The basis for good literature is the conflict between two opposing forces. Take Megan Faragher, Ph.D., for example. As an associate professor of English at Wright State University’s Lake Campus, Faragher knows about conflict driving a story forward.
She also knows about two opposing forces as a skater on the nationally ranked Gem City Roller Derby team.
“There’s slightly less contact than in hockey,” she said, explaining the body-on-body banging into the opposing team’s skaters.
The classroom and the skating rink are two different worlds, but Faragher has found a link that helps her as a teacher and a roller derby player.
The connection between those two worlds for her began when she was pursuing her Ph.D. in English literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo about 12 years ago.
“When you’re writing a dissertation, you’re pretty much by yourself,” Faragher said.
While seeking ways to socialize, she came upon roller derby, which is prominent there, and she joined Queen City Roller Derby.
“I started skating. It gave me an outlet and a sense of community,” she said.
When she arrived at Wright State in 2014, one of the first things she did was look for the local roller derby team.
She found Gem City Roller Derby, a group of about 100 skaters comprising three teams — an internationally competitive one and two development teams. It’s a women-identified sport.
“Anyone who self-identifies as a woman can skate,” Faragher said. “We have an inclusive gender policy.”
Men are welcome to help as coaches, support staff, volunteers and referees.
Roller derby is played on an oval flat track by two teams of five roller skaters, with both teams skating in the same direction. Gem City practices six to seven hours a week at a rink in Vandalia on Monday and Tuesday evenings and on Sundays.
The team plays against other squads from neighboring states. The season begins in February and runs until the end of summer.
“We might go to New Jersey and New York City this summer,” Faragher said, adding that the team has played as far away as South Carolina. “Before COVID, we’d play 10 to 11 games a year. We’re doing five this year.”
Faragher is one of the more seasoned skaters, and as such is co-captain of the traveling team, called Purple Reign, which is ranked 12th in the northeast. The two development teams are called Violet Femmes and Purple Haze.
Gem City is part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, an international governing body that includes nearly 500 teams on six continents.
“We’re not paid, so to that extent we’re amateur but competitive,” Faragher said, adding that professional athletes in other sports cross over to roller derby.
Matches last about an hour, composed of two 30-minute halves. In those halves there are two-minute-long jams, “like a play in football,” Faragher said.
“There are two positions, jammer and blocker,” she said. “I’m a blocker. My goal is to help my jammer pass the other team’s blockers and defend the other jammer from passing.”
Points are assessed for each blocker a jammer passes. “So, it’s like playing offense and defense at the same time,” she said.
It is in putting this strategy into practice that Faragher sees a connection to teaching.
“It’s how well you can communicate as a defender, as a blocker, where your teammates need to be. It involves the skills I have to hone as a teacher — the classroom element is all about communication,” she said.
As a co-captain, Faragher is involved in training her teammates.
“Part of training is teaching how to skate and the physical applications unique to our sport,” she said.
In a sense it is like teaching students how to write, said Faragher, who teaches writing and composition at Lake Campus.
“When I started doing this sport, I liked the competition, staying in shape and being around cool people,” she said.
But Faragher said over the past 10 years she recognized that there is a mutual benefit, namely teaching skaters, who come from different walks of life, and teaching students, who come from different backgrounds.
“This has helped me connect to students,” Faragher said.
Some of her fellow faculty members have come to watch Purple Reign games, whose roster includes several Wright State faculty and alumni.
“This is an extension of the Wright State community,” she said.