Chicago Red Hots fast roller derby ablaze for national title

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Chicago Red Hots. Photo by Mariah Karson ~

Dakota Prosch is what some could call a trailblazer in the one of the world's fastest growing sports, roller derby. And it's a fitting label.

The jammer known to some by the derby name Kola Loka, seven-year veteran of the sport, possesses her own lightning fast moves on skates. Even more impressive than her quick moves on the track is her knack for rallying the troops.

Earlier this year, Prosch and a small handful of enthusiastic skaters set up a brand new league in Chicago called the Chicago Red Hots. Shortly after, the Red Hots joined an already established organization, USARS USA Roller Sports, an American body that governs a number of sports that also include inline hockey and speed skating. The momentum didn't stop there.

Since the first practice back in chilly January, the upstart has made a name for itself, while also attracting players from all over the area and winning games. Better yet, after only one season of play, the Red Hots recently booked their place in the USARS National Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"I loved it when I started," Prosch said of her early days in roller derby. "It was fast and exciting because the action never stopped."

The brand of derby that Red Hots play is run under a slightly different rule set than that of WFTDA, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. WFTDA teams constitute the lion's share of roller derby's growth in the last decade. As such, well-known teams such as the London Rollergirls and three-time national champs, Gotham Girls Roller Derby, from New York City, dominate much of the conversation.

While much of the devil lays in the derby details, many of the teams that play USARS style roller derby do so because it is seen as a faster game.

"The last three years in WFTDA have seen a slowing down of the action that was not to my liking as a fan of the sport, nor as a player," Prosch said. "When the Red Hots play (by the USARS rules), it is back to the fun, fast derby of the Renaissance of 2005 that fans and players like me are craving."

One interesting thing about the Red Hots is that the league is made up of both new players and skaters with many years of experience on the roller derby track. Yet, most of the club's veterans still play actively for other teams. Red Hots have about 25 regular members; many have come from two larger leagues in Chicago proper as well as players from leagues in Aurora and Roselle.

Having players from other leagues, Prosch said, is a challenge because skaters are busy already with anywhere between two to four nights a week of practice. Despite that, she said the Chicago Red Hots' players are equally as dedicated to their league when they show up for Red Hots practice.

Co-captain Danielle Henderson joined, seeing it not only as an opportunity for an additional workout, but as a way to witness different styles and skill sets from a wide group of derby aficionados.

"The Red Hots are a terrific opportunity to take leadership on the track earlier than you might in a more established league," Henderson said. "Since we have such diverse skills and experience, people are finding their own voice more quickly with fewer intimidation factors at play."

So far, the Red Hots have quickly become a tight unit with its own culture and style of play, and Henderson indicated that that having another place to play derby has its own benefits, one being the simple joy of getting to play a lot more derby.

"More time in skates, more opportunities for competition, while being a part of a start-up venture," Henderson said. "This all leads to a steeper yet quicker learning curve."

The championship tournament action starts 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25 at Cox Business Center, centrally located in the heart of Downtown Tulsa, Okla. The Red Hots kick off their own run for the USARS cup at 11:30 a.m. against Antagonist Roller Derby, of Seattle, Wash.

You can also find out about the Chicago Red Hots 2014 home season, which starts in February, by hitting its website at