Bootcamp brings new members to Appalachian Roller Girls


Aleah Warner


The Appalachian Roller Girls opened their doors to new members on Sunday at their fall bootcamp event, located at Skateworld in Vilas.

The event is held twice a year, first in April and again in October. The bootcamp presents community members with the opportunity for those interested in roller derby to see how the team functions and what it takes to become a member.

Those who continue past bootcamp go on to join the beginning “fresh meat” program, team member Erica Stewart said.

“This is the most enthusiastic I have ever seen a bootcamp group,” Stewart said. “From my bootcamp last year, only about six of us remain out of 30. This camp is a smaller turnout, but everyone who came bought new skate packages and signed up for the fresh meat program.”

The Appalachian Roller Girls are an 18 and up all female skating group established in 2010 after a college student’s Facebook post stirred interest from the community to start a roller derby team. The first meeting brought together a mix of 80 mothers, students, teachers and other women in the community.

According to the ARG’s website, the group aims to “encourage female athleticism, empowerment and community awareness through various activities and events throughout the year.” 

Jennele Vaquera, also known as Coco Janel on the team, said the team is growing larger every year, in numbers and in quality.  Since last year, the team has formed a club on campus and moved up to a B ranking in competition. 

“A lot of people, they see the fish nets and the skates and the crazy outfits and they still have no idea what’s going on out there,” Vaquera said. “I think it’s good for people with an interest to come out here and see what we really do and see that there is a lot of athleticism and time and commitment involved in our sport.” 

ARG operates under the guidelines of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association and is a nonprofit, 501(c)3, meaning the profits they make are donated to charities in the area.

In their first year, ARG focused on roller skating and learning the rules of derby. The team began competing in their second year against other roller derby teams in the southeast, Vaquera said.

For members, roller derby serves more than one purpose. ARG is a combination of both student and professional women in the community, giving its members the opportunity to socialize with a new group of people.

With practices twice a week, roller derby serves as a work out for the girls on the team. Brianne Armstrong, or Bullet Bri, said being on the team has motivated her to stay in shape and has boosted her confidence.

“I keep coming back because I’m competitive in nature, and that’s a good way to get that out,” Armstrong said. “It’s a release for the stress during the week from school and work. It’s nice to have something.”

The team hosts two home bouts a year, usually in May and August at the Holmes Convocation Center. For the rest of the season, they compete in about 10 away games. 

On Oct. 24, the Appalachian Roller Girls will compete in their last bout of the year against the Carolina Roller Girls. Additional information about the team can be found on their website,

Story by: Aleah Warner, Intern A&E Reporter

Photos by: Emma Kovasckitz