Photos and Text by Eileen T. Meslar
(Originally appeared in Blood & Thunder Magazine, 2016)
The Chicago Outfit is a flat-track roller derby league formed in 2007 and based in Chicago. The Outfit has 3 diﬀerent teams based on skill level. The main travel team, the Syndicate, competes in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The secondary travel team, the Shade Brigade, does not compete in WFTDA, but they travel with the Syndicate to various away bouts, and the Shakedown is the Outfit team encompassing new skaters. The Outfit practices four times a week at Fleetwood Roller Rink in Summit, Illinois, and during the season has several home bouts at Windy City Fieldhouse in Chicago.
In the 2015 season, the Outfit performed so well in their WFTDA bouts and Division 2 Playoﬀs that they moved up in rank, becoming the top-ranked roller derby team in Illinois. The Outfit prides itself on creating an environment where dedicated, hard-working athletes can skate competitively and support each other, and have fun while doing it. Unlike teams in other roller derby leagues, the tight-knit Outfit teams never bout against each other, which further reinforces the family culture the Outfit has been cultivating. “They are some of my closest friends. We literally shed blood, sweat, and tears together. I see these girls more than I see most of my family, but after 2-3 days a week of beating up one another we turn into family.” ~ Lady K
Cover photo: Lady K (Kelly Mikols) the morning of the Outfit’s third and final bout of the WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 30, 2015.
Co-captains Lola Blow (Jasmine Styrczula) and Smarty McFly (Chelsea Pearson) talk to their teammates before their last home bout of the season on July 25, 2015. “Being a captain is challenging because you have to put the team’s needs before your own sometimes, but it was also incredibly fulfilling to earn the team’s trust and hopefully be a positive influence on my teammates,” Smarty said.
The Chicago Outfit practices 4 times a week at Fleetwood Roller Rink in Summit, Illinois, to prepare for their weekend bouts.
The Chicago Outfit travel teams, the Shade Brigade and the Syndicate, prepare for their first away bouts of the season against Grand Raggidy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 28, 2015.
Lady K (Kelly Mikols) applies her customary makeup to her face before the Chicago Outfit’s first home bout of the season at the Windy City Fieldhouse on April 25, 2015. “Everyone on the Outfit used to always paint our faces for each bout. I always liked doing that, so I kept it up. I chose my symbol to just look even more scary.”
Nikita (Nicole Pacelli) blocks with her teammates during the Chicago Outfit’s first home bout at the Windy City Fieldhouse on April 25, 2015.
Shebiscuit (Lauren Wiscomb), Althea N. Hell (Erin Nelson), and Lola Blow (Jasmine Styrczula) react to a 30-point jam within the last minutes of a bout at the WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 29, 2015.
Kill ‘Ems (Mallory Erdman) gathers her thoughts before the team discusses the first half of their first home bout at the Windy City Fieldhouse in Chicago on April 25, 2015.
Captain Lola Blow (Jasmine Styrczula) relaces her skates before the beginning of practice at Fleetwood Roller Rink on August 24, 2015. “Being captain is really important to me. Keeping my team motivated, working hard, and also having fun is a really difficult balance that takes a lot of studying on and off the track.”
The Joan Ranger (Joan McDonald) embraces Coach Althea N. Hell (Erin Nelson) after the Chicago Outfit beats the Kansas City Roller Warriors by 25 points to win their first home bout of the season at Windy City Fieldhouse on April 25, 2015.
Sneer and Loathing (Rachel Colias) writes the word “intensity” on her leg before the Outfit’s second bout at the WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit, on August 29, 2015. Some Outfit skaters write their goals on their legs and arms as a way to remember and actualize them during the bout. “The words are a reminder to keep your head on straight and finish how you started.”
Matza Ballbreaker (Lara Rosenbush) leads the customary Chicago Outfit cheer before their bout against the Emerald City All Stars on the second day of the WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 29, 2015. “We do positive affirmations before games to gain power by speaking words we know are true of the team. They act as a reminder of how we play best and why.”
Ice Hurt (Lisa Smith) pushes against Emerald City All Star blockers in the Chicago Outfit’s first bout of the Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 28, 2015. “I am most comfortable jamming. I feel in control. I love the moment when I break the pack and get speed coming around to enter again. It’s seven seconds of freedom.”
Sneer and Loathing (Rachel Colias) hugs Nikita (Nicole Pacelli) after the Outfit lost their second bout in the Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 29, 2015.
Sneer and Loathing (Rachel Colias), Pain Gwen (Meghan Larcher), and Lethal Dose (Jennifer Davids) prepare to block the Emerald City All Stars jammer during the Chicago Outfit’s first bout of WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 28, 2015.
Lady K (Kelly Mikols) embraces The Joan Ranger (Joan McDonald) after Chicago Outfit’s 20-point win against the Emerald City All Stars at WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs in Detroit on August 28, 2015. This marks the first time the Chicago Outfit has won their first bout at playoffs.