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Competing in Baltimore women’s roller derby league

Q&A with ‘Miss Dirt’: What it’s like to be a Charm City Rollers player

Mary Hendrie with Charm City Rollers roller derby photo by Pablo RawMary Hendrie, aka, Miss Dirt, is a modern renaissance woman: yoga instructor, blogger and roller derby extraordinaire. The Arnold, Maryland, resident is a competitive skater with the Charm City Rollers, Baltimore’s premier roller derby league.

Roller derby may have started in the 1930s with professional men and women skating on banked tracks in games filled with punch-ups and dramatic blunders, but since the early 2000s, when amateur women’s leagues began reappearing in Texas, roller derby has steadily gained popularity across the country. Now more than 15,000 women compete nationwide in a sport that is more about strategy than showmanship.

Hendrie (pictured far left) explains the addictive appeal of the sport, and why she may need to stock up on bandages. Photo by Pablo Raw

How did you become interested in roller derby?
A couple of friends and I watched a game and I realized it was not at all what I thought it was. It was a real sport! The competitors were serious athletes, and it looked scary, but fun. It took me two or three years of watching before I did something about it and tried out for a team in March 2014.

Had you skated competitively before?
I loved skating as a kid, but was never competitive. I played basketball, but had long ago abandoned team sports. I never considered myself a serious athlete.

What do you love most about the sport?
Being on skates is really fun, and the skating community is incredible. But I think it’s the fact that I didn’t think I could do it, and now — here I am! The self-challenge is really satisfying.

What are the basics of roller derby?
We play on a flat track that’s not very big and skate with five players on each team. Each team has a jammer, whose job it is to skate around the track as fast as she can, passing the opposing team without getting blocked from the other players.

Roller derby is a contact sport, though….
I compare it to hockey. It’s a sport where you can use your entire body to stop the other player. There are rules — you can’t grab on to a player or hit near the head — but hip checking is common and injuries happen frequently.

I imagine the atmosphere at a roller derby is pretty energetic?
We skate all of our games at Du Burns Arena in Baltimore, near the Canton waterfront. It’s loud, a ton of fun, and just so Baltimore. Anyone can come watch and we have great vendors, like Dangerously Delicious Pies, at each game.

Any references to the screwball days of roller derby’s past?
Players still use the nicknames, but we don’t wear a lot of crazy outfits. My nickname is Miss Dirt, and there is a great player named Cherrylicious that really plays to the crowd, but it doesn’t take away from her athleticism. Everyone is really focused on the game.

Any advice for someone thinking of trying roller derby?
Do it! It can be really intimidating, but just go to any skate rink and ask for derby skates to practice. Or go to a league’s boot camp. Charm City has a boot camp where you can get to know the rules of the game and learn some skills. (See below for details.) People from all walks of life do it — all ages, all body types. If you want to try it, go for it!

To read more about Mary Hendrie and her adventures in roller derby and yoga, visit her blog: missdirt.net

Charm City Rollers plays games January through April at the Du Burns Arena in Baltimore and at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel during the travel season beyond April. Check here for a schedule.

The next Charm City Rollers Boot Camp sessions will be at Skateland North Park starting Feb. 1, 2015. An information session is Jan. 12, 2015. Cost and registration is $100. For more information, visit the website at charmcityrollergirls.com.

Read about other women, including moms, who also skate and play with the Charm City Rollers.


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