Eat, Play, Live

Roller derby, a sport ‘unlike any other,’ offers community

State College Area Roller Derby home games are played at Penn Skates and are open to spectators.
State College Area Roller Derby home games are played at Penn Skates and are open to spectators. Centre Daily Times, file

Editor’s note: This story is part of the Eat, Play, Live special section.

The camaraderie of roller derby was something Kyla Maldonado fell in love with immediately.

Halfway through the first game she watched, Maldonado said she was ready to sign up. She started with the State College Area Roller Derby in May 2011, seven months after the league was founded.

“It’s a really fast-paced game. It’s something that’s, I think, unlike any other sport. … There’s no ball. There’s no goal. You are the ball,” said Maldonado, who wears several hats in the league — skater, board of directors president and a captain of the Happy Valley Dolls.

The league’s travel A team, Happy Valley Dolls, is internationally ranked, at No. 193. It also has a travel B team, Plan B, and two intraleague teams — Mt. Nittany Mayhem and Pennsyltucky Punishers.

The intraleague teams — a mix up of all the league’s players — play each other a few times a year, said Tina Letter, the league’s marketing director. The teams will play at Central Pa. 4th Fest in the west parking lot next to Beaver Stadium.

Roller derby is played on a flat oval track, and each team sends out five players at a time — a jammer and four blockers, Letter said. The goal is for the jammer to fight her way through the other team’s pack of blockers, who simultaneously play offense and defense.

And that all happens on roller skates.

It’s intense and nonstop, Maldonado said.

“If you don’t feel like you were just in a hurricane, a tornado then you’re missing something. Like that’s how you should feel,” she said laughing, referencing what she tells new recruits.

Derby players come in all shapes and sizes, Letter said.

“We have players from every walk of life,” she said, “and every age.”

Letter said the league is a sisterhood and an amazing social network to be a part of.

“The community that comes with roller derby is just globally known as a very inclusive, very open community. There’s a lot of diversity,” Maldonado said. “It’s a very safe community.”

Maldonado said it’s interesting to be in the league during different parts of her life, adding that she feels like the league has grown with her.

“It evolves with you,” she said.

Home games are played at Penn Skates, 2210 High Tech Road. For more information, visit

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz