Carlie Gonzalez, a Fresno State student majoring in psychology, gets her stress relief from classes and homework by becoming “Curly Sue-Icide” on the roller derby track.
After attending a few bouts with the Central California Area Derby (CCAD), she decided to set aside her shyness and try out for the team.
Gonzalez said she had been to bouts before, but this time she heard an announcement that they were having “fresh meat” tryouts.
“Roller derby is the fastest growing sport in the world,” said Rachel Martinez, director of marketing for CCAD.
The CCAD is a derby with two teams, Atomic Assault and Rock N Rolla. Martinez said the Atomic Assault team is the all-star advanced team and Rock N Rolla is the “B” team for those less experienced.
The CCAD season is from May to October with a bout every month. Martinez said they play several teams in California, and there are almost 1,500 roller derby teams worldwide.
Gonzalez, a blocker for Rock N Rolla, has been playing for more than a year now and said, “When I have a bad day or get frustrated, I skate and I leave all my worries at home.”
Like other sports, derby takes a toll on an athlete’s body.
“It is a very contact sport, but we have rules we have to follow like any other sport and can be penalized or taken out of a bout for gross misconduct,” Gonzalez said.
She is not a stranger to the getting physical in the contact sport, and has been in physical confrontations on several occasions.
“Personally, I’ve had my finger broken,” Gonzalez said. “You get the wind knocked out of you a lot of the times. There’re a lot of bruises and stuff like that. But you can break bones.”
But the injuries are all part of the game.
“These women are legitimate athletes who work and train,” said DeLacy Grant, derby fan. “There’s no set box to put a derby girl in. [They are] all different ages, sizes, skills and types of people.”
Gonzalez said the team had a memorable experience last year during a game in Tulare, where it seemed to them that the ref was somewhat biased against their side.
Feeling like they were against a wall, the rough-and-tumble team decided to push back.
“There were more penalties and just more outrageous-ness on the track, as far as not following the rules and kind of being a little more aggressive than you should be,” she said.
Team Rock N Rolla shrugged off the pressure from the refs, focusing more on just going out and having a good time.
Martinez said anyone can join, and they are always looking for all sorts of people to join the derby world.
“You can be a skater, referee and a nonskating official,” she said. “No experience is necessary, and we will train you. There is something and room for all in the roller derby world.”
The CCAD is very involved in the community. Gonzalez said between work and school she often finds it difficult to commit to everything but has fallen in love with being a derby girl.
“I have met some great people since becoming a derby girl and that’s the best part to me. That, and I get to hit other girls,” Gonzalez said.
The team practices Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon at The Slab at Full Circle Brewery, located at 620 F Street.
Those who are interested can contact the team at http://www.ccaderby.com. All that is asked is that interested parties must bring proper gear, a mouth guard and, almost importantly, a “willingness to really try and improve,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really time-consuming; you have to put a lot of time toward derby.”
Gonzalez said she keeps a full schedule with her classes, and often she would have to miss practice for her studies.
However, she said the time pressure does not affect the overall benefits of being a derby girl.
“It’s worth it. It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve met some really cool people along the way. It’s a great workout, and it’s also just a really great time.”