The Track to Empowerment

By on April 25, 2018

Jackson’s roller derby team opens the season with a high-stakes game and plenty of camaraderie

Caption: The Jackson Hole Juggernauts are a rising athletic force in the valley.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The Jackson Hole Juggernauts have skated their way into Jackson’s heart. For the last two years, Planet Jackson Hole readers have voted them silver for Best Sports Team. Indeed, readers are paying attention to their athletic prowess—in 2017, they captured second place among the state’s roller derby teams.

Now they are hoping to prove their worth to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) at their first bout of the season against the Portneuf Valley Bruisers on Saturday.

This is only one of three WFTDA-sanctioned bouts of the season, so it’s extra important. If they win, their national and global ranking will rise.

Roller derby, for those unfamiliar, is an intricate sport in which competitors called “jammers” try to score points by skating a certain distance through “blockers” and a “pivot.”

It’s one of the few games where players play both offense and defense at the same time. It can get physical. There are “legal contact zones,” explained Erin Silcox, president and team captain.

“It’s awesome,” she said.

It is also quite the spectator sport.

But to the Juggernauts, roller derby is more than just a sport. It’s a tool for empowerment.

It is, of course, physically empowering, said Silcox, whose roller derby name is “TriceraStomps.” It requires strength and agility. But plenty of team members start their careers as roller skating neophytes, and that’s OK. Because the other powerful thing about the team is that it’s also a community of mentors and motivators.

“We’re a group of teachers, basically, that can help people go from ‘How do I put on skates?’ to blocking and scoring points,” Silcox said.

In a town known for its transience, it can be hard for committed residents to build lasting relationships. The Juggernauts offered Silcox a remedy to the feeling in anomie that comes with watching friends leave while you stay put.

It gave her a sense of purpose and of belonging.

“Joining the Juggernauts helped me develop a solid group of friends that weren’t going anywhere,” she said. “It’s a local community that is just super empowering to women, supportive to women. I found myself as a mentor and a mentee in Jackson and anywhere else we go.”

It is also empowering to be able to measure progress. In roller derby, the measuring stick is pretty clear: you can skate, or you can’t. You win a bout, or you lose.

During the team’s first year together in 2012, they didn’t place in the Wyoming Roller Derby Cup. They didn’t place the next year either. But two years ago, they came in third. Last year, they came in second. This year, they’re “hoping to finish the countdown.”

Indeed, The Juggernauts are proud of their progress, and “it’s empowering to be proud of something,” Silcox said.

Roller derby challenges notions of traditional femininity in many ways: it requires strength, grit and toughness. But it also plays on, and benefits from, the feminine, Silcox said.

A successful bout requires good communication, and if we’re gendering certain attributes, communication is a traditionally female strength. Conflict-resolution is also key, and also traditionally feminine.
“I think we’re one of the friendlier teams,” Silcox said. “We listen to each other, and resolve conflict really well.”

Even the physical strength required of roller derby players caters to women’s bodies, Silcox said. “Our strength is in our core, our hips, our legs,” all areas that need to be strong for childbearing women. “As a gender, we’re responsible for birthing children.”

The sport requires a solid, unshakable trunk, core and legs—basically, it asks the body to be a pillar of strength. And maybe that’s a metaphor, Silcox said, for the role women so often play in other people’s lives.

“We’re a strengthening force for other people. We’re here for you, we’re going to protect you, and be there for you when you need it most.”

The Juggernauts’s first bout of the season is at Snow King Arena. Fine Dining is catering food and Melvin beer is flowing all night. There will be a DJ and a halftime show and the Girl Scouts will sing the National Anthem.

Doors open at 6 p.m., the bout starts at 7. $10; two-for-one admission for JHMR season passholders, $5 for kids.

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