MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
STORY: Amy Meadows
PHOTOS: Stephen Payne
Gone are the days of skaters in fishnets and tutus clothes lining each other as they race around a track. Instead, today’s roller derby is an impressive blend of strategy and showmanship that has elevated this contemporary sport into a must-see spectacular. And right here, we have the Atlanta Rollergirls (ARG), a league founded by Angela Ward (a.k.a. Tanya Hyde) in November 2004.
A founding member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the Atlanta Rollergirls league is comprised of four home teams: The Apocalypstix, The Denim Demons, The Glamma Rays and The Toxic Shocks. They play once a month during a February-to-September season at the Yaarab Shrine Center in Midtown. The association also boasts three travel teams: The Rumble Bs, The Jukes of Hazzard and The Dirty South Derby Girls. Here, we ask Susan McKinney (a.k.a. Git Off My Lawn) about the roller derby experience.
How do you describe roller derby?
It’s an amazing sport that will teach you to not read a book by its cover. It brings together people from all walks of life, of all shapes, sizes, personalities and backgrounds. There are crazy feats of athleticism that you literally cannot find in any other sport. What other full contact sport requires speed, agility, strength and explosiveness—all on eight wheels without falling?
What happens during a game?
The bouts last about an hour. There are two 30-minute halves with a 10-minute halftime. There are two teams out on the track for each play, or what we call jams. Each team has five skaters; four of those five people from each team are blockers, and the fifth is a jammer who scores the points. When the jam starts, a jammer will fight to get in front of the opposing blockers and skate away. Once a jammer gets away, she skates around the track and back in to the pack. For each hip of an opposing blocker the jammer passes the second time she fights through, she scores a point.
The skaters’ names are fantastic (Gucci Maim, Slams McKenzie and Pewee Slayhouse, just to name a few). How do you choose your names?
Some people like to be funny and clever. Others like to make a play off of something they love. For example, there are a million names referencing Harry Potter. Others kind of use it as an alter ego. But it’s just a way to have even more fun in the sport.
What should people know about roller derby and the Atlanta Rollergirls?
We are serious about our sport and love what we do! We are a community of strong, diverse, hardworking women who have come together to build upon a sport that we are passionate about. It’s a league that has given us so much as individuals, as well provides us an avenue to support and connect with other diverse communities within Atlanta.