Push-Up Brawlers: Social studies teacher pursues interest in roller derby skating

Sara Gabriele/Editor-in-Chief

Social Studies teacher Traci Lake plays rough.

She cuts through the McElroy roller rink, swerving through her pack of teammates as she strategizes how to best thrust through the pack.

Decked out in tight-fitted Push-Up Brawler attire, Lake stays focused: it’s “bout” time.

Lake is a member of the Cedar Falls roller derby team, a contact sport that involves speed skating and strategy.

“It’s as if football and NASCAR had a child, and we pushed it into fishnets,” Lake said, recalling a comment of one of her teammates.

Players travel in packs of five and try get one of their teammates, deemed the “Jammer,” through the pack of the opposing team to score.

Players are not allowed to use certain body parts like elbows or tackle but, as Lake admits, “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like this.”

The girls are rough, but that’s part of the appeal.

“It’s a nice way to unwind after a long day and take out any aggression I have,” Lake said.

Lake got into Derby this year because her sister, who plays for a team in Dubuque, encouraged her to give it a try.

“It’s a great way to stay active,” Lake said.

As a former softball player and golfer, Lake added that she enjoys being part of a team again.

“It’s nice to have a group that you’re close with and all be working towards a common goal.”

Lake said that, although they may just look like roller skaters, they’re athletes.

“There’s a lot of strategy involved,” Lake said.

“The first time I ‘bouted,’ I was taken off guard by how hard people hit, but you just start watching the other team, noticing what they do and strategizing how to best adjust.”

The team practices six hours a week and spends time watching film, conditioning and developing plays.

The sport is aggressive, and as such takes a lot of preparation.

However, despite the roughness of the sport, teams are very friendly to one another.

“You would think from the way the sport goes people would be nasty to each other,” Lake said.

“It’s quite the opposite.

Everything gets left on the track.

Going in to bout, you’re competitive, but once it’s over, we all hang out and get to know the other players.”

The players battle other misconceptions, such as that the sport is staged or inappropriate.

“A lot of people think of roller derby as dirty, but it’s very family friendly,” Lake said.

A look around the crowd reveals a wide range of ages; girl scout groups, families and retired citizens pack in around the rink, and the event features live music and food.

Many of the players are mothers, and the team holds additional events, such as kickball games for their families.

Senior Brii Keigan’s mother joined the Brawlers this year.

“It’s really neat opportunity for women,” Keigan said, adding that since the closing of the Roller Dome, there aren’t many outlets for skating any more.

Though the Brawlers had their last match of the season this Saturday, Nov. 12, they will reconvene in eight weeks to begin their April season.

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