Mid-State Roller Derby combines sport with community service
By Melanie Rossi
PORTAGE COUNTY — With its welcoming community, impactful service opportunities and focused skaters, Mid-State Roller Derby combines the athleticism of roller derby with the joys of community service.
Previously known as Mid-State Sisters of Skate, Mid-State Roller Derby (MSRD), a non-profit roller derby organization owned and operated by its skaters, provides an inclusive sense of community, inclusion and fun for anyone interested in the sport of derby.
Founded in 2010 and located in Stevens Point, the organization is a member of the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association (WFTDA), the governing body of roller derby.
Its skaters compete in both home and away games, and according to Rachel Reed, a trainer and member of the organization, “everyone has some type of role.”
“In addition to skating, I’m also a trainer, and I lead our recruitment efforts. I’m also our interleague coordinator, so I communicate with other teams to set up other scrimmages and games,” Reed said.
The group practices three times a week, and its games are open to the public.
“Roller Derby is a full contact sport on roller skates,” Reed explained, “and each team has five skaters on a flat track at a time. Four of them are blockers, and one is the jammer. The jammer basically tries to get through a pack of blockers; the blockers play offense and defense at the same time. Points are scored by passing opposing blockers.”
Like Reed, skater Maddelena Fico — also known by her derby name as “evilOlive” — participates in the group as more than just a skater; she’s a member of MSRD’s board of directors in the development oversight position.
“What I do in the developmental role is to overall develop the progression of the league, have oversight of the different positions such as marketing, membership management, regulatory management. I have oversight of that to ensure that things are running smoothly this season for all of the players and make sure that everybody in the league has their interests represented. I overall work to advance the goals of the league, which is to be a strong community player,” she said.
Both Reed and Fico attributed the group’s strong sense of community to creating its welcoming and friendly environment — a unique environment that makes the sport so special.
“The people both within our team as well as other teams, everybody is just really willing to help each other out. Anytime we go to play a game, everybody is either really welcoming, or they come to play us [at our home games] and are always really great,” Reed said. “There is no experience necessary to join, and it’s a really welcoming environment.”
Reed — known by her derby name as Lolly PopYa — has been a part of the organization since 2011.
She said, “I joined Mid-State Roller Derby when I moved to the area from the Fox Valley, and I skated with Fox Cities Roller Derby prior to that, so I have actually been involved with roller derby since 2007.”
Unlike Reed, Fico had no previous experience with the sport before joining the group a year ago, but she felt drawn to it by the potential for community that it offered her as someone new in the area.
“I grew up in Chicago, and I kind of just grew up at the roller rink,” Fico said. “In the winter we would go to the ice rink, just my family, and I never did anything kind of official with it; I just liked doing it for fun. Because I did it as a kid, I kind of knew how to roller skate, so when I moved here to Stevens Point in 2020, I heard about roller derby in what was then the Mid-State Sisters of Skate and their Learn to Skate class.
“I thought, ‘I haven’t been on skates in a long time, maybe I could just try this out as a hobby to meet some new people.’ Then I got on skates for the first time in a few years. . . I joined the Learn to Skate class, but I did not think I was going to join derby. But then the class ended and derby season started, and there was no way I couldn’t join; I was hooked.
“It can be hard to immerse yourself in something new, not only as an adult but also as a transplant from another location, another state,” she added. “So whether it’s finding a new group of friends or a new hobby or sport, there is a steeper barrier to entry when you’re an adult, when you haven’t grown up doing it. So when I found Mid-State Roller Derby, I was just excited about the new opportunity to meet new people. But what really brought me back — more than anything else — was the sense of community that is shared amongst the league and the sense of community that the league has within the central Wisconsin community as a whole.”
The sense of community that attracted Fico to the group is one of its main values, and service work within the central Wisconsin community plays a fundamental role in creating this open environment.
“We’re a non-profit organization ourselves, but part of what we do is help out other organizations within the community and in the area. Part of our membership requirements is that we do have to participate in a certain number of community events annually; we do obviously more than the required usually,” Reed said.
“For all of our games we donate either a set dollar amount or a portion of our proceeds to a community organization.”
They’ve donated so far to a wide variety of organizations, including the Portage County Humane Society, and have participated in community outreach and events.
“The annual ‘Guns N’ Hoses’ event is one that we do regularly,” Reed said. “We’ve done things like the Special Olympics; we’ve participated in their opening ceremonies and helped out with things like that in the past.”
The group also always tries to maintain a strong presence at Pride.
“That’s definitely a value of ours — to make sure that the queer and LGBTQ+ people in our league and our community feel supported and safe within our league,” Fico said.
And while community service is one of their driving values, it’s also, according to Fico, “a very reciprocal relationship between us and the community. We go out into the community, we make those relationships, and because of that sense of shared values, they come out and they help us too. Because we’re a nonprofit and we really put ourselves out there as a community player, we really build a lot of those relationships.
“It’s a great way to be active in the community,” she added, “We’re all really passionate about being a strong community player in advancing teamwork, solidarity and empowerment for women and all genders. We’re very passionate about being a part of something bigger than ourselves, and because of that we all really lift each other up and support each other.”
Connectivity and passion fuels not only the skaters’ service but also their attention to inclusivity that they prioritize within the group.
“We work hard to make our values about gender inclusivity very clear, and we want to make sure that everyone has a space within our league and derby as a whole,” Fico added.
Recently changing its name from Mid-State Sisters of Skate, the skaters at Mid-State Roller Derby hope that this new title will represent their commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.
Fico said, “The overall goal of the name change does have to do with inclusivity and aligning with the barriers that different communities — such as different genders or different racial and ethnic backgrounds — may face in coming to be a part of our league, or just roller derby in general.
“There is a sense of historical and systemic exclusivity in the roller derby world, so we are definitely really committed to goals of advancing equity and inclusivity within our league. . . We want to not lose touch with the many, many groups of people within the roller derby world that make it great and can make it great if we open those doors and blaze those trails.”
As a way of promoting these inclusive values, the group this season is going to begin having drop-in days at their Sunday practices for anyone to attend.
Hosted at K.B. Willett Ice Arena in Stevens Point, the Sunday practices will be open to anyone interested in skating or roller derby; those interested can spend $5 to rent loaner gear and learn about the sport from skaters in the organization.
This sense of community cultivated at open practices extends even to game days, where anyone can come to watch the skaters.
“All of our home games will be [at K.B. Willett], and all of our games are super family friendly and have a strong sense of community,” Fico said. “We always have a local food truck come to serve refreshments.”
Their games are open for anyone to attend, with their first one on May 20 at K.B. Willett Ice Arena.
With their community service work, team atmosphere and competitive environment, Mid-State Roller Derby reflects the beauty, passion and inclusivity that comes with combining sport and service.
For more information, visit https://midstaterollerderby.org.