The schedule goes something like this: Practice with the Casper squad on Tuesday and Thursday. Another practice on Saturday in Colorado Springs. Drive to Denver for a Sunday scrimmage with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls. Mix in trail skating and leg workouts. Listen to a derby podcast. Scour the web for new techniques.
Katie Mae Peters discovered roller derby a little more than a year ago. Since then, it’s taken over much of her life.
“‘I’ve just become obsessed with this,” she said. “And so derby is my life outside derby.”
Her derby schedule — basically the equivalent of a full-time job — wasn’t enough. So in June, she tried out for the U.S. Roller Derby World Cup team.
Peters came up short at the tryout, but her devotion to the sport earned her a spot on the team anyway. She’ll serve as one of the club’s managers when it travels to Toronto this week for the inaugural Roller Derby World Cup.
“It just hasn’t hit yet that we are making history,” she said.
Peters discovered roller derby in the green room at Stage III Community Theatre. While waiting last fall for some fellow actors, she spotted an article about the A’Salt Creek Roller Girls, a Casper derby team that formed earlier that year.
The 23-year-old bank teller barely knew how to skate, but decided derby looked interesting enough to try.
It quickly became an addiction.
The sport mixes speed with theatrics. Skaters whip around the track, dodging opponents while trying to earn points by lapping the other team.
Crashes are common. So are fishnet stockings and tattoos. Everyone picks a nickname — even the coaches and referees. Peters chose “Vivien LeighEmOut,” a reference to the actress who played Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.”
She started devoting hours to the sport.
“I don’t really have a lot of nonderby friends anymore,” she said. “Well, no. I have a lot of friends outside derby, but I just never have time to hang out with them. I work constantly. And when I’m not working, I ... go do derby.”
Derby competitors tend to be intensely passionate about their sport. Even in that context, Peters’ devotion stands out, said Geoff Buck, a derby referee who goes by the moniker Bill Hand Justice. (Say it fast.)
“She seems to have boundless energy for the sport that she loves,” he said.
The World Cup
In June, Peters drove 14 hours to try out for the U.S. world cup team in Waterloo, Iowa. Before leaving, she sent an email to Coach Aaron “Buster Cheatin’” Goed, offering to help the team in any way she could.
“It’s such a huge, monumental event,” she told him. “There is no way I could pass up being part of it.”
The competition in Iowa was far more intense than anything Peter’s had experienced in Caper. For three hours, Goed ran the hopefuls through a set of taxing drills. They sprinted wherever they went, stopping only once for a five-minute bathroom break.
At one point, Peters was so tired she couldn’t see.
“I’m blacking out,” she said. “I don’t know what is going on.”
She nearly made the cut for a final tryout in Florida. But Goed offered her a pretty sweet consolation prize: a job as team manager.
Peters leaves for Toronto on Wednesday. She’ll serve as bench coach for a Thursday exhibition bout and will manage the team’s merchandise throughout the tournament. She’s also responsible for player logistics.
“It’s really humbling,” she said. “I have this opportunity out of all these people who’ve dedicated so much more time and energy to derby than I have.”
Sometimes at the start of bouts, Peters gets so nervous she feels like she’s having a heart attack. So it’s hard for her to imagine the pressures of competing in the Roller Derby World Cup.
“What if you were the person who lost the World Cup for someone?” she said. “There are thousands and thousands of people watching and judging you.”
Still, she figures she’ll try out for the team the next time around. But if she doesn’t make it, Peters said she’s content with managing again, or maybe coaching.
In fact, she’d love to find a way to make derby a career. Her mentor, a woman who goes by Bonnie D. Stroier, has coached all over the world.
“If I could do what she did and turn it into a living,” Peters said, “just live off derby, that would be really cool.”