‘Like chess on skates’: KC women from all walks describe the allure of roller derby

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- If you picture cartoon-like antics and the theatrics of a circus sideshow when you think of roller derby, it may be time to take a second look.

“That’s not quite how we play it anymore, but it’s kind of where it came from,” said Chelsea Soetaert, who goes by "Candy Crusher" in roller derby.

The KC Roller Warriors is a local derby league with four teams: The Blackeyed Susans, The Dreadnaught Dorothys, The Victory Vixens and The Knockouts.

The teams hold their bouts at Memorial Hall in KCK. Their next bout is Saturday night.

“I played sports as a kid, but I was never really great at any sport,” Soetaert said. “I found roller derby, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m good at this. I like this. This feels good.'"

It’s a full contact sport on a flat-track that the skaters compare to “chess on skates." See more of the action in the video player above.

But they say the sport is easy to pick up. Both teams have a pack, like blockers, and each team has a jammer, like a running back in football, who gets a point each time the jammer laps an opposing player.

For many of the skaters, like Laurel Fetterer (“Madame McBomb”), roller derby became a bit of a salvation.

“A lot of people come to derby when they have something missing in their life and they don’t even necessarily know they have something missing in their life,” Fetterer said.

So why is she known as "Madame McBomb"?

“I am the federal security director at the nuclear weapons production facility in south Kansas City,” Fetterer said.

In fact, most of the athletes delivering punishing blows on the flat track have day jobs you wouldn’t expect.

“I teach ninth- and tenth-grade English,” Soetaert said.

And the skaters are quick to point out that anyone -- men, women, young and old -- are welcome to give it a shot.

Tracey Hughes, who goes by "Dreadlocked and Loaded," never imagined she’s become a part of this world.

“I went through the training, got drafted, and here I am at 50,” Hughes said.

Soetaert urges sports fans to consider giving roller derby a second look.

“If you like something that is loud and fun, kid friendly while still an aggressive full contact sport, come watch us," she said.

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