Since the resurgence of high-impact roller derby as a women-centric sport, men have filled support roles as referees, announcers, coaches, cheerleaders or fans. When Covey first laced up the skates to be a ref for the Oklahoma City Roller Derby, he wanted to be a part of the action, longing to compete.
“A lot of the guys do refereeing stuff, and I enjoy it, but I really wanted to put together a team so I could compete, rather than just be a spectator or a referee,” he said.
Covey will recruit like-minded men at Saturday’s Oklahoma City Roller Derby bout. He currently has a roster of 10, but needs 14 for a full team; he said 20 would be ideal.
“The goal is to get the guys set up and be able to skate comfortably and safely,” he said. “Last thing I want to do is rush 15 guys onto skates, go to Tulsa and see what happens. Just like any other sport, there is conditioning; you have to get your players ready to be that physical.”
Men trying to ride off the wake of a successful women’s sport is rare, since female athletes often receive much less attention than their male counterparts. Rose Pearson, OKC Roller Derby captain and owner of Switchblade Skate Company, said this unique dynamic has led to mixed reaction from skaters of her gender.
“(It) is one of those things that people either love or hate,” Pearson said. “Some women don’t want the men to get into roller derby since this is the one sport that women have, so why do the men have to skate? But, on the other hand, there are a lot of great male skaters out there, lots of speed skaters and rink rats, so why shouldn’t they be able to compete?” Regionally, other groups are in the process of building or already have built men’s teams, so Covey said finding competition won’t be a problem. The biggest difference between men’s and women’s teams, he said, is the physicality.“Not saying the girls don’t hit hard, because you still see the broken bones and bloody noses, but when you see a guy flying through the air, you know that person took a hard hit,” Covey said. “When that hit comes, it will be harder than what you’d see in the women’s.”
Both Pearson and Covey believe women will continue to rule roller derby, but giving the men a chance hopefully will widen the sport’s overall fan base.
“We think having a men’s team is a great opportunity,” Pearson said. “But women will always have the upper hand.”