The big hits, the snap of the pads, the squeal of the skates on the rink.
Those are some of the sounds of a typical roller derby match.
“It's not a boring night,” said Corporal Punishers co-owner, Sandra Obringer. “You get to see powerful, athletic women who train year round compete.”
Obringer was reticent to share her real name, as the Wayne resident reflexively uses her derby name, Doom Hilda most of the time.
“Players pay dues. We practice on Friday, bout on Saturday and are right back at it practicing on Sunday. Players give their weekends and are very very competitive in keeping up their skills,” Obringer said. “For a night out it's better than dinner and a movie.”
The Punishers belong to the all-women Jerzey Derby Brigade league. Skaters reside in Wayne, Madison, Morristown, Clark, Newark, New Brunswick, and Sussex County.
Obringer’s business partner and teammate is Elizabeth Valandingham, a Morristown attorney known as Lawless Lizzie.
“When I first moved to Morristown the only sport for girls over 30 was softball,” Valandingham said. “I was complaining about that at the Sushi Lounge one night and was told I needed to check out roller derby.”
The woman who would become Lawless Lizzie went to a bout and it changed everything.
“I went into the locker room and demanded someone teach me how to skate so I could do this,” Valandingham said.
Recruitment of new talent or “fresh meat” is always something the Jerzey Derby squad is looking for.
“How long it takes a ‘meat’ to advance is up to them. I've had skaters move up in a month and others take six months. It depends on their skill level,” Obringer said. “What you put into it is what you get out of it. The faster they learn the quicker they move up. I don't move them up until they are safe skaters. We don't push them beyond their means because that is dangerous.”
Obringer said that is the only safe way to run a full contact sport.
“It's real. The hits are real the rules are real the strategy is real,” Obringer said.
Valandingham said that despite the toughness of the sport and the fierce competitiveness of the squad, they are a friendly and loyal bunch.
“Our team is known as being nice. We have no tryouts to play or learn,” Valandingham said. “We want an open door policy.”
For her part, Obringer said the camaraderie is what makes the derby special and that sisterhood has helped her push through pain and injury.
“I tore my PCL playing. I finished the bout and went to the after party and then drove myself to the hospital,” Obringer said. “I am skater through and through and I will stop when my body tells me to stop.
Katie Birnbaum is a California transplant who found the derby when she was new to the area.
“My husband is in the military and when my family moved here I had no friends,” Birnbaum said. “And then we came to a bout and I fell in love.”
CaliforniKate was born soon after, and Birnbaum’s husband Doug soon found himself roped in.
“At first he thought I was crazy,” Birnbaum said. “But he came to a practice and really liked it. Now, he announces our bouts for us. And my kids come and root me on with their cowbells.”