How We Work, How We Play: Jess Durrant

Opus College of Business Web designer by day, Jess Durrant (a.k.a Norah Torious) brings the pain - and the joy - to her nighttime gig as a Minnesota RollerGirl

Do you need an alter ego to be a RollerGirl? It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not a requirement.

Favorite names: Helena Handbasket, Roxanne Rolls and Kim Jong Kill. And some that aren’t fit for print!

When you knew roller derby was your calling: I don’t know that it is my calling, but I know it’s been really important in my life for more than five years. Derby has helped me realize I’m capable of so much more than I’d ever given myself credit for.

Describe roller derby to a newbie: Fast, athletic, fun, exciting and entertaining. There are big hits and tough competition, but lots of camaraderie and smiles. It’s the best $11 you’ll spend this year!

How do you win? It’s strictly points based; no bonuses for style or flair.

How’s derby different from what we remember in the ’70s? Other than both involving skates and a track, they’re entirely different. Derby in the ’70s was staged, players were paid and leagues were owned by promoters. Now derby is “by the skater, for the skater.” We own our leagues and operate them independent of any outside influence.

Other ’70s entertainment you hope to revive: I could go for some movies in the “Chinatown” genre.

Number of U.S. women participating in roller derby: There are about 380 leagues with 60-80 skaters per league – so, 22,000-30,000 skaters.

Worst derby-related injury: A torn meniscus. Knee injuries are common, especially from repetitive stress on the joints. We have a lot of PCL and MCL tears. My torn meniscus was from repetitive falling and not having enough good padding. With derby, it’s not a matter of if you’ll get hurt, but when and how badly.

No injury timeouts? A lot of injuries are minor. If you can get off the track safely on your own, play continues. But we never encourage girls to do this when they’re severely hurt.

History of giving: RollerGirls has donated more than $38,000 to local charities in the last five years. This season our main charity is Foundation IX, and it’s a perfect fit. Foundation IX gives grants to girls to help them participate in sports and athletics. We’re excited about this pairing since we’ve all benefitted from Title IX, and now we can help girls discover the fun and importance of being active.

Unexpected benefits of being a RollerGirl: It honestly makes me tear up every time I think about how important derby has been to me. When I started, I doubted that I could do it. I didn’t see myself as an athlete. But now I do. That’s completely changed my perspective on my body and my appreciation for every part of it. I’ve also met so many great people. RollerGirls is a second family. They were so supportive when my mom was ill with cancer. Going to practice and seeing “my girls” was a reprieve that I needed. They stuck by me, and now I owe it to be present for them and to repay their kindness.

“How We Work, How We Play” is a series that examines some of the intriguing pastimes of our St. Thomas colleagues.


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