Two is bruiser than one: Freshmen play for big hits on the roller derby rink

Two+is+bruiser+than+one%3A+Freshmen+play+for+big+hits+on+the+roller+derby+rink

Emma Wagner

The Atlanta Roller Brats use general derby gear, including a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads mouth guards, wrist guards and quad skates. This totals to around $200 in gear

WOOOOSH. “Em is for Murder” rolls off the flat track, taking off her helmet. “Bella Bruise” comes off behind her, unstrapping her elbow pads.

Roller derby practice is over for today.

“Em is for Murder,” known as Emma Wagner when not on the track, packs up her bag. “Bella Brusier,” or Chloe Sitting as her school friends call her, sits down to take off her skates.

Freshmen Wagner and Sitting play for the junior derby league, Atlanta Derby Brats (ADB). Wagner has been playing derby for two years and Sitting for one.

Roller derby is one of the few full-contact allwomen’s sports. “[Derby] is a lot more fun because I get to skate and hit people at the same time,” Wagner said.

Kate Wissman, known as Kate or Dye, a member of the Texas Roller Derby Cherry Bombs (TXRD), loves the physical aspect of derby.

“Sometimes you gotta hit someone as hard as you can,” Wissman said.

Wagner got into derby because of her fifth grade teacher.

“She would always mention it during class,” Wagner said. Wagner wanted to try out derby, and when a team formed, she joined.

After going to live with her aunt Shannon Nowlan, a derby player as well, Sitting found out about derby and wanted to try it.

“I was discouraged at first because I didn’t know how to skate,” Sitting said. After motivation from her aunt, Sitting found a love in derby. Nowlan is proud of Sitting’s participation in derby.

“Chloe is well on her way to being an accomplished derby player, and I couldn’t be more happy for her about that,” Nowlan said.

Wagner and Sitting met through ADB. Soon after Sitting joined, “she fit right in, and started talking not only with me, but with a lot of the other girls,” Wagner
said.

Wagner and Sitting spend many hours together at practice and school.

“It’s something we both love, and because of that, we are much closer,” Wagner said. “We do have a sort of love-hate relationship. I love [Chloe] to death, but at times I honestly want to knock her down, only when we’re scrimmaging.”

The two of them talk often. “We are close enough to talk to each other every weekend,” Sitting said. Sometimes it will be about derby. Sometimes it will be
about school, and sometimes just about random stuff.”

The ADB’s two teams are volunteer-based. One has girls aged seven to 12, the other with girls 13 to 17.

“We are expected to mentor the younger girls,” Wagner, a memeber of the older team, said. The ADB scrimmage with each other teams, or play against other junior leagues when they can find them.

Despite the age gap, they all hang out together. Sitting loves the bond between the teams.

“We go on road trips together and hang out at each others’ houses,” she said.

Wagner has met many new and helpful friends thanks to derby.

“One of my best friends on the team has helped me out with a lot of my music, art and whatnot,” Wagner said.

The ADB has taken trips to Tennessee and Texas to participate in practices, bootcamps and games or bouts with other teams. Wissman enjoys working with other players from other teams.

“I love the exercise and the feeling of being a part of something so big,” Wissman said.

ADB is closely involved with an adult team, the Atlanta Rollergirls (ARG). They help support each other.

“I try to go to all their bouts,” Sitting said. The ARG hold bouts at Yaarab Shrine Temple, in Midtown.

ARG provide advice and knowledge for the junior league, with some trainers helping both teams.Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 9.39.17 AM

“We all look up to players on the [ARG] team.” Wagner said, “We also look up the the league in Texas, because that’s where [derby] started.”

Nikki McBurnett, known as Mighty Aphrodite, a retired player of the TXRD Rhinestone Cowgirls, knows how derby helps young girls reach new heights.

“Derby people tend to push you to be a better you and to not give up, which is so important for young girls,” McBurnett said.

Sitting balances derby easily, with only two practices a week, on Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings. ADB and ARG practice at a warehouse in Norcross. These practices help Sitting find relief from her other activities.

“After practice I feel really really good because I’ve gotten a lot of anger out,” she said.

Wagner doesn’t have trouble balancing derby time with the stress of school.

“I try to practice two hours a day,” Wagner said, which is in addition to the semiweekly team practices. “Being able to play derby, even if it’s just for two hours a week, helps get out my aggression,” she said.

Derby stereotypes of scarcely dressed teams can elicit strong reactions from someof the players.

For Sitting, stereotypes are more touchy. The scantily dressed girls with short skirts and fishnet tights “make [her] cringe.” Either way, derby has opened new doors for these friends.

Practice is a great way for Sitting and Wagner to stay friends.

“At practice, we are definitely a little more aggressive with one another,” Wagner said.

When on opposing teams, they try to hit one another. “Either way, we know we’ll always be friends afterwards, and [we] won’t hold a grudge on the other,” Wagner said.

Derby helps both girls. “I know for sure I wouldn’t have as many things going forme now if I didn’t [play derby],” Wagner said.

“[Derby] raises my confidence,” Sitting said. “I honestly can’t imagine my life without roller derby. It keeps me going.”