Texas Roller Derby League gives members confidence, community

Hannah Heckman

The Texas Roller Derby League consists of Austin’s most cutthroat skaters.

In roller derby, five skaters from each team are on the track at a time. Each competitor is on a pair of roller skates and goes counterclockwise on the track. They each have a specific job dedicated to getting the team more points, which are won when a member of one team laps a member from the opposing team.

Laura Roy, also known by her derby name “Dyers Eve,” is a member of Holy Rollers and said all the skaters in the league come from different walks of life.”

“We’re a little wacky,” Roy said. “We have teachers, engineers, I work for the city and (my teammate Kassie Baker-Hobbs, aka Break ‘N’ Bake) is a bartender. TXRD is definitely a melting pot.”

Roller derby’s punk culture differentiates it from most sports. On the day of the competition, also known as “bout day,” it is common to see the competitors in fishnet tights and war paint. 

Hundreds of folks fill the Palmer Events Center each bout day. For Baker-Hobbs, this makes all the bumps and bruises worth it.

“The people who come out to see us make me love what I do,” Baker Hobbs said. “Kids think I’m just the coolest and come up and ask me for an autograph. No one does that while I’m bartending.”

Jenna Johnson, aka Milla Juke-a-Bitch, is a seventh-season member of the Cherry Bombs derby team and said joining the team has increased her confidence off of the track. 

“I had the courage to demand a raise, which I would have never done before joining TXRD,” Johnson said. 

Roy and Johnson each said roller derby has been a transformative experience and that the confidence gained on the track translates into everyday life. They said they’ve gained qualities like endurance, courage and stamina as a result of competing. 

Roy said the discipline and tenacity she gained from derby encouraged her to re-evaluate her life and make some changes. 

“Derby gave me the strength to get out of a bad relationship and really focus on finding myself,” Roy said. “Everyone changes when they start skating, no matter their reasons.”

Cherry Bombs member, Elena Streuding, known as Legz on the track, said despite the competitive nature of the sport, she has met her best friends at TXRD.

“We get angry on the track, but we try to leave the frustration out there when the bout is over,” Streuding said. “At the end of the day, there is a lot of mutual respect.” 

Through rigorous training, hard falls, and literal blood, sweat and tears, Baker-Hobbs said the Texas Roller Derby League offers a community unlike any in Austin.

“When you grow into that person you become on the track, it builds you up in real life,” Baker-Hobbs said. “I’ve also learned a lot of life lessons, like being patient with people and understanding that we all learn in different ways. Derby has really brought together a really strong community of people.”