Confessions of a Roller Derby Girl

By Molly Lauryssens

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I M Pain. Susy Pow. Federal Kill. Fatal 3000. Hittsburg. Scarlett Tubman.

If you want to jam with the Charm City Roller Girls, in Maryland, those are some of the characters you’ll be sparring with. These women come from all different backgrounds but have one thing in common—they push themselves to the limit, skating at top speeds around a flat-track roller-derby rink.

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Project GirlSpire caught up with Mary Hendrie, aka Miss Dirt, to dish on what it’s actually like to rough-and-tough it through roller derby. When Mary, now 32, first moved to Baltimore, she went to a couple games and thought it “looked really fun.” Little did she know she’d eventually lace up and hit the rink with the city’s only all-female derby league.

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Here, Miss Dirt gives us the…ah, well, dirt on what it’s like to be a derby girl:

Roller derby is 90 percent mental. “Of course, it is physical too. But a lot of anxiety and fear takes place. After all, we aren’t usually looking to knock someone down. Plus there are all ages and body types out there, which can be intimidating.”

After you start roller derby, give it a year. “Your body has to adapt, and your mind wants to bail. You have to be open to constant learning and change. The game is evolving along with your body and mind.”

Sometimes roller derby is just no fun. “Your body takes a beating. Even the best skaters fall!”

You have to work to play roller derby. “You have a minimum number of hours of practice to be eligible to play, which leads most girls to practice twice a week and that does not include cross-training.”

Recovery time from roller derby can be intense. “Yes, you wear pads and a helmet but you still get hit and that goes against the natural laws of our bodies. My first injury was during a scrimmage in a mixed co-ed game. I took a shot and fell. I hurt my shoulder, and it was a month before I had full range of motion back.”

Roller derby changes your perception of your body. “You inhabit your body more. You take up space, you use your body’s force, you push through. You will eat, sleep, and work out differently once you put your name on that jersey.”

Roller derby changes your hunger. “I am always hungry and can eat half a pizza in no time. And I can be a real jerk when I’m hungry.”

Roller derby results in some weird bruising. “Sometimes when I go into a grocery store, people will stare. But I don’t care what anyone thinks because I’m on the best athletic high.”

Once you get into roller derby, you won’t want to stop. “This game is just that much fun! The payoff for working so hard is just amazing.”

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Photographs by Molly Lauryssens. To learn more about Baltimore’s all-female roller-derby league, check out charmcityrollergirls.com .

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