After six months of practices, training clinics, skills testing and four broken ankles, Butte's Copper City Queens roller derby team is playing in its first bout Saturday against Helena's Hel'z Belles.
Team members hope the bout will help them hone their skills and learn more about their chosen sport than they can learn in practice scrimmages.
“I’m really proud of where we’ve come from,” said Angela Welles, team founder and president. “(Many team members) couldn’t even stand up in skates and now they’re ready to go out there. We need to go out and interact and learn the game with other players. What does a real hit feel like when it’s not coming from your buddy? It feels amazing to bring a team along like this.”
Fourteen of the 40-member Queens have passed the numerous minimum skills required by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association to make up the bout team.
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The team’s biggest challenge so far has been finding a dedicated practice space with a concrete floor big enough to tape out a track. The team is practicing at a vacant store on South Montana Street but hopes to find a more permanent space.
And the Queens are under no illusion that the bout against Helena will be a tough one, but team members have resolved to treat the bout as a fun learning experience and a good time for fans of both teams.
“Helena typically gets 1,500 people (at bouts),” Welles said. “We’d love to have a big Butte fan base. I’m hoping on Saturday we represent Butte to the best of the ability we’re able to at this point. Whether we win or lose, that’s what needs to happen.”
Competing for the first time marks the final chapter in forming and growing the team -- and the beginning of what the team hopes is a successful era of derby in Butte.
“Mostly we’re looking forward to finding out how we function as a team and how a team should function to be successful in the derby arena,” Welles said. “For us, success at this bout will be the Copper City Queens coming away with knowledge, strategy and a list of things to work on. We are building a tool box. We are building a team.”