‘Legends skate here’

Top Portland roller derby team fosters inclusivity

The Rose City Rollers, ranked #1 roller derby league in the world, showcase some of the best roller derby talents—so good, in fact, you’d never believe they’re volunteers.

What’s equally impressive, however, is the community of acceptance, empowerment and inclusivity RCR has created—a community that has drawn skaters from across the country to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

A few skaters who moved to Portland specifically to be part of the Rose City Rollers revealed what brought them to the organization: inclusivity.  

This inclusivity has taken on a number of different forms. “It feels like there’s a comradery across all levels of skating,” said Molly Olmstead, who is known within the league by her derby name, Polly Wanna Crack’er. “It’s not just ‘you’re really good or you’re not.’ Everyone is part of the community and everyone is welcome.”  

Martine Tendler, whose derby name is “Tiggz,” suffers from a connective tissue disease as well as a degenerative joint disease and was inspired by skaters from RCR with similar diseases facing the same struggles.

“[It was the opportunity to] play at the highest level I could before my body gave out,” Tendler said. “I saw them doing things I wanted to achieve and from an outsider’s perspective, I thought I would be accepted and able to follow in their footsteps and carve out space for other chronically ill skaters.”

She attributes the diversity of skaters as a contributor to this inclusivity. “It’s such a diverse community, with LGBTQ+ members and people from a lot of different backgrounds,” Olmstead said. “We’re all empowered doing the same thing and working toward the same goal.”  

She credits the league’s shared values for creating “a place where people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds can grow and better themselves sports-wise, but also person-wise.”

Dakota Evans—Derby Name: Evans—echoed these feelings of acceptance. “As a non-binary person, I love how valid I feel here.”

Each skater emphasized the feeling of empowerment that comes from belonging to this community.

“[This is the] first space that I have ever truly been able to be myself and be celebrated for it,” Tendler said. “Skating at RCR helped me gain the confidence to live out my other dreams.”

Olmstead remembers the impact her RCR idols had on her growing up and is grateful for the opportunity to provide the same impact for others. “Creating a space for young girls to be empowered and find their space I feel like is really important,” she said.  

Evans shares Olmstead’s gratitude and hopes to give back to the organization that has been instrumental in her personal development.

“There’s so much room for growth in and out of the league, and I’m so excited to see where this community will take me and what I can do in return.”

In many cases, the value of inclusivity reveals itself in acts of kindness, something Tendler experienced firsthand after her father passed away.

“My world stopped,” Tendler said. “[My teammates] brought me food, sent me flowers, continually checked in on me and made sure I was drinking water and sleeping okay. We show up for each other however we can, where we can. I think that’s pretty valuable.

Clearly, it’s more than their success on the derby track that distinguishes these athletes. But let’s not forget these skaters are badasses at the top of their game.

As volunteer Dennis Gleeson put it: “Legends skate here.”

Portland’s roller derby league will be holding the Home Team Championships at 6 p.m. on June 1 in Oaks Amusement Park.