Donning a pair of roller skates, some protective gear, and a whole lot of grit, Marley Quinn, Peaches n’ Scream, and Wreck-It Rebecca roll into place, head down, and concentrate. What can seem to some like a scene pulled form a sci-fi novel is real life for three Northshore School District high schoolers. The trifecta are all skaters for the Seattle Derby Brats: the junior league affiliated with Rat City Roller Derby. They skate for a team called the UltraViolets who are ranked 21st in the nation. “Unlike most sports where the men’s version is considered “the best” and the women’s is secondary, in derby, the women are preeminent. That’s extremely rare and empowering and valuable,” said Gail Goldman who is a derby mother and an incredible advocate for what derby instills in young women.
Roller derby is a game where one player, the jammer, must circumnavigate a track and continue cruising past as many opposing blockers as possible to rack up points. The jammer’s fellow blockers attempt to discombobulate the other team by skating in tight and punishing formations. The spectacle ends up looking like something between a space-age dogfight and street hockey. Hard hits meld with speed and bursts through illusive openings of defenders’ tightened human barricades. The young women customarily wear dramatic make-up and go by their alter-egos who have playful nicknames. The whole thing feels as if it occurs on some circular space station orbiting a distant sun.
The Seattle Derby Brats currently have around 200 skaters over their 10 teams. These kids range from 8 to 18-years-old. The Seattle Derby Brats looks to empower girls and young women to be strong, healthy, and confident through the supportive, inclusive sport that is roller derby. Their A-level travel team, the Galaxy Girls, were three-time national champions and are currently ranked 2nd in the country. The B-level travel team is the UltraViolets who are currently ranked 21st.
While the indie cult classic film “Whip It” starring Ellen Page brought the sport into the public eye and helped gather some immediate adrenaline into some of the girls, the Rat’s Nest is where many fell in love with roller derby. “The movie got me interested, but seeing the real thing made me know I wanted to play,” said Marley Goldman who goes by Marley Quinn when she laces up skates. Marley is a Junior at Woodinville High School and derby means a lot to her. “I came to derby at a crossroads time in my life; socially and emotionally,” said Marley. “I love the SDB as an organization. I coach a team of 8-12-year-olds, play for a travel team, and referee on the side.”
“Derby has made me more confident because it taught me how to fail and learn from that failure… then get up and try again,” said Tylee Cassinera, aka Peaches n’ Scream. Tylee is a blocker and a Senior from Bothell High School. “Everything in life must be worked for. Derby is the same way… stepping on the track and skating; you have to work out to be stronger, you have to incorporate a healthy diet, and you have to be willing to work hard during and outside practice,” she said.
Derby teaches these young women how to be incredible athletes but in addition provides the framework for them to develop as people. Emilie Shannon whose derby name is Wreck-It Rebecca, is a Senior at North Creek High School, said, “Derby definitely boosted my confidence… When I first started, I had two skater coaches—both high school Seniors at the time… who both became role models to me; not only as skaters but also as women.”
Because roller derby is niche, Seattle is booming, and the property values are seemingly loftier than science fiction, The Rat’s Nest (19022 Aurora Ave N, Shoreline, WA 98133) will no longer be home to the SDB. It’s getting demolished. Trent Development Inc. plans to construct a building with more than 240 units of housing, 20 percent of that for affordable housing. The derby is full of die-hards, but funds have always been a tricky. “…SBD is a 100% volunteer-run organization. Every coach, every referee, every board member, every non-skating official.” While the league pays for medical staff, everything else is entirely volunteer-ran. Now, SBD is scrambling trying to find a new home. “Losing the Rat’s Nest makes me really sad because that’s where I grew into the skater and person I am,” said Emilie. “Losing the Rat’s Nest is like watching your favorite restaurant go up for sale,” said Tylee. Marley said, “I spend at least three days a week at the Nest and have for years. I can barely picture not going there all the time. That being said, I know that we’ll find another building and bring that same sense of derby family to it.”
These powerful young women plan on going to college to study political science, work their way to become editors of newspapers, and even be PhD candidates for neuropsychology programs. While their academic aspirations are varied, they all are going to continue skating.
There are only two more opportunities to see junior skaters at the current Rat’s Nest before its demolition. The first will be Saturday, April 20 for the Spring Fling, featuring the UltraViolets. They will play at 3:00 P.M. against the Portland Rosebuds. Following the match are two “Tootsy Roller” bouts which consists of the 8-12-year-old skaters.
The final event will be the Summer Slam on Sunday, May 19. This will be a full day of derby beginning with the Tootsy Rollers mid-day and culminating in a mash-up of the two full-contact travel teams: the UltraViolets and the Galaxy Girls at 7:00 P.M.
The SDB is always welcoming new skaters. To learn more information, go to http://www.seattlederbybrats.com/.