How did BRRD get its start?
In 2006, there was a roller derby reality show on A&E called “Rollergirls”, which sparked a lot of local interest in starting a league in Cleveland. At that time, if you Googled “roller derby Cleveland” a generic website came up from someone that was trying to start a league: Cleveland Rollergirls.
You could fill out the form with your name and email, and they would get back to everyone interested once they had more information. There was also a yahoo group where skaters from around the world gathered to share information. It was a great way to connect with other people in your city that were interested in forming a league, and that’s how the core group from Cleveland found each other.
We had all seen the Cleveland Rollergirls site, and no one had been able to get any real information from that, so we decided to start our own league. We formed a group to help organize Derby in Cleveland and figure out what would need to be done to get things rolling (finding practice space, looking for sponsors, recruiting more skaters and volunteers, etc). We were actually planning to be a banked track league in the beginning but would train and play flat track games until we could raise enough money to build the bank track.
Turns out it’s really expensive to build one, and even more expensive and difficult to find a space to set it up. So those plans were scrapped and (like most other leagues in the country) we decided to focus on playing flat track roller derby.
How long has BRRD been around?
Burning River Roller Derby, originally known as Burning River Roller Girls, had its first organizational meeting at the Happy Dog in February 2006. The then Board of Directors was introduced to women who were interested in learning more about playing roller derby. The vision of the league was laid out and the president of Ohio Roller Girls from Columbus was there to describe the success of that league, which had formed a year earlier and was about to begin its first public bouting season. A second organizational meeting was held in March 2006 to discuss next steps and to loop in more interested parties that weren’t able to be at the first meeting. During this time, interested skaters were meeting up at open skates to get to know each other and dust off their skate legs. Finally, on April 25th, 2006, we held our first official practice at United Skates in Wickliffe. As a beautiful coincidence, our home opener of our 10th season was also held on April 25th of 2016.
What do you like about working in Cleveland?
When people talk about Cleveland sports fans being the best fans in the world, they aren’t kidding. At our bouts, we have a wide demographic of adoring fans that turn out time and time again to support us as their local roller derby league. Whether we’re winning, losing, or in a tight battle for the scoreboard, the chant “BURN, BURN, BURN” rings out from the stands during every bout! We have a great Fan Zone area where our fans can take photos with our skaters and get autographs; the children that come to see us especially love the one-on-one time while we sign their programs. At the end of the night, we have after-parties which are open for anyone to attend. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is having a better time on the dance floor: us or our fans! We love Cleveland and mingling with its eclectic community!
What do you like most about your job?
We have the best jobs in the world. Well, second jobs. Each of us has our “day job” which spans fields such as school teachers to scientists, mothers to software engineers. We then have our “league job” which helps ensure that we can keep rolling on the track. Within the league, our skaters wear many different hats. Some of us work on sponsorships while others work on bout production to make sure we’re delivering a great product. Others work on building our relationship with our amazing community, finding charities for us to support, and finding creative ways to engage our fans. Then we have our jobs with more focus on skating. We can have up to five practices a week which are lead by our coaching staff, made up of skaters. There is a job for everything from running our social media and website to coordinating concessions to tracking and accessing skater development.
Our third job is skating. When you combine the three, and look at everything we’re doing, the greatest joy comes from being able to show the versatility within a single human spirit, then joining together and accomplishing great things as a league. We work to build up the Cleveland community through our charity efforts and by inspiring and empowering other individuals to find the things they love and to then pursue them.
What makes BRRD so unique?
How did you come up with your business name?
At the time of Burning River’s inception, many roller derby leagues were adopting names based on their city’s nickname in lieu of their actual city name. For instance, New York became Gotham, Chicago became Windy City, Portland became Rose City, and so on. Other variations of this were naming the league after some kind of geographical feature of the area (i.e.: San Francisco was Bay Area) or some kind of well known cultural/historical event that happened in that city. When forming the league back in 2006 we followed that model and looked to Cleveland’s most prominent geographical feature, the Cuyahoga River, along with the historical event when it caught fire in 1969. It pays homage to Cleveland’s industrial heritage as a Rust Belt city, as well as a nod towards the toughness and grit of Cleveland’s population. It was also chosen to help avoid the anticipated confusion of two Cleveland leagues operating under the “Cleveland” name should the Cleveland Rollergirls ever come to fruition.
What does “Keep It Local” mean to you?
As stated above, we love Cleveland! Cleveland is our birthplace and our home. Keeping it local, to us, means being a contributing player within our community. We work locally, we bout locally, we support local charities, and you can find us volunteering in local community service projects. We believe that a community is as strong as its contributing members so it’s always been important to us to work with local companies and organizations as much as possible.
Are there any details about your company that you want everyone to know about?
We are currently recruiting and we have a spot for everyone! People feeling daring enough to lace up some skates and hit some people can reach out about becoming skaters. Or maybe you want to skate but not hit people? We could always use more referees! Don’t want to skate but like being close to the action? We have non-skating officials which help keep the game running! And for those who just want to support a great league of amazing athletes, come join our team of volunteers!
If you want to get involved, we’ll find some way to put you to work! Just email email@example.com and we’ll get you taken care of!