The former commercial production director at 93.3 WMMR known as “Kristen” was looking for a new challenge. And afternoon radio personality Jaxon had the proposal.
“I had heard about roller derby at a promotional tattoo convention and Jaxon dared me to go for it,” she said. “I received two fliers: one was for Garden State [Rollergirls] and the other was for the Philly Roller Girls. I went with Philly and, boy, am I glad I did.”
Soon after, the redheaded, braid-swinging, block-throwing Ginger Vitis was welcomed to PRG, back in 2007.
Known as a jock growing up, mastering swimming, field hockey, soccer and softball, Ginger acquired an appetite for pain and endurance by rowing out on the Schuylkill River as a member of Temple University’s crew team.
It was just shortly after graduation, when Ginger was brainstorming in the radio studio and decided to strap on skates and venture into the world of roller derby.
“It wasn’t the first time I skated,” she said, beginning to laugh. “When I was in 7th grade, I used to go out skating on my Friday nights but the most stressful thing at that time was finding a date for the couples’ skate. I knew [PRG] was going to be tough so, the day before my tryout, my mom and I were out skating to get ready.”
It’s tough to say where she picked up her speed and tenacity, but Ginger Vitis has risen through the ranks and has become one of the most vital cogs in the Liberty Belles’ nationally ranked well-oiled machine. She doubles as a leader on the home team, Philthy Britches, and has enjoyed a fantastic run of Warrior Cup titles since she was drafted.
The Philthy Britches, in their old uniforms, after one of their historic wins. Ginger is pictured in the back row, fourth from the right.
And the accolades keep rolling in.
“She’s at the top of her game right now,” said Belles captain Mo Pain. “She has so much focus this year and she keeps getting better. She’s showing up to practice early and smiling the whole time. She’s one of the most positive players we have and she brings a lot of emotion to the track.”
Those qualities have shined brightly in recent bouts. Two weeks ago, at the Sugarbush Showdown East Regional playoffs in Vermont, the Belles found themselves in a surprisingly close dogfight in their opening match with the Boston Derby Dames. A quick Boston start, combined with frequent penalty box visits, saw Philly trailing by 53 points in the first half and on the verge of suffering one of the biggest upsets in team history.
Ginger Vitis somehow found the right words to become the voice of calmness at a major breaking point.
“She put things in perspective,” Mo Pain said. “We didn’t need to win by a lot, we just needed to win. We had already messed up but it was important to just get out with a win. She was telling us that it didn’t matter what other people will say when they look at the score if it’s close. Just do what we need to do to win.”
The Belles completely turned the game around and won, 225-106. They followed with a solid 32-point win over the London Rollergirls in the next round before bowing out in the regional final against top-ranked Gotham Girls Roller Derby.
Ginger Vitis, #957, and Castro #06, in blue, take on Gotham's jammer Bonnie Thunders, #340, during the East Regional Playoffs' championship game.
By finishing in the top-three, Philly qualified for the WFTDA Championships on Nov. 2-4 in Atlanta.
“It all creeps into your mind when you are losing like that,” Ginger said, looking back at the momentum change in that opening bout against the Boston Derby Dames. “We set our goals for Regionals and all those hours and months that you put in practicing would go to waste if you lose.”
Ginger, who now works for WMMR’s sister station 95.7 BEN FM, has changed her jersey number from 933 to 957 to coincide with her career move. And she still looks back happily at radio being the catalyst for her derby adventure.
“People were so supportive and we had listeners suggesting hundreds of derby names for me,” she said, admitting that she nearly sided with the listener-suggested ‘Pippy Heads Knocking.’ “My time there was really fun and (WMMR morning show) Preston and Steve would talk about us on their show so they helped us advertise.”
Looking back, Ginger said she was happy she took Jaxon up on that dare.
“My passion is the Belles,” she said. “And I spend a lot of time with the girls and we have a lot of fun hanging out all the time on Friday night get-togethers. And when it comes to winning, we all have the same goal.”