TANDEM JUGGLES LIFE ON AND OFF THE FLAT-TRACK
by the Grand Poobah, ARRG Bout Co-Announcer – Photos by Bob Dunnell
Although their respective lengths of tenure with the Arch Rival Roller Girls are different, skaters Bareknuckle Smack and The Sound of Violence have quite a lot in common.
First, the obvious upon sight on bout night. Both are members of the M-80s, who will play in the title bout of the 2012 ARRG Local Championships at Chaifetz Arena on Saturday, April 28.
Both are blockers by trade. You won’t find them in the individual scoring column when the statistics are crunched at the end of the night. But that doesn’t matter to them. When their jammers score, they technically score as well, for they have provided the open holes that allow their team to accumulate points.
Peel off another layer and you’ll see that they’re both extremely active in the operation of the league outside of bout night. The former serves on ARRG’s Board of Directors. The latter is the lynchpin of the league’s safety committee.
And there’s one additional bond they share: they perpetually juggle the responsibilities of playing derby while raising children.
They are just two of the ten rostered skaters in the league that proudly share dual titles – “athlete” and “mom.”
For the M-80s’ teammates, their love for the sport began prior to the age when children reach double digits.
“I loved watching roller derby on television when I was a kid,” says Smack, mother of four. ”It was a ritual to tune into (KPLR) Channel 11 and watch derby and ‘Wrestling at the Chase.’”
“I saw the old banked-track derby on television a couple of times 30 years ago,” adds Violence, mother of two. “It was the roller skates that caught my eye.”
And as they both matured, they individually participated in various athletic disciplines in order to maintain sharp and in shape.
“I have always searched for healthy addictions,” says Violence. “Something active that I could dive into and help with my commitment level. I played a lot of tennis, soccer and was a casual runner until my knees started to give out.”
Due to the wear and tear that her body went through with recreational sports, and as one who didn’t care for the mundane that one often finds in a traditional fitness center, Violence sought an alternative.
“I lived two blocks from a roller skating rink for a couple years in Tucson, Arizona,” she says. “I would get my ‘workouts’ by roller skating. It was so easy because it was fun. It never felt like a workout.”
The passion for wheels blossomed when Violence moved to St. Louis and witnessed her first ARRG bout in June 2010.
“I had never seen a bout at the point,” she says. ”I thought it would be a sport I could commit to because it sounded like fun. Again, I have always looked for the right activities that I could commit to. I have to love what I am doing.”
Meanwhile for Smack, her entry into ARRG was the direct result of one daughter’s participation in a different type of activity.
“I met (retired ARRG skater) Midwife Crisis at a Girl Scouts meeting in 2007,” Smack says.”I asked her some questions about how to join, but did not have the time. I talked all of my friends’ ears off about joining for about a year.”
A pair of ARRG bout tickets won by a friend at a raffle resulted in Smack’s firsthand exposure to the resurging sport in May 2008. She took her two youngest daughters with her to watch the league play a WFTDA-sanctioned bout against Northwest Arkansas.
And as fate would have it, the two matriarchs who once helped peddle Thin Mints reunited.
And as the doubleheader of derby progressed, Smack mentioned to her daughters that she might be interested in playing herself one day. They immediately supported the thought.
“Midwife invited me to her house to try on her old starter skates,” she says. “I had not had my own pair since I was 13. They fitted perfectly! Fifty bucks exchanged hands and the rest is history.”
Smack would scrimmage and eventually make the M-80s’ roster in the 2009 season. Along with competing with her local squad, the blocker has been a member of the Saint Lunachix – ARRG’s travelling b-team – for three seasons.
When Violence – the formal recreational skater – began scrimmaging with the league in 2010, she had to overcome the physical and mental obstacles that all derby newbies experience.
“Because my experience was in skating and not hitting, I had to get over a big mental hurdle to actually give and take hits,” she says. “I didn’t put myself in the first available draft because I wasn’t ready. I knew I had some mental training that I had to do before I could be useful as a teammate.”
“The day after the draft, I had an M-80′s “unity brow” in red permanent marker on my forehead at work,” says Violence, who also skates with the Lunachix. “My boss and co-worker made a sign hanging in my office in that read ‘Congrats to the Sound of Violence on becoming an M-80!’”
For both skaters, competing on the flat-track provides escapism from a hectic personal schedule.
“I am a parent, a grandmother, an employee and a student,” Smack says. “At times, life seems more difficult than for others, but I keep on going. Where there is a will there is a way and I LOVE THIS SPORT!”
“I can have a bad day and skating makes everything feel better,” she adds. “When you’re out on the track, nothing matters for that time. “
“I get to go to a place away from my busy mom life,” adds Violence. “There is rarely a time when I don’t have 100 things going on in my head. When I am at practice or bouting, it’s 100% derby. It’s nice to only have one thing to think about. ”
“It’s extremely important,” Smack said. “My children are very supportive. My younger girls used to come more and would walk out with my team. One is a teenager now and the other a tween, so they tend to want to hang out with their friends on the weekends. But they still get excited and usually tell me to ‘kick some ass.’”
“I have gained some more ‘family members’ while in derby that definitely have my back,” she adds. “I am grateful for all of them.”
“Without my husband’s support, I couldn’t do this!” adds Violence.
Violence leaves it up to her children if they want to come and see her play. They’ll take her up on it about half the time.
And there was one moment when one didn’t want mom to continue altogether.
“At one point, my son asked me to stop,” Violence reflects. “I have had to do a lot of balancing with a family. After my son’s comment, I have tried to limit my derby activities to two or three times a week.”
“I try to involve them as much as possible with my decisions about derby and my schedule,” she adds. “I make efforts to take my kids to someplace special on the weekends…just for them. On Sundays, I make the kid’s lunches for the week and I cook big buckets of food so the kids can have ‘mom-made’ dinners on the nights that I have practice.”
The continued dedication to their children is what keeps the skating moms – all ten of them – involved in their derby careers. And just like the unconditional love that they have for their children, the moms will have their families’ unconditional support in ten days at ARRG’s premiere event at Chaifetz.
But one does have to pose the question, especially to the M-80s’ duo that have daughters in their respective households, would they encourage their offspring to participate in roller derby one day and potentially become a mentor for them?
“Most definitely,” says Smack. “I encourage them to do things that are positive and empowering. Roller derby is exactly that. If they choose to get involved, I will be a bigger fan than (M-80s) Superfan Kevin!”
“I don’t think about them playing derby,” says the Sound of Violence. “I want them to find things they love to do. Of course, I would encourage them in any endeavor they choose.”
“It would be great to skate with them…I just don’t think I could hit them,” she jokes.
Not only can you cheer both skaters at Chaifetz Arena on Saturday, April 28, you can also cheer their travel squad the Saint Lunachix as they face the Southern Illinois Roller Girls this Saturday at 7 pm at Midwest Sport Hockey.
COMING UP TOMORROW AT 8 AM FOR ARRG’s “30n30″: A transition between two columns! The Lunachix look to remain undefeated this weekend against one of the newest members of the WFTDA North Central region. The bout holds special significance for one of the Lunachix. It’s her first bout against her former league. We’ll get her perspectives on the upcoming battle, where the locals hope to improve to 3-0. On Thursday, Derby News Network contributing writer Muckety Muck previews the Saint Lunachix vs. Southern Illinois.
ARRG’s “30n30″ is a daily feature that examines different aspects of the Arch Rival Roller Girls – St. Louis’ first female flat-track roller derby franchise. In this section every morning at 8 AM for the entire month of April, a new feature will be presented.
Other installments of ARRG’s “30n30″: PRE-SERIES SET-UP (1) EVOLUTION (2) THE DREAM TO PLAY AT CHAIFETZ (3) LOCAL SEASON RECAP (4) ARRG ALL-STARS (5) SAINT LUNACHIX (6) ROOKIE RIVALS (7) REFEREES & NSOs (8) PRE-BOUT RITUALS (9) POST-BOUT RITUALS (10) GUERILLA UNCAGED – NO MINORS (11) ARRG VS. MEMPHIS PREVIEW (12) CHARITY (13) CHAIFETZ PUBLICITY (14) McWHEELY PHOTOGRAPHY (15) GUERILLA UNCAGED – DERBY NAMES (16) ARRG ALL-STARS VS. MEMPHIS RECAP (17) JEERLEADERS.