by Mark Sprain
The Rat City Rollergirls season started in January. Somehow it’s already April and we’re looking at only two more Saturday nights before a champion is crowned and the 2015 home season goes into the books.
This Saturday, April 11, two momentous bouts are scheduled for the Rats Nest. The Throttle Rockets open the evening’s thumping against the Sockit Wenches. Grave Danger, at 3-2 the only team with a shot to dethrone undefeated Derby Liberation Front, gets their chance in the second bout of the night. Two weeks later it’s Championship Night at KeyArena.
As every season begins teams always face the challenge of integrating new skaters with their veteran players. This year the decision to not have all stars skate with their teams during the home season greatly increased the value of those new players. It also emphasized a Rat City advantage.
Skaters from all over the Northwest and along the west coast uniformly look at the Seattle league as a pinnacle destination in their track careers.
There was no lack of eager derby vets from all over to fill open spots on all four home teams. Fill them they did. As the season has progressed fans have been treated to some high level skating by these newbies, some of whom started as league rookies in January and are now members of the A and B all star teams.
Here are a few of their stories. While they don’t include ever new skater, they do reflect some common experiences and uniform observations.
Coach Ho Chi Dahn noted the difficulty he had early in the season getting enough skaters together for his Derby Liberation Front team to have a full scrimmage. All of the new players he rustled up have been integral to DLF’s undefeated season. Chocolate Coma (CC) arrived from the Dockyard Derby Dames in Tacoma. It didn’t take long for league skaters to feel the force of her blocking power or occasional crunching jams.
Wicked Slam joined DLF from Port Angeles, where she and her sister were founding members of the Port Scandalous Roller Derby. Her sister, Kitty Kabooty, skated with the Sockit Wenches before moving last year to join the Nashville Roller Girls. Wicked said that she began as an artistic skater who took dance lessons. That art has transferred easily to derby track, where opposing jammers have had a monumental struggle getting by her all season.
She came to Seattle last fall. “I was looking for a higher level of play and wanted to be closer to Dylan, as he had moved here earlier last year. I moved here with my best friend and Port Scandalous league mate, who is now on Grave Danger (Stone Cold StunHer). I was drafted to DLF in October. ” Dylan is her son and a member of the Puget Sound Outcast.
“I quickly fell in love with Rat City and all of the league members. They are a wonderful group of hardworking people who motivate me every day to be better.”
Ju Jitsu was the unlikely doorway for new Throttle Rocket ABombnaBull this season. ABombnaBull’s college debate team started training by giving speeches while running. “That’s when I noticed the effects of neglecting my body,” she said.
Ju Jitsu became her sport. “I immediate fell in love with a sport that required as much mental strength as physical strength. It was pure luck that I heard my hometown of Astoria, OR was starting a roller derby league. I was curious and I thought it would partner well with my Ju Jitsu endeavors. I dedicated myself to roller derby, practicing anywhere I could which was mostly in uneven dusty basements. I have been skating ever since, that was December 2011.”
Her derby travels took her through Port Angeles and the Port Scandalous fresh meat program. “That is when being an athlete and training for roller derby became a part of my identity. I set goals. I learned about Rat City, and soon I moved to Seattle to pursue my derby dreams. Rat City has taught me that I am strong, that I am determined, and that I deserve respect. Those lessons stay with me, and Rat City has helped me be more focused and confident off the track.”
Bomb is a bicycle mechanic by trade and studies nanotechnology at North Seattle College.
Roller derby spans the world, but it is really just a tight knit family with relatives scattered all over the place. Moving from Port Angeles with Wicked Slam was her friend, and now Grave Danger rookie, Stun Her (aka Stone Cold StunHer).
Though she brings a broad athletic experience with her, including basketball, volleyball and soccer and playing college volleyball at Highline Community College, skating was brand new four years ago. “I started at my first practice, holding on to the wall and just hoping not to fall. Learning how to skate and play derby deemed challenging but something I was up to the challenge to do. I was fortunate to have great mentors and an amazing coach in D. Botts (Skates for Puget Sound Outcast).” D. Botts is Wicked Slam’s son, Dylan.
Stun Her said that she chose Rat City, “… because of the competitiveness of the league, and the high level of skating. I get to skate with people I have been admiring for years, it’s a pretty awesome feeling. In terms of my goals, I want to make it onto the All Star Charter (which she did). I have been training from the beginning to some day play at that level. It would be pretty awesome to play for the Hydra before I retire.”
Stun Her, a teacher, said that, “Roller derby helped me find myself and I have become stronger ever since. The community and culture as a whole is one big family. What I like about skating against the other teams is that you are able to see your improvements and areas of focus. You can see what works and doesn’t work with different teams, blockers and jammers. On the track we may be after each other, but once that final whistle blows, we are all league mates, friends and each others biggest supporters!”
Throttle Rockets rookie Buster Up showed up this year a newbie but with appropriate arm art and a great attitude. This from a skater who never played sports before roller derby. “I was the kid who volunteered to help clean the classroom during recess. I never played sports before roller derby. And when I found this sport- I initially didn’t think of it that way, but more of a movement. I was so wrong. Derby turned me into a dumb jock- and I love it.”
‘Jock’ is the appropriate word for this budding athlete who has emerged as a reliable blocker for the Rockets. Dumb doesn’t apply.
Buster said that she began with the Rodeo City Roller Girls in Ellensburg before moving on to skate with the Rainier Roller Girls in White Center. “But I’ve always, always known I wanted to be a Rat City Roller Girl, every decision I made was leading me toward my goal. I’ve never been happier, it’s my forever home.”
Her introduction to the sport and explanation of what it meant and means reflects the feelings of many the derby skaters. Just damn touching.
“I grew up in a conservative town in eastern Washington. It wasn’t ok to be gay, and it wasn’t ok to not be thin. I visited Seattle to come to Bumpershoot 8 years ago and I stumbled into the Key Arena to get some relief from the heat. Little did I know Rat City was holding a tournament that weekend- I had never even heard of roller derby before. I ended up skipping the whole day of music- I cried. I didn’t know the rules, but what I did know were these women were so strong. Up until this point I had never seen someone proud to be queer. I had never seen so many different body types playing sports and being successful. No one was trying to hide who they were. It was a pivotal moment in my life I’ll never forget it.”
Vishus Trollope is not exactly a rookie, but she took most of last season off and so brings sort of a new face to the Sockit Wenches this year.
Vishus, a darting jammer and formidable blocker, also brings the geographic experience that draws so many skaters to Seattle and Rat City. “I played for Wasatch Roller Derby in Salt Lake City, UT for 2 years on hometeams and travel teams, and Salt City Banked Track,” she said. “I specifically wanted to join Rat when I started here so I could compete at the highest level in Seattle. I knew of Rat from my years in Utah, and knew there was a well of talent and knowledge that I wanted to be a part of.”
Aka Erin Brumbaugh (which is the direct English translation of Vishus Trollope) Vishus works at Nucor Steel as an ISO Coordinator doing environmental and safety audits.
She is effusive in her praise of roller derby and the challenge skating with Rat City has posed.
“There is no other sport that I have played that is as inclusive and supportive as roller derby. It is extremely challenging and competitive, builds confidence, and works as a great networking web, socially and professionally. (I could go on about derby culture and benefits forever.) Rat City has been a delightful challenge. Coming from a smaller league, everything about Rat City has been quite a shock. There is so much talent and skill on the hometeams here. I have had to learn from my teammates and coaches to adjust my playing style to be an asset to them and the process is continuous. My teammates are extremely supportive and fantastic individuals,” she said.
All of the rookies in Rat City this season quickly became contributors for their teams, many staking out their own territories of domination. They’ve bumped, blocked and scored and, no doubt, been remembered for the aches many vets felt following their encounters with the new skaters.