(MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO) Representatives from three St. Louis professional women’s sports teams discussed their respective franchises’ impact in the area on a televised talk show Monday.
St. Louis Surge Owner/General Manager Khalia Collier, St. Louis SLAM players Tiffany Pugh and Taylor Hay and Arch Rival Roller Girls skater Carrie “Shimmy Hoffa” Carpenter were guests on the “Afternoons on 11” program on KPLR-TV, Channel 11.
The half-hour showcased the local leaders from the women’s professional fields of basketball, tackle football and flat-track roller derby.
Collier, whose Surge are the reigning national champions of the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL), felt that alternatives to men’s professional athletics are on the radar locally.
“I think we’re seeing a great amount of momentum geared towards women’s sports as a whole and people right now are excited about something different,” the owner said. “The Rams, Cardinals and Blues are awesome, but people are looking for something different and women’s sports give you a different angle.”
All three women’s franchises have been successful competitively on a national level, but it does come with a price. For Pugh, a SLAM linebacker, the cost to participate is as high as the sweat equity invested on the field.
“We pay to play,” she said. “We pay because we love the sport. It is kind of hard seeing men doing the same things that we are doing get paid to play and we have to pay out of pocket to play the sports that we enjoy.”
But for the SLAM, whose Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) season begins April 11 at home against Minnesota, it’s worth it.
“It’s addicting,” said Ray, the team’s fullback. “When we’re off-season, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t wait to hit someone and can’t wait for the season to begin.’”
Conversely, there’s no off-season for Carpenter, who skates for Arch Rival’s two-time defending local champs, The Smashinistas, from November to June while simultaneously competing on ARRG’s All-Stars travel team, which competes against other international teams sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) from March until October. Also a “pay-to-play” league, Arch Rival is best defined as skater-owned.
“It’s a D.I.Y. (do it yourself) organization,” Carpenter said of her franchise’s complexion. “We run the league. We are the ones that run our board, collect our sponsorship and do our publicity. We do it all.”
For Arch Rival, whose local regular season series continues April 4 at Midwest Sport Hockey, raising awareness of the product is a perpetual challenge.
“As far as getting our crowds at home, developing a loyal fan base is the biggest challenge for us,” said Carpenter, who serves as the league’s Director of Publicity. “When I hear people say, ‘I didn’t know there was roller derby in St. Louis,’ I’m like, ‘Arrrgh. What am I doing wrong?’”
With limited resources, and budgets, all three teams know about self-promotion. Collier’s Surge begins defense of its WBCBL National title in May and launches its home campaign June 11. The 27-year-old round ball owner, four years deep of possessing the keys, has personally held a mantra from the onset.
“You always hear that women’s sports is such a tough sell, but it truly depends on who’s selling it and that’s how you position it,” she said. “That’s the driving fire, to see what we’re building.”
That construction includes the mutual admiration and respect that each respective franchise has for the other two.
“I support women’s sports for fun,” said the Surge’s Collier. “I can’t wait to see a roller derby game. I can’t wait to see the SLAM. That’s the foundation of us supporting each other. I think now this is great timing for us to have natural synergy and to keep the support going.”
To watch segments from this program, GO TO THIS LINK from kplr11.com.
For more information on the St. Louis Surge, go to stlsurgebasketball.com.
For more information on the St. Louis SLAM, go to stlslam.com.
For more information on the Arch Rival Roller Girls, go to archrivalrollergirls.com.