They’re professors, artists, chefs and nurses. Some are mechanics, and some are stay-at-home moms. But in their spare time, these women are in a class of their own as dedicated, ass-kicking athletes. They are the derby girls of Assassination City, Plano’s league of women’s flat-track roller derby.
They say it’s more than a sport, that the league is their second family. And despite what you think you know about it, make no mistake, roller derby is a legit sport. In 2012, roller derby was one of the eight sports under consideration for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games.
Assassination City started in 2005 and is skater owned and operated. The league moved to Plano in 2015 and hosts matches at Thunderbird Roller Rink. It takes a lot of dedication to manage and train four home teams and one all-star travel team, as well as promote and organize bouts, plus clean up the rink afterward. Bouts typically attract close to 400 fans and are BYOC (bring your own chair) and BYOB, if you’re so inclined.
Skaters devise their own roller derby alter egos, and some girls disappear behind their character, adopting a full-on persona complete with hair and makeup to complement their chosen moniker. But regardless of a player’s level of participation, once they’re christened, their derby name is their new go-by.
We recently sat down with a few local derby skaters to talk about what they love about life on the track.
Why did you want to play roller derby?
Slash Squatch, recent fresh meat grad: My husband and I attended our first bout two years ago and I absolutely loved it. He encouraged me to go for it even though I’d never skated a day in my life. At 6’3″, basketball came naturally, but skating was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I heard you passed your assessments this year. What were they like?
Slash Squatch: Tough! After signing up for the league, you’re deemed “fresh meat,” and you have to pass the assessments before you can play in a bout. You’ve got to be able to skate 27 laps around the track in less than five minutes while staying in bounds. It took me two years of training to pass, but I did it! Between being a Plano stay-at-home mom, a math tutor and a competitive rower, it’s a big commitment—but I’m hooked!
What do you want fans to know about the sport?
Sloan Gunman, team Deadly Kennedys and veteran skater with the league since 2008: We’re not the same roller derby people watched on TV after wrestling matches in the ’70s and ’80s. Today’s derby is an organized sport that is, in part, meant for entertainment. Spectators want to see the falls, the hits, all of the down and dirty competition. However, it’s not staged or scripted. Even though derby is a full-contact sport, fighting is off limits. Punching, kicking and elbowing are no-nos, but legal body checks can deliver the same result.
What do you love most about the sport?
Bumblebee Duff, co-captain of the all-star travel team Conspiracy: I love the punk sub-culture of women’s roller derby. Oh, and the camaraderie you get from playing in a women’s sports league—the bonds we share are deep.
Between work, relationships, kids and friends these women log grueling hours on the track, but they love every sweaty minute of it. Many of them found derby when they needed it most, and some say derby found them. None of them get paid to do it; they do it because they can’t live without it.