Women's roller derby makes a comeback in St. Pete

- A woman's sport - made famous decades ago - is making a comeback. And it's grabbing the interest of ladies from all walks of life. 

Julie Taylor is a 50-year-old grandma who loves to garden, so her nickname - Country Bumpskin - suits her well. Cheryl Mitchell is a 55-year-old hypnotherapist, but call her Kitten's Got Claws if you see her after dark. And Sofie Perez is an 18-year-old student who aspires to be a Christian counselor but is known to her sisters in skates as Goliath. 

These are three of the ladies who lace up at The Slayground in St. Petersburg for roller derby two or three nights a week.

Perez AKA Goliath said her name is tongue-in-cheek. She has the reputation of being the most aggressive out there, despite being the smallest and youngest. 

"It's really ironic because I'm the smallest person on the team as well as the youngest," Perez said. "I think what might be scary or intimidating is that because I've played so long, I know how to do things using my agility." 

But no matter their size, shape, or age, they share a passion for a banked track and a chance to let their alter egos rock and roll. 

Kitten's Got Claws explains, "There are two teams [of] 14 people, and five girls from each team skate at one time. Ten women skate in what's called a jam. The idea is for the jammer to break through the pack - lap the pack and break through the pack again. And for each woman she passes, she scores a point."

It's not a sport for the faint of heart. Scoring takes some pushing, pulling, and grabbing - sometimes so hard it leaves bruises.

But these ladies keep coming back for more.

"People who watch me, they say I smile a lot when I get hit, when I fall, [and] when I hit people. So apparently I like it," Country Bumpskin explained.

Kitten's Got Claws knew it was a contact sport.

"I actually called my insurance company and checked on my coverage before I signed up," she said.

There are no trophies or cash purses at the end of their roller derby competitions, and in spite of the physical risk, these ladies keep coming back for more. Kitten's Got Claws says they actually have to pay to skate.

"You pay with money. And you pay with blood sweat and tears," she said.

And all of these ladies feel they've won something better than a medal, something priceless in fact: community and friendships. That's why they do it.

That and, according to Time Bomb Betty, "No one makes me do laundry here."

Kitten's Got Claws says the resurgence of bank track derby started in Texas. Now there are nine track leagues in the United States.

The Slayground is the only one in the South East. You can watch a jam or two, or come join a team. -Warning: you'll be called fresh meat until you prove yourself on 12 skills.  For more information head over to:  https://www.facebook.com/the-slayground-home-of-deadly-rival-banked-track-roller-derby-747521925345730/

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