Skating into the Spotlight

Norwalk High School student is a new member of the Des Moines Derby Brats and is looking forward to competing for nationals in his first full year on the first team.

Norwalk+High+School+student+Gus+Nurre%2C+a+member+of+the+Des+Moines+Derby+Brats%2C+smiles+in+his+Derby+Brats+jacket.+Gus+is+spending+his+first+season+on+the+first+team+of+the+Derby+Brats+as+the+jammer.+

Isaiah Hansen

Norwalk High School student Gus Nurre, a member of the Des Moines Derby Brats, smiles in his Derby Brats jacket. Gus is spending his first season on the first team of the Derby Brats as the jammer.

Kasey Ludlow, Writer

When you think of sports, what are the first ones you think of? Football? Basketball? Soccer? For freshman William “Gus” Nurre, roller derby is how he relieves his competitive itch. Nurre competes on the Des Moines Roller Derby Brats and travels around the country playing against the top junior roller derby teams in the United States. 

“I used to live in Montana and my parents took me skating a lot, and when I moved to Iowa last year, the coach for the roller derby team saw me skating around and recruited me,” Nurre said. “I love skating and I can hit people and I get to travel the country.”

Mark Muse, Nurre’s coach, has won multiple national championships coaching throughout his 30-year career in various iterations of skating. 

“In roller derby, it is more on the lines of learning how to skate because they’re kids,” Muse said. “So every single practice, we work on skills on how to roller skate, and to see them become really good skaters is addicting to me.”

He said the first time he noticed Nurre, he liked to do the limbo and he was a pretty good skater. Nurre’s first practices were pretty raw because he didn’t know the rules of derby, but once he understood the rules, he caught on quick.

“Gus was like a sponge learning,” Muse said. “Everything I said, he tried. Everything. He not only practiced at my practice, but he practiced at the practice after with the group below.”

Nurre’s team travels around four to five times a season and practices relentlessly preparing for the season. They practice about six hours every weekend on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Nurre puts in about 20 hours every week practicing.

“If they’re dedicated, then I’m motivated to find solutions,” Muse said. “There is not one person that is more important than the other. It is five people on the track working as a unit.”

Roller derby is played on a hardwood flat floor, and one player from each team – the jammer – tries to get past the other four opponents to score points. Each opponent you pass, you score a point and a game is played over two 30-minute periods.

“I am the jammer, so I am the little kid who gets to run around, skate fast, and try not to get destroyed by everyone else,” Nurre said. “I’m like the ball in football. I’m the person that gets the points, that makes the game happen, that makes the game fun.”

The Derby Brats play against the top junior roller derby teams in the country, and they won the national championship in 2014 and 2016. Playing against these top teams is not an easy task though.

“It sucks playing against them – I’m not going to lie – because they hit really hard and they have really good strategy that counters our amazing strategies,” Nurre said. “But it’s all mental. I mean, it’s mostly physical, but there’s a lot of mental that happens.”

Nurre got his first shot with the team last year in regionals to qualify for the national championship. 

“He performed way above what I expected,” Muse said. “I gave this kid a chance, and he performed when the team needed him to.”

The Derby Brats look forward to tournaments in places like Orlando, Las Vegas, and Lincoln this season. The team is always looking for new members, so if you’d like to learn more about the team, go to desmoinesderbybrats.com.