Imagine this: Your mom is a Blue Ridge Rollergirl, goes by the name of Smithereen and is part of a group in Asheville right now. You go to practices, sit around with a few other teenage girls and get to watch mom and friends with nicknames like Poison Sue Smac skating ‘round and ‘round a rink, punching, blocking, hitting, falling, screaming, laughing … having a blast. You sit. You watch. You eventually get up, put on your own skates and pretend you’re one of the big girls. You think: “One day.”
One day finally happened last July.
“We’ve been figuring this out as we go along,” says Smac, aka Lisa Brown, as she describes taking on the task of coaching an inexperienced group (as well as practicing and playing in derby bouts herself with the Blue Ridge Rollergirls). “We kept talking about it how would be a great idea if there were a derby group for younger girls. And the only way it was going to happen was, just do it.”
So they are just doing it. Smithereen’s daughter talked to some of her friends, word got out, and the Madison Junior Roller Divas was formed.
That was July, last year. A lot has happened in between.
The group of girls, age 12-17, has settled on a new name — Mad Divas Junior Derby. They’ve been practicing for several months, along with having had an introduction exhibition at a July BRRG bout in Asheville, and they’ve played bouts against a group of junior derby girls in Johnson City. The group has grown to about 30 participants (enough for almost two teams) and also has a new home, this time in Waynesville at the newly opened Smoky Mountain Sk8way. Plans are in the works to play against other leagues as far away as Nashville.
On Sunday, Feb. 20, the Mad Divas and the Blue Ridge Rollergirls will be at the rink to welcome any girl between the age of 12 and 17 who might be interested in joining.
“It’s definitely a challenge, being a part of a derby group,” explains Asheville High ninth-grader Carolina Schmid, also known as Carolina Scarwheels when she’s doing her “derby thing.”
“At first, I didn’t even know how to skate on regular roller skates; I always used rollerblades … It was definitely rough in the beginning. But with more work, more practice and more learning and training, I found out I had all these muscles I had never used before,” says Schmid.
“It’s not only challenging, but it’s really, really fun,” says the excited 14-year-old.
The Mad Divas don’t get to be quite as physical as their mamas. They are limited to leaning and blocking and other “low-impact contact,” Brown explains, “but (we) will add a full-contact level for juniors possibly later this season, to follow the national path led by teams in Seattle and Austin. We are members of JRDA (Junior Roller Derby Association). We are the first league in North Carolina, none in South Carolina or Georgia yet either. We are also in the process of becoming nonprofit and hope to be soon. This season, we expect larger numbers and have increased our coaching staff from three to seven — most of which are BRRG skaters.”
Schmid, now an experienced junior skater who plays blocker, says it’s not only cool to be one of the Mad Divas, with weird names and costumes to match, but “This is a sport that also pushes girls to be creative, as well as athletic,” Schmid says.
And that kind of attitude is just what Brown says inspires her and the other coaches to find the time for these young girls.
“Derby is perfect for women and young ladies. Being a skater and coach, I can speak for all us when I say it gives us self confidence, strong bodies, stronger hearts and a large community where you can be yourself,” says Brown. We focus on teaching the Divas to be safe on the skates but the bigger picture is about building our girls up, showing them how much they can do when they work for what they want. And it’s awesome!”
— Tracy D. Hyorth is a freelance writer who has written about WNC since 1985. She can be reached at email@example.com.
what: Mad Divas Junior Derby 2011 Season Registration & Info Extravaganza. First session begins 1st week of March, until last week of June. Prior skating experience encouraged but not required.
where: Smoky Mountain Sk8way, 19025 Great Smoky Expressway, Waynesville
when: Sunday, Feb. 20, 10 am. (What to bring: photocopy of birth certificate, $35 for skating insurance, $60 for entire season and a parent or guardian. maddivas.com).