LIANE HANSEN, host:
In the world of roller derby, women rule. There are more than 400 women's teams in the U.S. alone, with thousands of skaters. Now, men are getting into the game. About 30 men's teams have sprung up in the past few years. Jed Kim has the stories of some of those men, and the lengths they go to play.
(Soundbite of whistling)
JED KIM: To be a roller derby skater, you got have a good name.
Mr. BRENDAN MCMULLEN (Roller Derby Skater, New York Shock Exchange): I'm Filthy McNasty, and my real name is Brendan McMullen.
Mr. JOE MIHALCHIK (Roller Derby Skater, New York Shock Exchange): My name is Maulin Brando, also known as Joe Mihalchik. You'd be surprised the amount of people who don't know each other's real names.
KIM: These men are members of the New York Shock Exchange, which is quite possibly the strongest men's roller derby team in the country. Right now, they're standing inside their practice space, an old cigar warehouse in Queens. They're watching about a dozen men in helmets and pads chase each other down.
(Soundbite of men yelling)
KIM: It's the team's last practice before their first bout of the season, and the coaches are checking on everyone's progress. Team captain Jonathan Rockey's watching one skater in particular.
Mr. JONATHAN ROCKEY (Coach, New York Shock Exchange): Futures John's got guts. That's what I like. He's got guts. He's out, John. Go, John.
KIM: Futures John is a rookie, and he's nearing the end of his tryout period. If Jonathan and the other coaches like what they see today, he'll make the team. Co-captain Maulin Brando says only then will he get to pick a real derby name.
Mr. MIHALCHIK: It's kind of the tradition that you don't officially get to use your name until you've made a team. Sometimes, you know, people call it rookies or fresh meat. Or we call it ours, our futures.
KIM: Futures John isn't the only one trying to make a name for himself - all of the men are. Rookies like John are important because they represent growth. The men may be fighting for respect, but Futures John is just trying to stay on his skates.
Mr. ROCKEY: Oh, I just watched Angelo enjoy himself knocking over Futures John.
KIM: Futures John, whose real name is Jonathan Dawkins, is less than half the size of the player who hit him.
Mr. JONATHAN DAWKINS (Roller Derby Skater, New York Shock Exchange): Ow. Now I know what it feels like to get launched 10 feet in the air.
KIM: How are you feeling about the testing?
Mr. DAWKINS: Pretty good. A little bit comprehensive, I mean, let's say. We've been doing some stuff that wasn't even on the test, but it's all good.
KIM: His ordeal is worth it. At the end of practice, team captain Jonathan Rockey asks for the rookie's skates.
Mr. ROCKEY: Futures John, will you take a knee right here, please?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ROCKEY: Can you tell me the name that you wish to be known as?
Mr. DAWKINS: Jimmy Rage.
Mr. ROCKEY: On behalf of the team, I dub thee Jimmy Rage, our newest teammate on the New York Shock Exchange. Please rise and take your skates and join us, teammate. Let's give a round of applause for Jimmy Rage.
(Soundbite of applause)
KIM: After six grueling months, Jimmy Rage has finally earned his name. His next goal may take longer, though - helping men's derby achieve the same success that women's derby has.
For NPR News, I'm Jed Kim.