LYNWOOD | Before she started skating with a roller derby league in Michigan, Ruth Armstrong never considered herself athletic.
"I always thought I would never be an athlete until I found this," Armstrong said. "And so it's really given me a really great sense of accomplishment and self-confidence being able to see myself as an athlete."
Now a Lansing resident, Armstrong is one of 11 women who rent out the Lynwood Roller Rink, 2030 Glenwood-Dyer Road, from 8 to 10 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays to practice with their newly formed flat track team called the Illiana Derby Dames.
On Feb. 18 and 20, the team will open up its practices, free of charge, to the public and prospective skaters, referees and officials.
There will be a question and answer session with the skaters, and women 19 years old and up can learn how to join the team.
Those who can't attend and are interested in joining can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team is looking to add a minimum of two more players in order to have a roster large enough to begin competing against other local teams.
Jenn Wardell, 38, and Katie Wagila, 28, sisters who grew up in Hammond, are two of the main organizers for the group.
Wagila, of Lansing, skated in a league previously, but Wardell, of Crown Point, is new to the sport. Wardell works as a hairdresser and is one of three mothers on the team.
"I think that at a certain point you don't do much for yourself anymore as a mom," Wardell said. "This is the two hours a week, two times a week I get to ... it's kind of all about me."
Both Wagila and Wardell believe the sport in which the object is for the "jammer" to pass opposing blockers to gain points is not as violent as many may think.
"There's tons of rules," Wardell said. "I think it's a misconception like it's a bunch of girls getting out on skates and hitting each other and there's no rules."
But that doesn't mean it can't be rough.
"You're gonna fall and you're gonna fall a lot, but somehow it becomes fun," Wardell said.
Bre Christensen, 25, is also new to roller derby. The Cedar Lake resident said she has participated in sports throughout her life, but not in anything quite this physical.
She said it was scary at first, but she has become more comfortable now and has sharpened her skating skills.
"I didn't know how to stop," Christensen said. "So they taught me how to stop. They taught me how to fall. They taught me everything I needed to know before I was even allowed to start practicing with them."
Chicago resident Yolanda Whisenton, 33, is a mechanical engineer and mother of two young boys.
She has a personal reason for joining the sport, having broken her arm as a child on her first pair of skates.
"So I've been trying to conquer that fear every once in a while," Whisenton said.
While skating nicknames such as Annie Maim, Electro-Cute and Rue DeDaye, might not suggest a great level of kindness, the team is actually very much community-minded.
After administrative costs, any money that is generated from the team's matches will go to charity. and the team has already assisted with a cancer benefit, a local food bank and helped out a center for victims of abuse.
Members spoke of the strong friendships that are formed among teammates and the great exercise the sport provides.
Armstrong said although her husband has been supportive of her participation, he does not like when she comes home with an arm full of bruises.
"He's like, I don't even want to be like seen with you when you have all the bruises because people give me dirty looks," Armstrong said.