The Roller Derby Queen of Lantana

The Roller Derby Queen of Lantana

by Susan Neuhalfen

There’s no two ways about it: roller derby gets a bad rap.

The movies and television have given us images of tough women on roller skates brawling like the American Hockey League in short shorts and tube socks.

The truth is, roller derby has evolved and with it has emerged a genuine sport: a sport that is today recognized by the Junior Olympics and under consideration to be an Olympic sport in 2020.

“There are still ladies that play ‘old school’ roller derby,” explained Lantana resident Jessa Huffman, mom of roller derby player, Maddy. “But the kids coming up today are focused on being amazing athletes so there’s a little bit of a culture clash.”

Lantana resident Maddy Huffman has been skating since she was a toddler. Like most of the kids in roller derby she tried soccer and other sports, but wasn’t particularly interested. Then a friend of hers, also a Lantana resident, brought her to a roller derby practice. The Harpool 8th grader was hooked and is now on her third year in the sport, skating with the Rolling Rebellion, a nationally-ranked junior team based in Lewisville.

When asked how she felt when her daughter first exhibited an interest in roller derby, Jessa said she was a bit apprehensive.

“Maddy was always a very shy, quiet person, I was a little surprised that she was interested,” said Jessa. “Over the years, I’ve seen her develop incredible leadership skills. Roller derby has taught her that it’s okay to be a powerful woman.”

Her father, on the other hand, was all for it from the start.

“Roller derby has given her the freedom to create whatever it is she wants to be,” said father Chad who is very involved with the sport. “She has honed her skills and we’re very pleased with the work she’s put into it.”

Chad also had misconceptions about roller derby. He had always thought of it as a girl-power thing, but Maddy plays on coed teams with some incredible kids.

“Her team is just so great and kids are all kind to each other,” said Chad. “They’re very competitive on the track, but they are all friends outside of the game, even those on the other teams.”

Roller derby parents are also cut from a different cloth according to Chad. They come from all backgrounds, but are all very dedicated to the sport for the sake of their kids.

“We’re all at the roller derby games because our kids play it,” said Chad. “We didn’t play it; none of the parents did. We find ourselves here because of a dedication to something our kids love.”

Roller derby is ranked on four separate levels – beginning, lower middle, high middle and then full contact. Players must be specially assessed for full contact, and trainers work with the team at all levels. The beginner level is for kids who don’t even know how to skate, so entering roller derby is easy at any skill level. Teams are not necessarily divided by age. Players move through the ranks based on experience and are on teams with players of equal skill level.

Another thing that has changed is focus on safety. Safety is a top priority for this contact sport. Every time they go out on the track there’s a gear check and they are required to wear elbow, wrist, and kneepads as well as quad skates. Players cannot hit below the hip or above the shoulders, and they are forbidden to hit with hands or lock arms.

Despite her calm personality, Maddy says she loves the defensive part of the game.

“I love blocking people when I can,” she smiles. “I still get butterflies when we start. I really love playing.”

Her favorite part, aside from blocking, is meeting other players. Maddy travels many weekends to tournaments all over the country.

“You get to meet new people and everyone is really nice,” said Maddy. “We connect on Instagram and Facebook, we all have a common interest.”

Maddy’s home team, the Rolling Rebellion, is part of the JRDA (Junior Roller Derby Association). This year, as in many years, Rebellion played in Nationals (top 10 in the country) and four members of the Rebellion were selected to play in the Junior Olympics.

When asked how long she wants to play, Maddy just beamed.

“Until I age out (usually 18) though I’d love to keep playing,” she said. “Some colleges have scholarships for roller derby so maybe I’ll get to keep playing.”

For more information about the Rolling Rebellion check out their website www.rollingrebellion.com or Facebook.com/therollingrebellion


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