1000 x 90

Getting to Know the Rollergirls Q&A: This Installment / Jennele ‘Coco Janel’ Vaquera

By Paul T. Choate

Jennele "Coco Janel" Vaquera, co-captain of the Appalachian Rollergirls. Photo by Sheena Laine Honeycutt

June 22, 2012. On Saturday, June 23, the Appalachian Rollergirls (4-0) will take on the Chattanooga B Messie Smiths at 7 p.m. at the Holmes Convocation Center. Leading up to the bout, the High Country Press sat down with the ladies on skates to get to know them better.

For more information about the bout, check out our preview article.

Q&A with Jennele Vaquera

Jennele “Coco Janel” Vaquera, owner of Lucky Penny Boutique in downtown Boone and rollergirls team co-captain (along with Megan “Bone Thugs N Carmody” Carmody), spent some time with with High Country Press to talk about derby and what fuels her fire.

Paul T. Choate: What are you expectations for the upcoming bout?

Jennele “Coco Janel” Vaquera: We’ve got high expectations. We’re hoping to have a good matchup with this other team. I think they should be a pretty hard hitting team, which is something we come up against a lot. But you know, we’ve got some new skaters that are going to get out there and it should be a good matchup hopefully and some good competitiveness and athleticism. Hopefully we’ll come out with a win. 

PC: You are undefeated currently. What has paved the way for that?

JV: We play as a team and we really work hard to work on our fundamentals and our skills. We just take it one game at a time and I think that overall as long as we work together we usually come out with a victory.

On April 28, 2012 the Appalachian Rollergirls defeated the Charlotte B-Dazzlers 157 to 61 in a hard-hitting bout. Photo by Elizabeth Wegmann

PC: So are you going to be undefeated on Sunday?

JV:  Hope so. 

PC: As one of the captains of the team, what have you been doing to make sure that everyone else is both mentally and physically prepared for this upcoming bout?

JV: We [Vaquera and fellow co-captain Megan Carmody] went to a conference in Rhode Island that was kind of like further education for roller derby. Since roller derby has only been around for the last 10 years as far as the revival goes there are a lot of rules. Because there are so many rules and every year they are constantly changing you’ve got to keep up with the times and you have to educate yourself and have a good understanding and proper interpretation of the rules. So going to those camps really helped us out and then we brought back not only strategy but also really good drills and workouts and, again, good team-building exercises. We learned about communication while we were up there and roller derby is all communication. You know, life is communication. Everything you do. So, it was cool to go and learn from the best skaters in the world right now and hear what they have to say — how roller derby can come back to something so simple as fundamentals and communication and having fun and good sportsmanship. So, I think we just try to introduce new things to our team, but everyone on the team does something outside of derby so that when we practice our endurance and stuff is there already and we can build on that with our fundamentals and new strategies.

PC: What have you been doing to promote these bouts and get the word out in the High Country that this is an up and coming sport?

JV: We’re doing it for charity for the Eric Ford family. I think keeping the charity local is a different avenue of reaching new fans. We were basically in all the local papers and the surrounding counties’. This time around around we tried billboards so hopefully we’re going to pull in some people that wouldn’t have noticed us otherwise — maybe some tourists, which would be really cool. We’re going to Blood, Sweat & Gears tonight actually, I’m about to go in the next hour and set up over there. I’m not sure how many people — I know it’s over 1,000 — come in for that, so we should be able to get a lot of out-of-towners with that. The girls are encouraged to wear ARg T-shirts this week. I just went to Panera [Bread] today to get a smoothie and I had two people while I was in there be like, “Are you on the derby team? What time does it start? How can I get tickets?” So that was cool. I think every time we do it we build on the audience we have and then word spreads through word of mouth, and then, you know, the High Country Press promotes us, local papers, calendars, that kind of thing. 

PC: So what drives you and fuels your fire for roller derby?

JV: For me personally, roller derby is an outlet for me. It’s a place where I can work on myself personally and physically. It’s a sport that I didn’t grow up with so it’s not a sport I’ve mastered and it’s very competitive. Every time I get out there I’m learning something new and I’m building on a skill that I have. It’s a pretty cool sport. There is always something new, which is cool. There’s always something new that you can find out, so it will be interesting to see where it is in like 10 years. For me it’s a personal outlet and it’s also a really good workout without having to go to the gym and get on the StairMaster. It’s a fun workout — you want to go and sweat for two hours. I have a good time. It’s kind of unconventional I guess you would say. 

One of last year's hard-hitting roller derby bouts. Photo by James Fay

PC: I would imagine it would take a special person to be drawn to a sport with such a high degree of physicality…

JV: It’s takes all kinds to play roller derby. You have to have a mental and a physical toughness to play derby. For some people it’s not for them. You find out pretty quickly if it’s for you. And you know what the cool thing about a roller derby team is? We have people who are part of the team who don’t skate and they are the support team. That’s great because they want to be part of it but they realize that, “You know, maybe getting knocked around isn’t for me, but I would still like to be part of this group of women.” So that’s a cool thing about the sport of roller derby too, it’s very accepting to have people in all rolls. You know, we have NSOs, which are non-skating officials. Not always are the people who are NSOs not skaters but, you know, it’s a good spot for someone who wants to volunteer. It takes a lot to put these bouts on so we have a lot of volunteers who come out and help us. 

PC: Finally, tell me about the nickname. I know you all have these creative nicknames…

JV: So, mine is Coco Janel like Coco Chanel, the designer. It’s because I own a boutique. On the derby court I’m not a boutique owner, but I chose Coco Janel just to reflect Coco Chanel and that I like being a stylist and having a retail store in Boone, so I thought it went with my character. And my number is No. 5, like the perfume. 

For more information, visit appalachianrollergirls.com.

Flier for June 23 bout