By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
One may look at a group of women dressed in skating gear and think, “they’re harmless.” Armed with knee pads, helmets and mouthguards, when these ladies hit the hardwood floor of the rink, they are ready for war and out for blood.
Roller derby is one of the fastest growing women’s sport in the U.S. and in Little Rock, Ark. Girls Rollin’ In The South, (GRITS), is one of the local roller derby leagues where women from different walks of life come together with one common purpose - skate and skate hard.
The women wear unique athletic uniforms ranging from fishnet stockings to colorful knee-high socks. Each skater is given a skater name the represents their skating style and/or attitude. Skaters cannot choose their own names; they have to earn them from other teammates or coaches. The names are useful for the players during the bouts when they call on each other for different plays and maneuvers.
Staff Sgt. Amanda Chelchowski, the 19th Airlift Wing command chief executive assistant and BreakNeck Brawler blocker, was given her name, “Reprimanda” to identify with her military life and her first name. The BreakNeck Brawlers is a team under the GRITS league.
Chelchowski, who began her first roller derby season this year, said roller derby is an escape from the real world, and she gets to practice and play with women from all different lifestyles.
“It has been an awesome experience so far, and I would encourage any female to come out and try it,” said Chelchowski.
The league provides a chance for people to bond with others, reach out and connect, strengthening and reinforcing social bonds required for all Airmen. However, roller derby isn’t just a way to be a part of a team, it also gives these women a chance to work out. To compete in a roller derby bout, one has to pass three tests: a written test, laps test and a basic fundamentals test.
Chelchowski said, “You have to prepare and be in shape for these tests just as you would be for a physical training test for the military.”
The BreakNeck Brawlers practice two to three times a week because newcomers join each week. Most practices are held at the Joyland Skating Rink in Cabot, Ark. The local bouts are held in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock field house.
Christy Hendricks, the Combat Airlifter managing editor on base, is a member and co-founder of the league.
Hendricks said, “The girls on the team have become like family to me; we take care of each other.”
The roller derby league is a family - friendly association. Families can bring their children to watch the bouts as well as the practices.
For more information, check out the Girls Rollin’ In The South Facebook page or catch the team in action Saturday at the University of Arkansas Field House in Little Rock.