San Diego Derby Dolls are national champions

Professional sports teams usually look to minor league systems, colleges and high schools to fill their rosters with winning talent.

When the founder of an upstart San Diego-based franchise sought to resurrect the long forgotten sport of roller derby, she turned to a more unconventional recruiting tool: Craigslist.

So far, the plan has worked to perfection.

Just four years since Oceanside skater Bonnie D’Stroir posted the online ad, she’s built the San Diego Derby Dolls into one of the nation’s most successful roller derby franchises.

The Derby Dolls, who compete at the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ Wyland Sports Center, were crowned national champions last month after defeating their sister team, the Los Angeles Derby Dolls 78-76 in the June 21 national bank tracked title game in Austin, Texas.

The victory followed the San Diego team’s California flat track title in May.

The Derby Dolls are believed to be the first team to win both banked and flat track titles, according to team spokeswoman Deanne Campbell, who also plays on the team and goes by “Taryn Heart.” All roller derby players have “derby names” listed on the national derby register that can’t be their real names, Campbell said.

The San Diego Derby Dolls play on a flat track at the fairgrounds and on a banked track in Los Angeles, Campbell said.

The team hopes to build a banked track in San Diego at an estimated cost of $30,000, Campbell said.

The Derby Dolls are no divas. They play an intensely physical and grueling full-contact sport that is player funded, with derbyists shelling out about $80 a month plus travel expenses to be on the team.

They’re hoping their recent success fuels interest in financing a banked track, where a faster and more entertaining game is played, Campbell said.

“We’re the best team in the nation, so hopefully this will give us more visibility,” she said. “We’re hoping someone who builds skate parks will come forward.”

The Derby Dolls are part of a roller derby renaissance that started in Austin earlier this decade, Campbell said.

Campbell said the Derby Dolls play a contemporary version of the sport that she says is more authentic than the roller derby of decades earlier known for staged fighting.

“It’s not like the old days,” she said. “The better roller derby teams look a lot different than poorly skilled players who are acting. It’s more athletic and less (World Wrestling Federation).”

But it is still a tough sport.

“We have girls who can turn around and skate back backwards and then turn and knock somebody into the rail,” Campbell said.

The Derby Dolls field four teams - a banked track team and three flat-track teams. Their elite flat track team travels, while the other two teams compete in-house. Each team has 12 roster players and two alternates.

Those who compete in the sport say it is like no other.

“It definitely gives you a sense of empowerment,” Campbell said. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done. I don’t know anywhere else where woman can play a full contact sport like this.”

The Derby Dolls are hopeful that their recent success will help them turn the corner on bringing a banked track to San Diego, their founder said in a prepared statement.

“Being a National Championship winning team is certainly a dream come true, but the dream will not be complete until we can deliver that kind of excellence (banked track bouts) to our home audience in San Diego,” D’Stroir said.