Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Roller Derby an Escape for Mother; She Says She Fell in Love with the Extreme Sport after Just One Practice

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Roller Derby an Escape for Mother; She Says She Fell in Love with the Extreme Sport after Just One Practice

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY MARAGHY

When Heather Snyder of Middleburg, a single mother of three boys, told her father she joined the roller derby, his first reaction was, "What are you, nuts?"

Realizing his strong-willed 30-year-old daughter was serious, Brian Paul became a sponsor of the fledgling First Coast Fatales league.

"I decided to roll with it," said Paul, a corrections officer and author. "We think it's an empowering project for women."

Snyder, whose skating nickname is Reality Check, is assistant captain of the 11-member River City Rat Pack, which practices twice a week at Mandarin Skate Station, and recently won its first competition, or bout, 86-80, against North Florida's only other team - the Fast Track Hellkatz, who will soon pick a new name because theirs is being used in another city.

There are more than 5,000 women in 151 roller derby leagues in the world today, according to the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

Snyder is trying to recruit sponsors and more women to join the Fatales, one of five new Florida teams gearing up for a rookie league tournament in December in Melbourne.

"I'm really hoping to get the word out. It's a great way to make friends, get exercise," said Snyder who learned about the league through MySpace.com, attended one practice and fell in love. "It's a way to really push yourself and find out what your potential is. It's a confidence builder. We don't have enough women's sports out there. Its about the sport but it is also about women and finding your inner self."

Even women who can't roller-skate, or never heard of roller derby, are welcome to join, Snyder said.

"But beware, it is a no-princess zone," Paul said.

Roller derby is considered an extreme, high-contact sport with entertainment value similar to professional wrestling. Players, in old-school quad roller-skates, wear racy costumes, helmets, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards and have nicknames like Shock Tart, Sweet Revenge and Auntie Venom. Spectators are warned to expect violence, strong language and adult content. …

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