By Marty Gordon
The 2019 roller derby season ends next Saturday for two Christiansburg women, Natalie Mey, known on the track as Rogue Bludger, and Katie Mey, known as Skateness Evermean.
This marks the sixth season they have been competing in a league of teams from the New River and Roanoke valleys. Their final meet will be held at the Berglund Center in Roanoke.
Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller-skating counter-clockwise around a track. Roller derby is played in the United States in some 1,250 amateur leagues by thousands of individuals.
Natalie is a trained school psychologist and currently coordinates Section 504 for the Montgomery County Public Schools.
Katie works at a women’s center in prevention education and survivor support. “It may sound a little strange, but I spend my days talking about consent and boundaries. With derby, everyone agrees to the rules of the game and we play by them,” she said.
Natalie started roller derby in February 2013 after seeing a flyer at a local gas station and thought it sounded like fun. Katie was looking for a way to be active after years of playing softball, rugby and even some football.
“I needed a fun reason to be active, and I happen to be pretty good at knocking people down, especially when compared to other sports that require better fine motor skills,” Katie said.
Katie believes roller derby and rugby have similar traits. “It doesn’t make sense until you see it in action. It’s part race, but it’s also a full contact sport on wheels,” she said. “It is unique in that you are playing offense and defense at the same time, and both teams can score points at the same time. So, it’s confusing at first but tons of fun to watch even when you aren’t quite sure what is going on.”
Natalie describes roller derby as a physical sport that requires agility, strength, and strategy. “It is also a great inclusive community for all kinds of folks,” she said. “No matter your age, experience or athletic ability, roller derby can be your sport. It is a great way to reduce stress and be around some amazing people.”
Games are played in a series of short matchups with each team throwing a jammer, who wears a star on the helmet, typically at the lead of the pack. Points are scored when the jammer laps a member of the opposing team. The other team provides defenders who try to prevent the jammer from getting to the front of the group.
The league teams include among their players mothers and grandmothers, teachers and housewives, a television reporter and counselors. Some of the players are stay-at-home parents or students. They also have child advocates, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers, professors, postal workers and engineers and even a skater from Panama.
Natalie is a defender with the goal on the track to work with teammates to effectively block the opposing jammer from scoring points while simultaneously providing offense for her team’s own jammer to allow her to score points.
“I know that some of the older-time derby was a little more lawless and more like the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment),” Katie said. “Those ladies deserve their props, but these days we have a few more rules and we aren’t allowed to throw punches or elbows.”
There are rules to the sport to reduce the risk of injury, such as no “low blocking” which means clipping or tripping.
“No one is out there trying to hurt another person. We are all regular people who have families and jobs to take care of,” Katie said. “Our team is competitive, but we also want everyone to do the best they personally can, and we emphasize basic skills and safety.”
The last match of the season is Saturday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. against Carolina. Admission is $12. Children under 10 are free.