MARION - A roller derby setting in today's "Whip It" movie release shouldn't be foreign to audiences here.

Southern Illinois sports its own roller derby team, which has been in the making throughout the summer.

"It's a sisterhood with a lot of camaraderie. We want to be taken seriously," said co-president Elizabeth Cook of the newly formed Southern Illinois Roller Girls. The women practice twice weekly at Williamson County Pavilion.

Currently composed of 14 team members who have eligibility certification through the Women's Flat Track Derby Association for full contact action, the Roller Girls are seeking new members.

"The basic principle is to pass other girls and to prevent others from passing you by knocking each other down," Cook said about the 60-minute games. Teams compete for points by moving designated skaters to the front of the pack. There are blocking techniques, formations and other skilled maneuvers.

Just being a good skater won't cut it; the sport requires passion, drive and teamwork. In fact, many of the women on roller derby teams throughout the country had short instructional periods of learning how to skate before joining a team, Cook said.

"You don't have to know how to skate to join; we'll teach you that. Passion and drive are what make a great roller girl, and if you have that, we want you on our team," said team treasurer Diana Johnson.

Skaters wear protective equipment such as knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets and mouth guards.

SIRG formed this summer through the initiative of Katy Rushin Rogers, who returned to Southern Illinois from Asheville, N.C., where she had been on a roller derby team.

Getting the word out through Web sites and word-of-mouth, women from the minimum age of 21 on up began meeting and recruiting others at Emery Brothers' Skating Rink in Marion. Recruiting drives continue at the Emery rink on the first Tuesday of each month.

Now SIRG is seeking more team members and donations to help pay for the cost of practice space, equipment, skater insurance and establishing a not-for-profit league. The team's first public scrimmage will be Dec. 10 at the pavilion.

"I am so proud of how far we have come and how quickly we will be scrimmaging. By this time next year, we'll be kicking the butts of teams around us," Rushin Rogers said.


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