishes to join us on the old tennis courts at Nesmith Park, a blessing granted to us by the folks at Cullman City Parks and Rec.  These practice sessions are every Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. All are welcome to come whether they are there to participate or just watch.”

On team composition and future events:

“There are currently 10 to 12 women who are seriously interested in being on this team. We are still working out scheduling details as well as working on finalizing decisions on our team name, team colors and team logo. There is a lot of work still to be done, but we are certainly committed.”

Any other details you want people to know about?

“Right now, we need to get the word out. We have a Facebook page, ‘Cullman WFTDA Roller Derby Team,’ as well as a Facebook group, ‘We Support Cullman Roller Derby.’ The group acts as an active petition to show local businesses and local officials that there is an interest among the people on this. Like our page and join our group. That’s my most immediate message at the moment.”

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Heather Mann

heather@cullmantribune.com