She’s Jamming in Dallas

Amanda Jamitinya brings it on in the Roller Derby World Cup.


The 2014 Roller Derby World Cup will be held at the Dallas Convention Center from Dec. 4–9,

Photo by Coll Sinclaire/Rottsy Media

Amanda Jamitinya, or AJ—the skate name of Oakland roller derby player Laura Mann—isn’t afraid to bring it. Which is a good thing, since she’s a member of Team USA, competing this month at the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas against 29 other all-female teams from around the world.

“You need a certain level of self-confidence to play roller derby,” she says. “You can’t be afraid to fail or to get hurt. Before a bout, I imagine myself kicking ass—that usually helps.”

Mann is part of a relatively recent incarnation of the sport. Although roller derby has been around since the 1930s, its current form began in Austin in the early 2000s, when a group of women organized four teams and staged their first public match. Now the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association—founded in 2004—boasts 243 member leagues.

How do the games play out? Over two 30-minute halves, five skaters from a team of 14 circle the track during short matchups, or “jams.” The designated scoring player—the jammer—wins points by lapping members of the other team. Her four compatriots, called blockers, play offense and defense at the same time, trying to thwart the enemy jammer while protecting their own.

One of the best things about roller derby is that it combines body and mind, according to Mann. “It’s a really physical sport, but you have to be mentally sharp, too,” she says. “It’s sort of like full-contact chess.”

Mann’s derby career started in 2006, in her hometown of Albuquerque. She was working as an intern for a newspaper there and came across a story about the local league, Duke City Derby. Roller derby tends to have a punk aesthetic—skaters wear their piercings, tattoos and fishnets with pride—and Mann was intrigued.

“On the outside, I don’t fit the mold,” says Mann. “I don’t have blue hair or tattoos, and the Duke City ladies definitely had an edgier look. But I’m super competitive, and I like to work around rules—try to find the loophole and exploit it.”

She skated for one of the Duke City teams for a while, then with Denver’s Rocky Mountain Roller Girls before ending up in the East Bay, lending her talents to the B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls, Northern California’s very own league. B.A.D. Girls includes five teams: Bay Area All-Stars, Berkeley Resistance, Oakland Outlaws, Richmond Wrecking Belles, and San Francisco ShEvil Dead.

Mann skates for Richmond as a blocker. Her teammates say she’s a smart player who brings the agility she learned from years of ice skating as a kid to the game. In fact, B.A.D. Girls voted her Best Offensive Blocker in 2013.

“It’s cool to skate with like-minded women who want to push themselves,” Mann says.

So what’s it like to play for Team USA? There’s definitely a learning curve as individual (often rival) teams blend into one, according to Mann.

“Even though we’ve all got the same skill set, we use different terminology, different strategies, so it’s taken some time to get used to each other and become a pack,” she says. “Usually we’re focused on our own teams. But like a flip of the switch, in Dallas we’ll go from ‘us and them’ to ‘we.’ ”

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