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By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
People looking for a fun fitness activity should get a set of wheels — of roller blades or on skateboards that is. Whether it’s at a skate park, roller rink or outdoors in general; skating and skateboarding is an activity that both kids and adults can enjoy while getting physical at the same time.
Leo Rawle, an employee of Bentley’s Skate Shop in North Coventry, has been skateboarding since he was 10 and said it’s a way of expression for him.
“I just love the freedom of skateboarding,” he said adding that he played team sports as a child but likes that skateboarding is more of an independent activity.
Rawle said skateboarding helped him improve his confidence and teach him about perseverance. The activity has also helped him improve balance and his athletic ability for other sports. Rawle wrestles professionally and uses skateboarding as a cross-training opportunity.
“It’s a good core workout,” he said adding that skateboarding is great for stamina as well because you’re continuously pushing the board around.
The skate shop that Rawle works at sells Roller Derby products in addition to skateboarding gear. Nate Gauger, the owner of Bentley’s Skate Shop, recently relocated his store from E. High St. in Pottstown to inside the Coventry Mall which is located in North Coventry. The store first opened in 2008.
“Bentley’s kind of helped save the skateboarding community around here,” Rawle said adding that at the time there weren’t a lot of nearby places to purchase skateboards and equipment.
Gauger started selling roller skates at his shop in 2010 and is now the official supplier for the Pottstown Roller Derby. Gauger began refereeing for area Roller Derby leagues in 2011. He travels to different Roller Derby games throughout Pennsylvania and even out of state. When he relocated the skate shop to Coventry Mall, Gauger had the idea to get Roller Derby teams to skate inside the mall as a grand opening promotion. Roller Derby members from area leagues including Pottstown, Wilkes-Barre and Lancaster got to ignore the mall’s “no skate” rule for one weekend.
Deirdre “Bomb DiggaDee” Kelly is the coach for the Pottstown Roller Derby’s Fresh Meat Program and skated pass mall customers last weekend along with several of her team members. The Fresh Meat Program is for beginner skaters just getting started with Roller Derby. The contact sport includes two teams with five players each skating on a track. One player called the “jammer” scores points while the rest of the team acts as blockers.
Kelly said the Pottstown league is more recreational than competitive. She said a lot of people join the team as a way to socialize with other women or as an exercise opportunity.
“Roller Derby is all about being uncomfortable,” she said adding that the sport keeps you fit because of the way your body moves when playing.
Kristen Reaney “Tough Cookie” started her first season on the Pottstown Roller Derby Fresh Meat Program just this year. Reaney said the team has been a positive influence on her and that everyone was very welcoming when she joined.
“It’s been awesome. It’s been amazing. I love it,” she said.
First starting out, Reaney learned some skating basics when she joined like how to do crossovers and how to skate backwards. She said the team also does exercises such as squats, pushups and sit-ups.
“It’s basically a workout on skates. We’re learning how to skate but then we’re also trying to get in shape,” Reaney said.
Aleigha Wagner “Alto Hurtya” joined the Dutchland Derby Rollers of Lancaster in May. Wagner said skating helped her meet new people and was also a good way to get more fit. She’s lost a few pounds since joining the team and gained muscle.
“My pants are fitting better and I’ve had to buy smaller sizes so that’s exciting,” Wagner said.
Wagner said skating on a Roller Derby team has really improved her balance. She goes home every night and practices balancing on one foot.
“When you play [Roller Derby], you’re always turning to the left. The left leg gets stronger so you have to compensate outside of the games to get that other side balanced too,” she said.
Wagner said flexibility is another skill that’s really important when skating. She said players find themselves in all kinds of positions during a Roller Derby game so flexibility helps them to move better. In the past few years, Roller Derby leagues have become quite popular in the area. Other local Roller Derby teams include the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals, the Brandywine Roller Derby, and the Reading Derby Girls.