Men's Roller Derby Completes Killamazoo's Fierce Family

May 28, 2014

The Kalamazoo Men's Roller Derby Team practicing at Roller World
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

The Kalamazoo Men’s Roller Derby team will hold their first official game Saturday night against London, Ontario.

Seth Snyder, also known as Seth$ha, started the team a year ago after going to see a women’s roller derby bout for the first time.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing!’ And I asked one of the players, I was like, ‘Do men play this?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, actually they do. There’s the Men’s Roller Derby Association. There’s teams all across the United States,’" Snyder explains. "And I was like, well I should probably start a team then because I just wanted to play. And so a year later here we are."

It's not just for a small percentage of people. It's for everybody.

Men’s roller derby is still a pretty new sport. To give you an idea, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association has more than 240 member teams worldwide, while the Men’s Roller Derby Association only has about 40.

Snyder says because it’s a lesser known sport, the Kalamazoo players had to train hard and fast to be able to compete.

“You know starting out with a group of four, five, six guys that none of us had ever played the sport," he says. "So, from where we started all skating around kind of looking like baby giraffes on roller skates not being able to keep our feet under us, to where we are now…”

“We can hold our own with any team in the state, for sure," says teammate Brian Simpson, finishing Snyder's sentence .

"If we went and played Detroit or Lansing, we would fit right in, you wouldn’t tell that we were a new team.”

Brian Simpson plays under the name Happy Kilmore. His wife Cassie, nickname Crash, is a blocker for the Killamazoo Derby Darlins.

“There’s a lot of husbands and family members and friends who think it’s awesome, love the sport, and want to get involved," says Crash. "And now they can. They can jump right into it.”

Simpson says some roller derby veterans think the game should stay a women’s sport.

“One comment I’ve seen and read a lot is that, ‘It was started for women so why can’t you just let them have their sport? Why do you need to take that too?’” he says.

“They’ve established themselves under their own power. And regardless of what we do, we’re not taking anything away from them. They’re always going to be the focus of their own sport. So I don’t really enjoy that comment. I think that’s insulting more to the women’s teams than it is to the men’s teams.”

The Killamazoo Derby Darlins have been part of the WFTDA for four years and recently placed third in their first national tournament. Simpson says the men’s team couldn’t have made it to where they are today if it weren’t for the Darlin’s help. Crash herself attends every practice to train new members.

“We donated money, our time. Girls come to every men’s practice," she says. "There’s at least a few girls who want to practice with the men to build up their stamina, endurance, playing against bigger players. But also just to support the men’s team—to help them, to ref, to do what needs to be done.”

“To get to play against some of the skill that the charter team has is great,” says Simpson.

Saturday night’s bout is a triple header. The junior roller derby league the Killer Beez, kids aged 6-17, will face off against the Darlings of Destruction from Rochester Hills. Then the Killamazoo Derby Darlin’s B team, the Killa Crew, will take on the Battle Creek Cereal Killers.

The night will end with the Kalamazoo Men’s Roller Derby bout against the Forest City Derby Guys of London Ontario. Crash says matches like this show how roller derby is a sport that breaks all barriers.

“Happy is my husband. We have two kids who play in the junior team, a daughter and a son. So it’s a whole family thing," she says. "It’s open to anyone. So it’s great, it’s not just for a small percentage of people. It’s for everybody.”

Saturday night’s game will be at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center. Doors open at 4:30.

The men’s roller derby team has about 13 players now, but Seth Snyder says they’re still looking for more. Anyone interested in joining the team can attend their first practice at Roller World on Stadium Drive, Sundays at 5:30 p.m. They ask that you bring a mouth guard. You can visit the team's Facebook page for more information.