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An Introduction To Abilene's Roller Derby Team, 'The Sugarbombs'

They say the days of fishnets and tutus are pretty much in the past for Roller Derby. Since its early 2000's revival in Austin, Texas, Roller Derby has moved away from scripted action and staged conflicts similar to those seen in professional wrestling. Abilene’s resident Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby team, the Sugarbombs, is no exception.     


“When you go out and watch a basketball game everyone is wearing the same uniform,” said Kimberly Burns, also known as Hell-Cat Maggie. “That’s where we’re trying to go with it, we want it to be looked at as a sport and not an entertainment because we’re out here working our butts off,” Burns said.


Burns and her teammates have opted for matching spandex uniforms similar to cycling wear that features their Sugarbombs’ logo. During a recent practice she joined her team in an elementary school gym where they fashioned a track on the floor with rope and tape the same way they do for games. In contrast to the huge banked tracks roller derby started out on, Flat Track derby gives freedom to play in more locations.   


Wearing uniforms and playing on a flat track are two ways the sport is changing in an effort to stay relevant and grow.


Teammates lifted off their heels and ran at each other using the toe stoppers of their skates for grip while Coach Bryan Ortiz rounded the track along side. He said most sports show a preference to men but roller derby is different.


“A revival of Roller Derby by women spawned a men's equivalent,” Ortiz said. “No other sport has necessarily really done that. Ortiz said he hates the idea of women as an afterthought in sports. To him roller derby offers a chance to show the world women can lead a legitimate sport.


The game is played with two teams of five on offense and defense at the same time. One of the five from each team is the jammer, she’s the one with a star on her helmet, everybody else is a blocker. The jammer scores points by lapping and then passing the hips of opposing players. The blockers block for their jammer and against the jammer of the other team.


In the same way football is notorious for injury, roller derby players also deal with torn ligaments and broken bones. It’s not uncommon to see bruised up women limping off the track after a hard tumble.


Kasey House likes that derby pushes her as an athlete.   


“This is like the fittest I’ve ever been,” House said.  “I actually enjoy exercise and want to get stronger and have more endurance.”


Team President Caitlyn Ellison, AKA Haulin’, said roller derby gives her identity and helps build relationships.


“Roller Derby’s always there for you, even when you feel like nobody else is,” Ellison said.  “It’s my life blood, it means everything to me.”


Because so many different types of women play roller derby, Ellison has made connections with people she would have never met otherwise.


“These are the closest friends I’ve ever had,” Ellison said.  

Kimberly Burns appreciates the inclusiveness of roller derby.

“If you don’t think that you can do this, you can,” Burns said. “There’s all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, heights, religions, educational backgrounds, everything. Here in Roller Derby like we’re a family, we’re a team and if you think that you’re just kind of interested just come watch.”