Tessa Beyers, Titan of the Track
With speed and strength, the titans of the Dickinson Roller Derby Team clash under the leadership of league president and team captain Tessa Beyers.
Beyers, "TessMonster" on the derby track, joined the Dickinson team in March 2013, two months after its launch. Beyers said she has always been drawn to the sport.
"On TLC they used to have 'Roller Girls' and it was a documentary series on one of the Texas teams, and I remember seeing that and being, like, these girls are so cool and fierce and muscular, without losing that feminine charm," she said.
Beyers has been in more than 50 bouts, and when not playing serves as a referee.
"I can't get enough," she said. "I just had a baby and I go and watch the girls in Bismarck play, and it's like, I miss this so much but my body is so wrecked right now!"
Of the two positions, jamming and blocking, she prefers to be a jammer.
"Jammers are the scorers, because you want to pass as many people on the other team as possible, and as many laps as you can, and not let the other person's jammer do the same thing."
Per the sport's rules, there is no punching and no elbowing, or as they say in Quidditch, Beyers said, "No cobbing."
"We do a lot of body checking and a lot of ramming," she said. "But my favorite part is when you get through the pack, and you just take off around that track as fast as you can."
Along with her love of the sport itself, Beyers also loves its sense of community.
"I have friends all over this part of the country," she said. "I have people I never would have met otherwise that I consider family now. I've been to Canada and I've met people up there with roller derby and I count them as friends, and I think it's just a great way to get out and meet people."
Beyers has witnessed the charity such a sense of community can inspire.
"We had a friend who had cancer and was dying," she said, "and when they found out he was going to need extra help with medical expenses they started a t-shirt campaign online, and within a couple of hours, people who didn't even know him were donating money."
She added, "We're like a big family. Even if we don't know you, we all try to help out."
Joining the team has helped Beyers personally, as well.
"I have depression and anxiety," she said, "and since I've joined roller derby, it has helped me come to terms with those things and move past them."
The feeling is shared among her teammates. Team member Summer Thompson said she, too, has found empowerment in the sport.
"I feel stronger," Thompson said. "I've tested my limits. I can push myself and I know I can do better, and if I can do better at one thing and learn and continue to learn, I can do anything. It makes me feel, no matter how many times I get knocked down, I can get right back up again."
She added, "It's like no other sport I've participated in."
Among her duties as captain, Beyers helps coaches set up practices and acts to "set a good example," leading the team's community outreach efforts.
"If you don't have a good leader, you can't expect your people to do well," she said.
When they're able, the team practices at Dickinson's West River Ice Center.
"We haven't gotten any floor space yet, but I plan on going in and getting some here soon," Beyers said.
The team currently has seven members but needs 10.
"It's a lot of the older core girls," Beyers said. "We've got new girls who are pretty great. We had a lot of girls that either had babies or got injured and couldn't play anymore, so they stepped away. We're hoping to gather some more girls."
Because there are so few members, the team won't be competing this year, Beyers said.
"We're trying to focus on rebuilding our numbers, so we have enough people that we can easily go out and play without having to find people to come and skate with us," she said. "It's really kind of sad this year."
The team also needs skaters, referees and non-skating officials. But more than anything, Beyers said, the local league needs fans.
Beyers remains optimistic about the league's future, calling it a worthwhile effort.
"I'm hoping we can get some more people. There's some girls who were injured or had kids, and I'm hoping some of them come back," she said. "Next season is a new season, and we're going to rock it!"