The last time Khara “Kharma Bomb” Jackson put on a pair of roller skates, she was a child. So when she joined the Wicked City Derby Damez in October, she was nervous.
For about 90 seconds, roller derby players’ adrenaline rushes as they circle the floor on their skates. After ramming and knocking down their competitors, they skate around them, hoping to score points.
With a sisterhood of misfits by her side, Jackson stepped out of her comfort zone to get over her fear of falling.
“It’s very challenging. This isn’t my forte,” said Jackson, during the league’s first game, or bout, of the season March 9 against Del Rio’s Hell Rio Rollers at the Killeen Special Events Center. “But, they invited me in, arms wide open. The next thing you know, it was a sisterhood of crazy misfit girls. It’s a lot of fun and (therapeutic) at the same time.”
From escaping reality to taking out her aggression on the track, Jackson said practices twice a week are a great way to relieve a stressful day while challenging yourself.
“You’ve got all these girls out there to support you and encourage you,” she said. “If you’re having a bad day, if you have any kind of self-doubt, you’ve got your derby sisters (there for you).”
Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members skating in the same direction around a track. Each bout consists of a series of short matchups, or jams, in which both teams designate a scoring player, who is called a jammer. The jammer scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The other four players attempt to assist their jammer while trying to stop the other team’s jammer from getting through — simultaneously playing both offense and defense.
Jerri Bullock, co-founder of the league, said the group started with three veteran skaters in September. Now, they have about 40 skilled members.
“None of these girls could skate at all when they came to me. We taught them everything they need to know,” she said. “Come out and try it. It’s fun. We’re kind of the misfits, but we found home here.”
Cliff “Butler” Avery, 62, a master coach for roller derby, has been mentoring the group since January and will continue working with the team throughout March before heading home to Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I’ve been coming to the practice, helping them with practice, getting them in condition and explaining all the things they need to do,” Butler said. “When I first got out here, a lot of the ladies could barely stand up, so after they got the endurance down they started progressing and we started giving them certain drills to do that were real crucial to the game.”
In addition to an endurance-heavy workout and learning how to take a hit, Monty Campbell, head coach of the team, said he teaches the competitors the importance of confidence.
“All these ladies are super strong ladies and this is just helping them build their confidence,” he said. “Everything is 99.9 percent mental and ... you’ll be able to do good if you believe in yourself. You won’t be messing up, you won’t be doubting yourself if you have the confidence.”
Krista “Lil’ Shanksta” Young gained a lot of confidence the two weeks she was in the league before its first game.
“It shows a lot of girls that they can do anything,” she said. “When you get started, you’re so scared (because it’s) a league of people you don’t know, and you’re playing a game you don’t know.”
Young, a self-described feminist, said derby empowers women to try something new while building their strength and confidence.
“Whenever I was little, I was really aggressive. I thought I was going to be a football player,” Young said. “I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I heard about roller derby and thought, ‘I can do that.’”