Talking with the Windy City Rollers–Dinah Party

Think you could spot a derby girl in a crowd? Think again–it could be the person in line next to you at the grocery store. The Windy City Rollers have a strong North Shore connection, with two skaters from Northbrook and one Wilmette. Make It Better caught up with Dinah Party:

1. What’s a nice girl like you doing in the roller derby?
I’m not a ‘nice’ girl, but I fell into the category of young women who did chorus, figure skating, synchronized swimming, and joined a sorority. I was always athletic and derby fit into a space in my life I was looking to fill.

2. How did you first become involved with the league?
My older sister began skating with Windy City while I was in graduate school. After graduation, I relocated to New York where I tried out and made the Gotham Girls Roller Derby. After 2 years, I decided to return home to Chicago and I am beginning my third year as a skater here in Chicago. I competitively figure skated for a number of years so skating was a natural ability.

3. Tell the truth — Who gave you your skating name? What’s the story behind it?

When deciding upon a name, I knew I wanted to be Dinah ____ but I wasn’t sure. My older sister approached me about sharing the same last name for derby because it would be fun, especially since we skated (at the time) on rival leagues. There are a few pairings of sisters or mothers/daughters in the skating world, and very few of them share a common name. We felt it was better to share a name, plus it’s fun for our family to watch the ‘Block Party’ in action. I chose Dinah Party ultimately because it fit in with my “not so nice” sorority girl partying behavior.

4. What’s harder — taking a hit in a bout or finding a spot to park at Old Orchard on the weekends?
I don’t drive, and I haven’t been to Old Orchard in years. However, jamming through people can improve derby skills. Take for instance, a heavily trafficked tourist area, it provides great agility practice and helps teach you to move your feet.

5. What do your friends and family think about your participation?

They are very supportive. They worry about the two of us hurting ourselves, but they know we’ve got thick skin and even thicker bones because we drink a lot of milk. My friends always tend to bring it up when I’m introduced and at times people do a double take and go ‘You? Roller Derby? Nah!’ and then I’ve found my newest fan to the sport.

6. What keeps you coming back, practice after practice, bout after bout?

The camaraderie, sisterhood, and business savvy women that all participate. It’s not just the fact it’s a super awesome sport- it’s the knowledge that we all have day jobs and this is how we can improve minds and bodies after a long day. It also helps to teach valuable and transferable business skills you otherwise wouldn’t learn because everyone pitches in to make the organization run.

7. What’s the biggest misconception about your sport?
That it’s tawdry women that beat each other up, that we look like refrigerators on wheels, or that we get paid. The showboating nature of roller derby has passed and with it all of the spectacle and fake gameplay–many times people attend modern derby expecting to see this, or even to see the sloped bank track and they don’t–but they still love the game. What I especially love about roller derby is that you can be any size and be a great skater, there is no body type that lends itself to the sport and all shapes and sizes are welcome.

And as an all volunteer amateur sport, we are not paid. We all have day jobs and we all take on 2nd ‘derby’ jobs in order to help the league. We go out into the community often and raise money for the league via fundraisers and requests for sponsorship. It takes a lot to run a league of this caliber and every bit helps.

8. What’s your 9 – 5 occupation?
I work in college administration.

9. Any sentimental life lessons to offer from your experience on wheels?
Playing against my sister can be fun because after all, she is my older sister, but at the end of the day we share two things that are very important; a derby supportive family and a great family of women in various leagues across the country!

Photo credits: Dinah’s photo courtesy of Mariah Karson