Secret Lives of Faculty – Elizabeth Fogle, Roller Derby athlete

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  
Penn State Behrend

fogle - don't crop credit

Elizabeth Fogle, center. Photo credit: Raymond F. Durkin, http://www.DurmaxPhoto.com

PowerTower. Meanhatten. Big Red. Stitches. Miss United Skates. Lord of the Rink. Lady Liberty. Rusty Razor Blades. Jammin’ & Rammin’. Blockingjay.

Skater nicknames, which are typically creative puns that many skaters see as an opportunity to adopt an on-track persona, are only half the fun in the sport of roller derby. The names are what initially hooked Elizabeth Fogle, associate teaching professor of English, on the sport.

“I saw the movie Whip It in 2010 and became obsessed with coming up with derby names for fun,” Fogle said.

Of course, the English professor in Fogle would enjoy the wordplay, but she went all in on roller derby after learning there was a team in Erie.

“When a friend and I found out about Eerie Roller Girls, we went and observed a few practices and the rest is history,” Fogle said.

Though she had not been on roller skates since middle school, Fogle dug up some wheels, laced up and joined the team. She has been skating with the Eerie Roller Girls, part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), for seven years now.

We caught up with Fogle to find out more about roller derby, what she loves about the sport, and the story behind her skater name.

What is roller derby?

It’s sort of a mash up of a bunch of sports—hockey, rugby, NASCAR, and demolition derby—only there are no cars, balls, or pucks and it’s all executed on roller skates. Roller derby is all about helping our jammer (usually our fastest skaters) do laps and keeping the other team’s jammer from getting through. There are three positions on the team—pivot, blocker, and jammer. You can learn more about the rules and technique behind the sport at the WFTDA’s web page.

What’s the goal? How do you win?

From the WFTDA website: “The skaters wearing a helmet cover with a star on it are the jammers. After making it through the pack of blockers once, the jammer begins scoring points for each opposing blocker she passes legally and in bounds. She can also score points on opponents who are in the penalty box and can get a fifth point if she laps the opposing jammer. Blockers are trying to stop the opposing team’s jammer while helping their own jammer get through.”

What is your position on the team?

I mostly block. I’ve been jamming a little more this season and I enjoy it, but I’m really more at home blocking and keeping everyone together. I like blocking. It’s not just about big hits, but also about empowering your teammates and communicating strategy in real time. We play defense and offense simultaneously.

What’s your nickname?

I go by “Strong Female Protagonist.” It makes people laugh because it’s both specific and generic. My teammates call me Fogle or “Tag” for short.

What do you enjoy about the sport?

I love how demanding it is. It’s also scary and I try to do something every day that scares me a little bit. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, but I really like to challenge myself, physically, mentally, and creatively. Roller derby gives me that. Also, there’s always something new to learn—footwork, strategy, etc.

What does it give you?

It gives me an outlet where I can just be a person moving through space with a goal. So often women are discouraged from contact sports or using their bodies in physical, athletic ways. Roller derby provides a safe place for women to be tough and brutal, as well as confident and unapologetic. It’s also a community. My teammates are my friends.

Is it only women?

On our team, yes. Men play roller derby, too, but it definitely attracts more female players. We have some male referees and coaches, though.

Why do you think it appeals to women?

It’s a place where things like size and age don’t matter very much. At 5 foot 3 inches and 44 years old, I can be just as effective as someone who is 6 foot tall and half my age. I just have to figure out the best way to use my particular body and skill set to achieve a goal—be that a block, a brace, a screen, or even points.

What is the roller derby season and where do you skate?

Our season runs from late spring to early fall, but we practice nine months out of the year at Presque Isle Skating and Event Center in Erie. Our home games, or bouts, are at the Bayfront Convention Center. We’re just wrapping up this year’s season, but you can like/follow Eerie Roller Girls on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with the team.

What do people say when you tell them this is your hobby?

The usually ask if it’s like the old roller derby that used to be on television. I clarify that we are not scripted, there are established rules, we play on a flat track (not a banked), and throwing elbows is not legal.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I lift weights and do cross-fit training, which I enjoy almost as much as roller derby. I also like to knit and read when I have the time.

What do you enjoy about teaching English at Behrend?

I love winning over science majors and teaching them how to express themselves thoughtfully and purposely. For many of them, writing is a challenge. I really enjoy demystifying it for them and empowering them to be better, more rounded scientists. I also enjoy teaching graphic novels. I love hybrid forms that engage readers in new and interesting ways. All human beings are storytellers, so I think it’s important to study the variety of ways we tell stories.

Ready for some fun? What would your roller derby name be? Try this online roller derby name generator from Buzzfeed.

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