By Carley Dangona
Andrew Townsend (forefront) breaks through the pack during a roller derby bout where his team, the Mass. Maelstrom, faced the Pennsylvania Jersey Hooligans.
Photo courtesy of David A. Carter Photography
EAST LONGMEADOW – The Men’s Roller Derby World Cup took place from March 14 to 16 in Birmingham, England, featuring 15 teams from around the globe including skater Andrew Townsend, a native of East Longmeadow.
Townsend, 27, was a member of Team USA, who overcame Team England to win the championship. In the states, he skates as a jammer with the Mass. Maelstrom under the moniker Jurasskick Park. He has participated in roller derby for seven years, having previously skated for the Dirty Dozen of Pioneer Valley Roller Derby.
“It was surreal,” Townsend send of his experience on the World Cup team. “You give it all you got. It was very exciting, challenging and fun. I met some amazing people.”
The rules and regulations for roller derby are the same whether men or women are playing. Both are played on a circular, flat track with Jammers, Blockers and Pivots. Each round is called a “Jam.”
Jammers are responsible for earning points, which is done by skating through the “pack” of skaters. A point is earned when the lead jammer – the one who breaks through the pack first – passes a member of the opposing team. Blockers are responsible for protecting the jammer from their team and preventing the opposing team’s jammer from passing them. Pivots take the front of the pack and set the pace of the skate.
Townsend attended the first round of tryouts for Team USA this past summer in Chicago, Ill. Out of 75 people, 32 were chosen. Out of that number, 20 skaters were selected for the World Cup travel team. Townsend was one of three New Englanders to make the team.
Townsend said the experience helped increase his confidence and improve his focus. “The biggest challenge at the competition was honing our skills as a team,” he said, adding that Team USA had only practiced together a few times.
“Scrimmaging with Team USA was the most intense roller derby I’ve ever played or watched. It was high intensity, I just had to focus and try and survive,” Townsend commented.
“It was so cool to see all the pride. The fans were amazing. The underdogs had full support because they were closer [and the fans could travel to the competition,” he said.
“My biggest challenge at the tournament was learning to focus in that environment. Every single moment was a learning experience,” Townsend stated. He described the cheers of the English fans as “deafening and disorienting.”
The experience taught him new skills that he plans to use with the Maelstrom. “When you have a certain level of talent/potential/ability, you can start to orchestrate things in a less chaotic fashion,” he commented.
Townsend added, “Through derby and as a person, one of the most significant things I’ve learned is to focus, being present, in the moment.”
When asked what his first memory of skating was, Townsend responded, “Skating in the Fisher Price quads down the gravelly driveway [as a child].”
He befriended a skater who told him about the sport. “I was hooked talking to this guy. I saw my first bout and was like, ‘How do I sign up?’” Townsend said.
He described himself as “naturally athletic.” For fitness, Townsend cross-trains with plyometrics, but enjoys a multitude of sports. “I’m not too dedicated to any one thing. Anything that I can master with my body, I try. My latest adventure; I’m just getting my feet wet in slalom skating,” he said.
“It’s been very interesting watching the game develop over the years,” he said. “I’m certainly having a lot of fun.”
For more information about men’s roller derby, visit www.mensrollerderbyassociation.com . To learn more about women’s roller derby, go to http://wftda.com . For more details on the Maelstrom, log on to http://massmaelstrom.com .
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