With nicknames like Coach Ice, Cat Nip, Busty Bandaid, Maliciousness, Gin Atomic, Pistol Patti and Irish Kreemd’R, it would be easy to discount the Faultline Derby Devilz as a recreational roller derby team with nothing better to do than sit around and think of names 24/7.
That would be a mistake. According to coach Begga Burrows, the Tres Pinos-based women’s squad requires “strict standards” to become a member. For instance, when the Devilz hold their annual boot camp every year to recruit prospective members—they’re referred to as fresh meat—the women go through a series of tests to measure their skating and playmaking competency.
“Players have to show a certain ability before they can play,” says the 39-year-old Burrows, who is entering her fourth season as the Faultline coach and is a 13-year Hollister resident. “Not anyone can just be thrown out there.”
Indeed, the Devilz have an attendance policy, a necessity for any team looking to succeed. The Devilz, who play their home games at Bolado Park, practice there every Monday and Wednesday.
“If someone hasn’t been to practice in a month, they’re most likely not going to be able to play because of attendance points,” Burrows says.
The Faultline roster includes Stasha Maroney, Vanessa Gutierrez, Rosa Coronado, Shavaun Hageman, Patricia Casey, April Shimabukuro, Kate Scott, Annie Jimenez, Amber Jase, Gina Horwood, Cara Denny, Sara Harrell, Angela Fruits, Linda Atkins, Riane Holiday, Erica Rodriguez, Cathy Minahan, Jerrica Lynn, and Burrows, who in addition to being the coach is also one of the team’s best athletes playing the jammer position.
Roller derby pits two teams of five players, each skating around a track in the same direction. Each team designates a jammer and four blockers. Points are only recorded when a jammer passes the opposing team’s blockers. The game consists of two 30-minute periods.
Roller derby has changed considerably since its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, evolving from a purely competitive sport to one whose theatrical elements and showmanship rivaled those of a World Wrestling Entertainment event, where scripted bouts became the norm.
After the sport went MIA in the 1990s and 2000s, it has enjoyed a grassroots revival in the last several years. Rarely played on banked tracks anymore—an estimated 90 percent of the roller derby tracks in the world are flat because it’s harder to build a venue of the banked variety—the sport is enjoying a surge in worldwide participation.
Faultline happens to be a microcosm of the sport’s revival, as women of all age ranges play on the team. All of the Devilz’ players—the youngest is 18 and the oldest 48—have to be a part of committees, which are responsible for fundraising and a variety of other functions that keep the program going strong. To give a sense of how stable the roster is, Burrows says most of the players stay on the team for a couple of years.
Maroney, who started the team in 2012, still has four teammates who were on that inaugural 2012 squad. Five other players have been in the program since 2013. Thirteen players from the 20-women roster live in San Benito County. The Devilz are an all-women’s team; however, men are allowed to participate in their practices and scrimmages.
“Most of the players are in their 30s, but we welcome everyone,” Burrows says. “Any size, any age, it doesn’t matter. You just have to be willing to learn and work hard. We’ll teach you everything you need to know. You’ll start as a Bambi and by the time you’re done with our eight-week [boot camp], you’ll be flying around the track.”
Faultine’s long-term goal is to be a part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), which is the governing body of women’s flat track roller derby and features the best teams in the sport.
Roller derby is a physical sport, as hits are frequent and injuries—while not commonplace—force teams to make lineup changes. Burrows, who plays pickup games throughout the Bay Area and is known to be a heavy hitter, says Maroney, Gutierrez and Hageman are some of the hardest hitters on the team.
When it comes to playing the Devilz, watch out—a player by the name of Maliciousness just might be looking to put you on the ground.
Faultline’s season-opener is March 18, 2017 in Modesto. Its home opener is April 15, 2017 at Bolado Park.