It's common to be wary about roller derby when approaching your first bout. There's an organic, but unhealthy cynicism toward the ability of high-level athletic competition being grown in a warehouse -- especially in the industrial side of Greensboro, a mid-sized central North Carolina city. Society has become conditioned to the idea that athletes can only be incubated in a series of rigid systems, graduating through levels of bureaucracy until they are lucky, and remain healthy enough to reach the pinnacle. Most first-time attendees become fans of the sport, despite their initial misgivings. It doesn't take a deep appreciation of derby to understand its appeal, because it's love at first bout -- a sport you either get or you don't.
Joining the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) is the end goal of any league looking to graduate from local curiosity, to national presence. It's an international governing body which oversees and promotes the sport, while writing its rules. Gaining membership is far more complicated than simply requesting it -- any league needs to be able to show it will uphold the stringent requirements of WFTDA.
This was always the goal, even from the beginning. Becoming a full-fledged member of the association is a badge of honor. Not only proving you've adhered to a stifling book of rules and regulations, but also that a league is ready to be an upstanding ambassador for flat track derby. The sports' denizens need to be its biggest fans, its primary supporters and its biggest defenders -- fighting against the ugly stigma that's kept the mindshare of derby relegated as frivolity, rather than true competition.
Roller derby didn't set out to redefine female athletics, but it’s doing so -- whether they realize it or not.
Greensboro's Gate City Rollergirls takes on the Columbia QuadSquad.
Greensboro is skating as a member of WFTDA's apprentice program, something it's done for the last six months. It is a process to show derby's governing body it has the ability to hold events, schedule opponents, operate as a nonprofit organization and conduct games to the league's high standards. It means that the women inside the league need to pull double-duty: Practicing their allotted hours per week, continuing to work on their conditioning, while also serving on a variety of boards that help behind the scenes.
It takes a lot to faze a derby girl. They're used to suffering bruises, and the occasional broken bone, but they bristle when asked what it will take to make derby "legitimate." These athletes are accustomed to having their passion looked down on as inconsequential when held in contrast to "real sports" like football and basketball. Greensboro Roller Derby (GSORD) didn't set out to redefine female athletics, but it's doing so -- whether they realize it or not. What started with 50 interested women in a bar's basement has grown into a league that will last. There's no big money to be made, or fame, but roller derby is rich with the competition that makes all sports compelling.
The biggest lasting misconception about derby is that it still holds a resemblance to "RollerGames", the 1989 TV show, which was more professional wrestling than athletic endeavor. Staged cat fights, overwrought storylines and stereotypical personas were the norm -- and continues to dog the way many view the sport. Look hard enough and you'll still find a choreographed league, trying to be more stage show than sport -- but this is not, nor should it be confused with, modern derby.
Despite a short-lived attempt in 1999 to revitalize the pageantry with "RollerJam," the league's future is on the flat track. A play area that can be set up and broken down within an hour, comprised of nothing more than a nylon cord and duct tape -- provided you can measure.
GSORD is divided into two competing bodies. First the home teams, named after the city's best known streets. These comprise of the Battleground Betties, the Elm Street Nightmares and finally, the Mad Dollies (adapted from Dolly Madison Road). Each year the three teams compete for the Lockard-Lugin Leg Lamp Trophy, an appropriately kitch lamp, with a lower limb adorned in a red and gold roller skate. The best skaters get to graduate and compete with the Gate City Rollergirls, an All-Star team of sorts that becomes the league's ambassadors on away trips.
Not all the skaters knew at the time, but GSORD had already submitted its application to WFTDA for full membership. Now it was about the agonizing wait until the skaters heard whether they made the cut, or if there was more work to be done.
Two months until the WFTDA's decision ...
The Columbia QuadSquad takes to the rink with unparalleled confidence. They're ranked in WFTDA's top 30 in the country, and are stopping in town to take on the apprentice league in Greensboro before traveling out west to face a much more prominent team.
It's clear during their pre-bout preparation that they're on another level. Their skaters don't talk much. Instead its members are scrupulously checking their equipment. One skater flexes to make sure her elbow pads are on just right, while another spins the outside wheels on her left skate, before reaching for a wrench to tighten the nut ever so slightly.
Columbia is in their zone, and the mood is no different to that displayed by an NFL team prior to a nationally televised game. The skaters pop off the bench, as if prompted by a button press, leaving in unison to get in their pre-bout warm up. One skater aggressively hugs the corners at breakneck pace. Low to the ground, she attacks the track, fueled by her own soundtrack, piped into her ears through bright red earbuds.
A Gate City blocker attempts to stop Columbia's jammer.
Players from both sides line up in their stance, eyes locked on the official to start. The 60-minute game is divided into numerous two-minute "jams," which serve as a microcosm for the game as a whole. A team can do very poorly, and give up a lot of points -- but there's always a new opportunity to reset, start again, and have another chance in a new jam. The whistle sounds, and it's immediately clear Greensboro's Gate City Rollergirls are overmatched. Columbia's jammer cuts through the line like a knife, lapping her opponents before calling off the jam.
This is the ideal strategy in derby. The "jammer" is the only player on each team who can score points, and the "lead jammer" (first of the two) has the right to stop the two-minute jam at any time. Jammers gain points by lapping the opposing team's skaters. This makes it the lead jammer's job to focus on where they are on the track, fight through the blockers and be aware of the other team's jammer behind them. The plan should be to get some points, and call the jam off before the opposition has a chance to score -- but this doesn't always go to plan.
Twenty minutes remain in the first half, and Greensboro is stonewalled. Chucktown Bruiser, the most intimidating member of the QuadSquad, spreads her skates wide, sticks out her posterior and takes up almost half the track. She's impossible to move. This is a "booty block," a technique that takes up the maximum amount of the track, and offers superior mobility for the blocker. Even in the booty block, Bruiser looks eight feet tall. Greensboro's jammer furiously shifts left and right, desperately eyeing a way through -- in an instant the blocker leans slightly to shift her weight and cause the jammer to careen out of bounds. Without any recognition of the hit she yells at her teammates to reset for the next blocking run.
Roller Derby 101
A roller derby bout is played in two, 30-minute periods. These periods are divided into a series of "jams," which last a maximum of two minutes.
Each team has five players on the track. One jammer (wearing a helmet cover with two stars), who scores points, and four blockers. Both team's blockers make up the pack, and it's their job to help their team's jammer through the pack, while simultaneously blocking the opposition.
The first jammer through the pack is named "lead jammer," and can stop the two-minute jam at any time by putting her hands on her hips.
One point is awarded for each opposing skater lapped by the jammer. Both jammers score points individually, meaning the lead jammer is trying to score points herself, while calling off the jam before the opposition laps any of her team's blockers.
A single blocker plays the "pivot" (noted by a striped helmet cover). A pivot helps organize the team's blocking, and can take over the jammer's role if required, by taking her helmet cover.
The pack is impossible for Greensboro to contend with, and this destroys any possibility of momentum. An old football axiom tells us that games are won in the trenches. In derby, it's in the pack. It's the most simple yet complex aspect to the sport. Picture a perpetually moving, ever-changing line of scrimmage where skaters play offense and defense simultaneously. Trying to help their point-scoring jammer through, while preventing the opposing team's jammer. A good pack is communicating constantly -- moving to gain advantages, making each other aware of where the opposing jammer is and telling their own when it's time to call off the jam.
Halftime sounds and Columbia has over 120 points; Greensboro remains in single digits.
Gate City manages a brief run, but there's no Cinderella Story here. It's routine in derby for a team to win by 80-100 points. Such is the nature of the sport. Greensboro loses by over 200, unable to push the QuadSquad around.
I first met Susie Williams following the bout, but she doesn't remember it now. A sweat-drenched Williams skated around the arena frantically. Her team had been demolished (even though it was expected), but rather than wallowing in defeat, she was trying to amp up the crowd for the second bout of the day's doubleheader.
Holding a large stack of pink and yellow sheets of paper reading "A-ha", she made her way around the crowd, stopping to speak with two young children 10 feet to my left. "This is for my girl A-ha Gabor," she said, "she's skating today for the first time in a while. Can you hold this up when they introduce her? I want her to welcome her back." Williams reads her script to a few dozen spectators, and in moments the crowd's hands are gripping sheets of paper.
Williams has been with Greensboro Roller Derby since the beginning. She skates under the name Miller Lightnin', a nickname coined by her mother, and appropriately chose the number .08 -- North Carolina's legal alcohol driving limit. If you told her three years ago that roller derby would become her passion, she wouldn't have believed you. The decision to attend the inaugural meeting to establish a roller derby league in Greensboro was as dynamic as the movement itself.
"Someone asked me at work, ‘You're going to the roller derby meeting tonight, right?'" she paused. Not quite sure how to answer, she responded, "‘Oh yeah, of course!'" Williams' semi-serious answer typifies her do-anything nature. "After that meeting I couldn't find a reason not to do it." Three years later, she's regarded as one of the league's most spirited personalities.
The doubleheader comes to a close, with players reflecting on the loss. They didn't know it at the time, but this would become a defining moment in the evolution of the league.
They didn't know it at the time, but this would become a defining moment in the evolution of the league.
Sunday practice following a bout is normally dedicated to some light drills and film study, but because of the magnitude of the loss, it was replaced with a team meeting. It was decision time about how GSORD would move forward. "The meeting was clearing the air about how competitive we wanted to be as a team," Williams said, "We admitted that if we wanted more meaningful things, we were going to have to be more stringent and athletically focused." This ushered in a new training regimen, more strategical coaching decisions, and gaining a better understanding of going with the "hot hand," which sometimes meant benching a player who was penalized too much -- or better identifying where there were matchup opportunities.
"We also talked about team building: warm ups, extra practices, team meetings and that there needed to be a structure we could rely on. Sometimes you are told things you don't want to hear, but that's sports."
The self-realization from that meeting was vital. A league that was always pushing forward reached a roadblock, and it was time to assess what it meant to them was. It would have been easy to take a step back, content with remaining an apprentice league that would hold bouts, help the community and be a recreational league along the way. The women of GSORD didn't want that -- they still wanted full WFTDA membership, and moved forward with a renewed competitive edge.
One month until the decision ...
The smell of stale sweat seeps out of the open loading dock into the heat of a sweltering Carolina afternoon. Skates smack concrete with a distinct, but unrecognizable, sound. The uninformed could confuse the noises for horses in a Spaghetti Western, marred with bad foley work. The industrial warehouse that houses Greensboro Roller Derby is a world of familiarity, but something's a little different. Recreational sporting leagues are nothing new, nor are social clubs, but GSORD is both, and neither.
Its members are helping to legitimize the sport, where skaters make commitments to the league a second job.
At its most basic level, Greensboro Roller Derby is about having fun, skating and competing. The deeper reality is that its members are helping to define and legitimize the sport, where skaters make commitments to the league a second job. It's a grassroots organization that offers a bastion for women trying to show that athletes are still athletes, even on skates -- by extension proving that there's nothing quirky about women in contact sports, even if derby has its idiosyncrasies. Larger leagues have helped guide them along the way, but on this Tuesday afternoon the skaters' biggest allies are two industrial fans, and the lasting sunlight -- keeping the hot lights off for another few minutes. GSORD's end goal remains to turn a group of motivated women into a nationally recognized, and ranked, roller derby league.
Williams' infectious enthusiasm is palpable at practice. It's midway through the "fresh meat" class, when the rookies are assigned "derby sisters." This is a relationship forged through athleticism and respect. It's the big sister's role to keep an eye on their fresh meat skater, and help mold them into an athlete. These skaters will finish their skill assessments, get drafted on to home teams and begin competing. Most players hope that they'll play well enough to evolve into home team stars, and perhaps graduate to the Gate City Rollergirls.
GSORD uses its fresh meat program as a way to expand the sport locally. The league looks to replenish their stock of skaters at colleges in Greensboro, where they can entice women looking for a challenge. Becoming fresh meat is a commitment to learning the sport from a very basic level. Players learn to skate properly, understand the fundamentals of the sport, and hold practices solely for new members. The end goal is to put them through scrimmage school, and finally have them pass their skills tests, making them ready to compete.
If you are married, dating, or involved with a derby girl, but have no connection to the sport, congratulations, you're a derby widow. It's a lovingly used phrase to show how the commitments of the sport bleed into life, and often supercede it. As a result, it's common to see husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends take on roles inside the organization that allow them to be close to their loved ones, and avoid being widows, even if they're not players themselves. In addition to the hours of practicing and watching film, each skater serves on a GSORD board. Training, promotion, public relations -- each is important and grows the league.
The veterans meet their sisters with pleasantries and hellos. They chat for a while, talking about skates and pads, discussing how their skills are coming along. A few moments later Williams walks in, calling out gregariously while craning her neck to see a clipboard, "Who's my new sister?" She finds the woman she'd help guide through the process, and let out a giddy scream. Her cry of "LITTLE SIS!" echoed off the aluminium walls, and Williams sprints across the cold warehouse floor, embracing the new skater with a warm bearhug charged with so much gusto that it throws the two off balance to a chorus of laughter.
Derby defies the norms we see in other sports. Maybe it's a byproduct of being an all-female endeavor, therefore lacking traditional male bravado -- but the immediate supportive is unmatched in a typical locker room. "My favorite part is motivating people," Williams said, pointing over to the fresh meat running drills. "Look at the new skaters. When she gets better, we all get better, and then the whole league gets better. There's no jealousy."
Rookie skaters aren't seen as challengers by her, but opportunities -- chances for Greensboro Roller Derby to be better, and take the strides forward as a ranked league. "It wasn't always like this. I used to think, ‘She's taking over for me,' but now I'm comfortable in my role."
The laughing and camaraderie of finding derby sisters soon gives way to seriousness at the veteran practice. A typical week calls skaters to work on conditioning and core strength, while focusing on areas of importance through a series of skating drills. However, things are different today. As soon as the Gate City team comes together, the frustration in the air is thick.
Skaters returned from Athens, Ga., the day before, recovering from a loss to the Classic City Rollergirls, a fully-fledged WFTDA league, but a lot closer in competition level to Greensboro. This was a winnable bout for Gate City, but ended in defeat due to a series of costly penalties.
Saturday's game was decided by "destruction of the pack." To understand this penalty, imagine a traditional NFL line of scrimmage being broken apart from snap to snap. The pack can stretch a few feet, or half the length of the track -- it's established by the offense, but both teams' jobs are to keep the pack cohesive by speeding up, or slowing down, to keep pace, and offer a structure by which the game is scored.
The Classic City bout was supposed to be an opportunity for Gate City to show its renewed team effort, but the game turned sour due to the penalties. Forty-five minutes into a rolling demonstration and Williams' hand keeps shooting up with more questions. Every skater is paying attention, but on this afternoon she's locked into the subject matter -- motivated to correct the missteps of the day before.
Gate City works on bridging the pack -- and doing so without penalty -- and some introductory strategy designed to prevent the penalty, as well as goad opponents into mistakes. Skaters watch film, but this is a rare opportunity for a hands-on practice session.
Two hours are spent understanding one rule -- and nobody has lost any focus.
Two weeks until the decision ...
Greensboro is preparing for its bout against the Cape Fear Black Hearts, but Williams sits down to talk about how derby has evolved, and the importance of giving the sport a shot.
"I'm sure there are some guys who come out to see girls in short shorts skate around," she said, "but if they don't get it we can't help them. I used to be a lot more defensive about it, and took that stuff personally -- but now I'm more relaxed. We'll gladly take their money, because they're helping us either way."
Williams obviously doesn't want gawking to be the norm, and being objectified offends her, but being flip about taking their money is how she helps rationalize attendees who aren't there for the sport. "I think it's something where people come through the door and they get it -- at least we hope they do." This is the battle start-up derby leagues face, gaining mindshare. Get someone through the door and it's hard not to be a fan, but getting people to give derby a chance is the hardship. There's still stigma surrounding an all-female sport, that it's less than it could be if men were playing, or that the hits aren't as big as they could be.
getting people to give derby a chance is the hardship.
"I was in the hospital with a cracked rib the same week Tony Romo broke his," explained Williams.
Williams recounted her injury with odd glee and enthusiasm. It was the worst injury she's sustained in the sport, but I could tell from her wide grin that she enjoys being in the same company as the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback. It's a source of pride, athlete to athlete -- that the battle scars from a bout make her -- and roller derby as important. It's Williams' knee that gives her the most trouble though, which is common for skaters.
"It was so hard when I injured my knee," she said. "I didn't want to show I was injured, but coach saw right through me. He said, ‘[Williams], you're done for the day.' It hurt -- but I knew he was trying to protect me from myself. There's a difference between hurting, and being hurt. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference."
Derby means so much to its athletes. We see players in other sports playing hurt out of fear of losing their livelihood, or from a place of pride. Here, it's simply for the love of the sport, and the desire to push one's self further. It doesn't matter that the skaters have day jobs, or other commitments. They live for the first jam of a bout, and revel in the result, win or loss. It is still pure, in a way other sports aren't any more. A basketball player is always looking to take the next step, to become a superstar, derby girls live for the competition itself, and it's refreshing after being jaded by the big money in professional sports.
While the NFL is doing its best to stifle expression and support of personal causes, in this setting they're embraced. Skaters adorn their helmets with stickers representing marriage equality, and women's rights -- showing personality is a hallmark of the sport. The nicknames that players adopt are part and parcel, and have become a contentious debate inside derby. As the sport gains more recognition and becomes better regarded, there are questions whether it can support the kitschy nature that makes these naming conventions the norm. But for now it's still how the players are known in the community.
"I love the names," Williams said, "It's what makes us different. Maybe we'll need to drop them in time, but for now I think it's what makes our sport unique."
Roller derby walks the bounds of what we perceive to be a "normal" sport, but it's likely you'll find a league in every mid- to large-sized town in America. Not all of them are as focused and ambitious as Greensboro, but in 2012 WTFDA had 172 leagues, of which 95 were in the apprentice program. It's the fastest growing sport in the world, and finds itself in the same fringe position that MMA was 15 years ago.
It's the fastest growing sport in the world, and finds itself in the same fringe position that MMA was 15 years ago.
Even seven years after WFTDA became federated, these athletes are still pioneers. It's easy for roller derby to be overlooked, but it came naturally to Williams. She played soccer as a child, and tried cheerleading for a year, but there was a layoff before finding her way into roller derby. Williams started when she was just 25 years old, but is already thoughtful on what her career has meant, and the impact she's had on the sport. "We've created something special here," she said, "and it feels good to know that while I might not be skating anymore, I've helped establish something that will last well beyond when I've finished skating."
Williams looks to pass on that knowledge, and help younger generations understand that it's OK to be a woman and compete in a contact sport. "When little kids come up to me at bouts and ask for my autograph, it feels special. Everything could have gone wrong that week, but for those few hours I feel like a superhero."
She understands the importance of what she's doing to redefine sports, and loves that it's something created by women to be enjoyed by everyone.
"I love that it's an all-female sport," she said. "There are some men's derby leagues, but that's the thing -- it's men's derby. I hate to admit it, but when someone says ‘basketball' I still think of men's basketball. When you say ‘derby,' it's only women you think of."
The only men who inhabit GSORD are significant others. Men who willingly take on ancillary roles to help the league move forward, but understand that this isn't their show. "We're so lucky to have so many understanding men who know that this is really our thing," said Williams. "They're OK taking the backseat so we can shine."
Five days until the decision ...
I revisited the Greensboro Coliseum for the "Star Strangled Slammer," months after first meeting the women of Greensboro Roller Derby. They had graduated from the outdoor pavilion to inside the coliseum complex. A single concrete wall separated the event from the main arena -- where the Men's ACC Basketball Tournament is held.
The day's sponsored charity is Kids Path, a philanthropic organization dedicated to helping terminally ill children, and those with sick loved ones. Charity is vitally important not only to GSORD, but to roller derby as a whole. Every league needs to meet nonprofit requirements, but it's more than simply ticking a box -- it's a way of life. The bout's profits will be given to the charity, a booth is set up to spread awareness, and the MCs routinely give background on the charity's importance.
This time it's Greensboro's skaters looking like the established veterans. Worlds apart from where the team was months earlier when they lost to Columbia. The women took the track with organization, confidence -- ready to assert themselves as the dominant team against the Cape Fear Black Hearts.
The women took the track with organization, confidence -- ready to assert themselves as the dominant team.
Gate City Rollergirls battle Cape Fear Black Hearts.
From the first whistle they assert their will. Greensboro's jammer toes the line on the outside with previously unseen agility, holding her position and establishing lead jammer status. Seeing Williams blocking was reminiscent of something she said earlier that week. "I'm 5'10, and get a few extra inches because of my skates," she said. "My height is my biggest advantage, and playing to that strength is how I win." Cape Fear's jammer tries to pass her on the inside, Williams raises her hands high in the air to avoid a penalty, and flicks her hip, making contact with the opposing skater. The Black Heart's jammer tumbles out of bounds and is lapped. Gate City calls off the jam to thunderous applause.
Greensboro looks like a different team. It was the culmination of the work the team put in since that Sunday meeting following the loss to the QuadSquad. This was the most focused the team had looked, and all their preparation and game planning had paid off.
"Call it, call it!" Williams screams at her jammer while out-positioning the competition. This is a level of communication not seen from the team before. The skaters called their blocks, ran advanced plays and everything seen in practice was coming to fruition in front of the teeming crowd.
The halftime whistle sounds and Gate City is dominating. The score is 167-19, and practically insurmountable. Their jammers were faster, blockers were better and the communication on the track was unmatched.
It is an opportunity to pile on the competition, but Gate City shows mercy. Coaches "Unibomber" and "Grandmaster Bash" change the lineup, giving Williams a rare opportunity to jam, a position she loves, but one which she admits needs improvement.
The jammer needs to show the most restraint on the track. A costly penalty can cause a disastrous power jam, an opportunity for the opposition to skate unabated and gain tens of points uncontested. Williams' gusto sometimes boils over, putting her in the penalty box, but she understands this weakness.
She uses her height to gain position, and displays the footwork she showed in practice. Hugging the outside line, Williams stomps her skates to gain the outer edge, and establishes position. In the past, she's smiled in these opportunities, but instead her face is showing focus, and Williams laps the Black Hearts twice before calling off the jam. Seventeen points are added to the board, and she's on her game.
The final whistle sounds, and Greensboro wins, 302-72. After two hours of solid skating Williams looks tired, an ear-to-ear grin cuts through the fatigue, but her day is far from over. This is the first of two games for Williams, as she dons the black and red of her Elm Street Nightmares for the second game of the doubleheader.
She skates off the track in Gate City's electric blue and emerges a brand new skater. She looks more violent, more serious -- with a red bandana covering her face she skates to the team's anthem, AC/DC's "Back in Black." It's time for the Nightmares to take on the two-time GSORD champion Battleground Betties.
For much of the bout Williams is given a rare honor, playing pivot. While jammers dictate the score, it's the pivot who serves as the team's quarterback. It's her job to establish blocking, communicate the plays and be the coach's on-track representative.
The confidence from the early win carries over into the second game. However, the Nightmares are unable to push the Betties around. The game remains close for much of the contest, and in the second half Williams has her chances to jam again, hoping to score like she did a couple of hours earlier.
She's checked out of bounds and makes a critical error. In her desperation to make a play, she rejoins the game too far up track and is called for a cut-track penalty. The mistake puts Battleground on a power jam, and while Williams sits on the bench, her team's lead evaporates -- three points separate the teams with six minutes to go.
Overall, she's playing a great game, but it's a rookie who's the standout. "Whip-O Snap Her" only just graduated from the league's fresh meat program, and is having a game for which veterans would be proud.
The final whistle sounds and "Whip-O Snap Her" has skated an amazing bout at jammer, scoring the bulk of the Nightmare's points and is awarded the day's MVP. Among her peers, the loudest cheers are coming from Williams, almost dead on her skates, but still cheering -- always cheering.
"I love my hometown team," said Williams. "That's what's really special to me. What made it better was the way the new girls skated. Look at how ‘Whip-O' did today! She was a rockstar. I remember what that feeling is like. You get back to work on Monday and everything is back to reality, but you can't stop thinking about how well you skated on the weekend."
The culmination of three years of work hung on WFTDA's decision. Greensboro met all its requirements, but there was still an off chance it wouldn't be accepted as a full league. Around noon, my phone buzzed with a three-word message "We did it." Shortly after, WFTDA put out its press release to announce Greensboro Roller Derby would be one of 22 new leagues to become full members.
Pride swelled in her voice about creating a league that will continue giving opportunities for women.
Becoming a fully-recognized WFTDA league was accompanied with some bittersweet news for the GSORD skaters. Williams -- Miller Lightnin', number .08 -- informed her teammates she was retiring from roller derby. It was a decision fueled by real-life pressures, but also injury. "Truth be told, my knee can't really take much more." Pride swelled in her voice about creating a league that will continue giving opportunities for women after she hung up the skates -- she just wasn't expecting the end of her career to come so soon.
Attaining full WFTDA membership was an appropriate send off to a woman who'd been with the league from the beginning. And Greensboro Roller Derby's future is still bright, even without Williams in it.
"In five years, I see us more established and disciplined athletically and nationally ranked," she said, "In 10, I see my (future) daughter sitting in the stands with me watching GSORD play, with me telling her, ‘Look! I used to be cool.'"