By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
Central Texas roller derby girls say their sport isn't about girls in cute outfits skating around a rink, putting on a show for the audience.
The CenTex Sirens - a league of "derby girls" from Killeen, Temple and Waco - wear tight clothes as a strategic move for skating quick circuits in a close pack, trying to avoid hands, shoulders and other body parts trying to take them down. The tights, hose or fishnets they wear protect them from "rink rash," one of the most common ailments in a sport that can causes bruises, bends and breaks.
"Our clothes look sexy, but it's really gear," said "GLT-Y" during practice on Wednesday night. "I can't hit you with my elbow, but I can hit you with anything else on my body."
"GLT-Y" is the roller derby name of Genene L. Tibbitt, who founded the Sirens a little more than a year ago. Roller derby names tend to be puns or variations of the women's names, like "Tara Nass" and "Sin D. Pop'Her."
About 30 girls practice with the Sirens, and 14 join the roster for each game.
As a group of players practiced skating in the pack Wednesday night, "Annie Oops" zipped around them, tugging on clothes and body parts to test her teammates.
"Good job," she said to one woman who failed to tumble to the ground.
The sport is real, not choreographed "like wrestling," GLT-Y said. The girls train for bouts that require strength, agility and endurance.
"The bruises are real. The injuries are real," she said. "It's something to be proud of. It's a physical sport for girls."
It's hard to tell who might be a derby girl just by her looks. Among the Sirens players are stay-at-home moms, nurses, teachers, managers, soldiers and soldier's wives.
In her daily life, Tibbitt is a mother of four who works as a professional land surveyor in a company she owns with her husband.
For Wednesday night's practice, GLT-Y wore dark tights and knee pads, a sleeveless camoflauge shirt that showed off tattoos on her arms and a bandana wrapped over her dark hair to protect it under her helmet. The toes of her roller skates were covered in flame-patterned duct tape, topped by camoflauge duct tape.
Next to her, Chris Warbrick - or "I'feelya Payne" when she's on the rink - knows she doesn't look like someone who would be involved in such an aggressive sport.
Warbrick is a nurse at Scott & White Hospital in Temple. The slender blonde doesn't have any tattoos or piercings, and she is a single mother of twin boys. The toes of her skates were covered in flowered duct tape Wednesday night, but she changes them for each game.
Usually it's her sons' teachers who are surprised when they find out that Warbrick is a derby girl.
"When someone will recognize me from this, they tend to say 'Was that really you? Those ladies look like they tricked you into an alley,'" Warbrick said. "I think I get a bigger kick out of people not expecting me to do it."
Warbrick said she learned about Central Texas' roller derby team from a woman who worked at the hospital with her. Warbrick grew up playing sports, but it took her a while to decide to try joining the team.
"It's one of those things where you're intimidated anyway," Warbrick said. "But the first time, (GLT-Y) just came up immediately and said, "Oh, you must be Chris.'"
GLT-Y said there's no "type" of woman who should try roller derby. It can be anyone.
Her teammate "Annie Oops" - aka Angela Scotting, the manager of a Sonic in Killeen - said the players tend to be strong, independent women who don't necessarily have time to make female friends in other places.
Annie herself didn't have many female friends before joining the team.
"I raised a family. When you raise a family, there's not a lot of time to hang out, and I run a store," she said. "Most girls here have a profession. Individualism. The're not the types to have Tupperware parties, and they may not have a lot of girlfriends."
Warbrick said the tight group of female friends, who are there for her, is one of the benefits of being on the team.
"They know you. They know what's going on with your kids. They help you out," she said. "You just can't find that. It's instant friendships. People you can count on."
Candi Broughton is a mother of two boys and the wife of a Fort Hood soldier. She is also "Tara Nass," the coach of the Sirens.
Broughton was part of a roller derby team in South Carolina when her husband was stationed at Fort Jackson. When her husband left on his current deployment to Iraq, Broughton said he made her promise to stay on the team for the year he was away.
Though it's difficult to stay at the helm of the team while raising her sons during the deployment, she said the sisterhood of the team is great for her as a military spouse.
"The cool thing about it is, I play on a derby team. And I'm going to have to move soon with the military. And no matter where I go, there will probably be a derby team there. If I need anything, I can just look them up," she said.
"If there's anything you need, derby girls are there."
Sport, not show
On Saturday night, the CenTex Sirens played the last game of their first season at the Mayborn Convention Center in Temple. In November, they plan to start a recruitment drive to pick up enough players to field two teams next year.
GLT-Y started the team in late 2009.
Since then, Ralph Vinson has become perhaps the Sirens' biggest fan. He opens the doors of Skate Haven in Temple for every practice.
Vinson, 60, works at Skate Haven and has been there either playing hockey or working since the 1970s.
When the ladies first came to Vinson to ask if they could use Skate Haven for the practices, he gave them one condition.
"I told them, as long as it's real, I'll be here," he said. "Honestly, I thought it would be like you see on TV. Choreographed, like wrestling. But it's for real. It's a sport."
It's a sport in which those who stick around sign contracts and have to get insurance through the U.S. Association of Roller Sports - USARS - before they can compete in bouts.
Right now, the team is completely skater-run, "from the ground up," said coach "Tara Nass." They arrange the bouts, find the venues, and they set up for and clean up after each game.
Any profit that is gained goes into local charities. Recent donations include $1,000 for the Fisher House at Fort Hood and another $1,500 to Our Lady of the Angels Maternity Shelter in Temple.
Next year's season, the team expects to play seven home games and four away games. That will be their "apprentice year" with the WFTDA, GLT-Y said.
After that, they have the chance to become a WFTDA team, where they can be scheduled for games around the country and even in London.
"I don't know the direction our team will go. Once you're in the WFTDA, they give you a schedule. It's more work, not just for fun," GLT-Y said.
For now, the team is just preparing for its first serious recruitment drive ahead of next season.
Warbrick said roller derby has become something she loves, even though she wouldn't have picked it for herself.
"This is an incredible sport. It's a real rule-abiding sport," Warbrick said. "We can take on any group of guys, and they would be surprised."
Contact Jackie Stone at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcityeditor.