Osan-Humphreys roller derby club keeps aggressive sport alive on Korean peninsula
By MATTHEW KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2019
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Nearly a dozen of the toughest women from Camp Humphreys and nearby Osan Air Base recently laced up their skates for a full-contact roller derby scrimmage at Humphreys’ Collier Community Fitness Center.
Taking on a holiday theme, the Gingerbread Brawlers faced off on Saturday against the Candy Cane Crushers in a 60-minute matchup that put close friends at odds — but all in good fun.
With track names like Bombastic, Krankenwagen, Elinor Bashgood and Wreck It Wanda, the women delivered an energy-packed short track derby on the gym’s basketball court that put the Brawlers on top of the Crushers, 77 to 68.
Both squads are part of the Osan-Humphreys Roller Derby Team, which has about 25 members, including active-duty military, reservists, spouses, contractors and civilians.
Army Maj. Priscella Nohle, team manager and an operations officer with the 2nd Infantry Division at Humphreys, said the club aims to introduce roller derby to new people while providing the experienced players a chance to improve their skills while stationed overseas. No experience or equipment is required to join.
“We are very close; it’s a group of women that are completely honest and open with each other, so there is no trying to one-up each other,” said Nohle, who’s known as Thor’s Jammer on the track. “We are all trying to be supportive of one another as opposed to knocking each other down.”
Nohle selects players based on skill level to divide into two squads for each scrimmage. Because not everyone is on the same level, the team plays matches only from within to continue growth.
“The first thing we do with someone new to the game is to teach them three basic skills,” Nohle said. “How to do a knee tap, knee slide and plow stop. If they can do those three skills, then they are level one.
To mitigate the risk of injury to themselves and others on the track, players must progress to level four before participating in a game.
“It seems silly but when you do that progression you are developing those skills needed to be stable on skates to the point you’re not going to hurt anyone,” Nohle said.
The newest member on the track Saturday was Erin Peacock, 36, a military spouse at Humphreys who joined the team in March. The Washington native said she grew up on skates as a girl, and it was her favorite thing to do.
“When I found out there was a sport on skates, I just jumped right into it and loved it,” Peacock said. “I’ve never done anything competitive like this before, so getting my footing and actually being hit while on skates is a whole different ballgame.”
The scrimmages, which are usually hosted at Humphreys, and are free for anyone to attend. The next is slated for late February.