Rolling Around Youngstown

By Natalie Lasky and Jessica Stamp

The local roller derby team, Youngstown Little Steel Derby Girls, is an adult league doing its part to ensure that derby stays alive. The league skates out of the Cortland Roller Rink in Cortland, Ohio and steps up to help individuals or teams in a time of need. 

Roller derby is a contact sport that is made up of five skaters from each team on the track. There is a jammer, three blockers and a pivot that makes up the jams, which are the individual two minute rounds in a game. 

The jammer tries lapping the blockers and pivot, while the pivot on the team directs their blockers to hit the opposing jammer out of play to prevent the jammer from scoring.

LSDG is known for helping out its skaters and other leagues anytime a need arises. It has raised money for injured skaters and skaters with medical conditions to participate in community events and has volunteered its time to help promote local businesses. The league also has skaters that help out other teams in the surrounding area.

One of those skaters is Brittany Carter, known as “Thunder Bottom.” She has been with LSDG for the past six years. She currently skates for the Pittsburgh Undead Roller Derby coed league as both a jammer and blocker. 

“The hardest part of the game is trying to get past the blockers and the best part of the game is the people you meet. It’s not just men and women, you also have [transgender] skaters,” and you have different types of leagues for those who prefer skating with just women, just men or both,” Carter said.

Another skater in Little Steel is Angie Helmick Hampson, known as “Road Rage.” Helmick Hampson has been involved with derby for three years and is concerned she does not have the skills she would have had if the pandemic had not shut down derby.

“Due to the COVID-19 shut-down in 2020, I still feel like a rookie skater. Even though I have been with the team three years, I don’t feel I have three years of experience,” Helmick Hampson said. 

Sharon Cline, a Youngstown State University English composition professor, has a daughter and granddaughter who both play roller derby. Her daughter Shawna Starautnikes and has been skating since the ‘90s.

“She played for Little Steel first but she did also play for Cleveland, Burning River Roller Derby, and they were ranked pretty high in the world. She was there when they were in the playoffs, then she came back to Little Steel,” Cline said. “Drama’s daughter plays for Crooked River Roller Derby. So, it has now become generational. I was even given a derby name by the skaters; they call me Drama-mama.” 

Cline said one of the best things about derby is that no matter where you go in the United States, you can find a derby team and have instant friends.