Pratt woman discovered she had a passion for roller derby after attending an organizational meeting at Rolla Rena Skating Rink several years ago.
By day, Derese McAbee is the Pratt Public Library Activity Coordinator, but by night, and sometimes on other days, McAbee has been a referee for the Central Kansas Roller Derby Association for four years. At all times, she loves to share her enthusiasm for the sport with others.
“I love it! I think it’s great,” said McAbee, whose Yellow Brick Rollers Team includes her 16-year-old son Donovan and 16-year old Bella Barker, daughter of Nick and Marsha Barker of Pratt.
McAbee got involved with Roller Derby in 2012 when she was a para-professional in a special needs’ classroom in Anthony.
She said she had watched a roller derby documentary, “Blood on the Flat Track,” and then, coincidentally, was invited by her co-worker Rebecca Goodspeed to attend a roller derby organizational meeting at Rolla Rena Skating Rink in Pratt.
From the start, McAbee was hooked on the sport and made the most of her rink time until an injury on August 4, 2012 slowed her down. During practice McAbee fell and fractured her left ankle. Amongst her collection of roller derby mementos are x-ray pictures of her injury showing the plate and six screws that the repair surgery required.
“In roller derby, it’s not a matter of if you’re going to get hurt,” McAbee said. “But, skaters are trained on how to fall in order to lessen injuries.”
Skaters are coached to skate low, she said, to lessen the impact by being closer to the ground.
“The players are also reminded to fall forward and if the fall is going to land them on their ‘heinie’, they are taught to take a cheek,” McAbee said.
McAbee’s own injury sidelined her for nine months and when she returned to skates, it was as a referee, rather than a player.
Roller derby participants speak their own language and McAbee spiels out roller derby jargon, which includes such phrases as “fresh meat “ for beginners, “the pack” which is the group of blockers for both teams on the track and “jammer” who scores the points.
The players also have “handles.” McAbee is “Toby Smac,” and her son is ”McFish.” Barker is “Belladonna.”
The Central Kansas Roller Derby and Yellow Brick Rollers season runs from spring to fall, and McAfee and entourage usually travel to Hutchinson once a week for training sessions or matches, called bouts at Skateland. Each bout is followed by a social with snacks held at AJ Sports Bar at The Alley.
Practices are Monday and Thursday nights 6:30 to 8:30 at Skateland, 3101 North Lorraine Street in Hutchinson.
“We’re always looking for new skaters, referees and non-skating officials and spectators,” McAbee said. “There’s something for everyone. We’re like a family. There’s a lot of diversity and everyone is very accepting of each other, who you are or where you’re at, regardless of age or gender. And we always welcome newcomers, whether as skaters or spectators.”
McAbee said roller derby connected her to other skaters in other states and around the world.
She said Central Kansas Roller Derby became the first co-ed team in Kansas in 2015.
Gear required for roller derby includes helmet, knee and elbow pads, wrist guard and mouth guard.
The job of referee is to keep the players safe, lay down the law, call all penalties and send them to the box, McAbee said.
She has personalized her zebra referee suit with floppy zebra ears and a zebra tail bringing her own personality to the uniform.
More information about roller derby activities is available on either the Central Kansas Roller Derby or Yellow Brick Roller Facebook pages, McAbee said.