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Balancing Babies And Bruises: Working Mom Finds Footing in Roller Derby

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Cat Clifford, also known as “Bootyvicious” on the track, calls the Gainesville Roller Rebels (GRR) her tribe. This league of women trains and competes almost year round in roller derby, a complex team skating competition that involves quite a bit of pushing and shoving. By day, the overnight labor and delivery nurse and mother of two juggles work, family, and sleep, but when she laces up her skates, the smooth oval track becomes her playground. GRR (pronounced like “grr”) acts as a place where all women are welcome, and this year, the team is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Editor’s note: The responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is GRR?

A: GRR is a league of women who spend their time playing roller derby. It’s a community of women. You build friendships there. You get to learn how to play derby and get good at it. It’s amazing.

Q: What’s it like being part of the team?

A: I joined GRR about a year and a half ago. That was mostly because I have two kids, I have a job. I have a lot of stuff going on and I just needed to do something for myself. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, other than I wanted also to get some exercise and I thought it would be fun. But what I really got was this whole group of women who kind of become your tribe. They’re just people who are always there to support you always there for you encouraging you. It’s just this amazing feeling that I know I wasn’t expecting to get out of derby. And it’s just this kind of bonus. I get to play this really fun, awesome sport, but then I also get this really amazing group of women that I get to be a part of.

Q: When you first started playing roller derby, what was your goal? Has it changed?

A: So when I started, one of my motivations was to get a little bit more exercise. I wanted to get in shape, maybe lose some weight. And I did lose a little bit of weight just because you’re using a lot of muscles that you never used before. There’s a lot of cardio involved. But one of the things that changed for me was that there’s no particular body type for roller derby. You see tall people, short people, heavy people, skinny people. All kinds of people can be successful at roller derby.

What I realized, especially with the support of my team, was that my size is an asset. It really built my confidence. I’m a little bit heavier, I’m a little bit curvier, but it doesn’t matter. On the track, I’m really hard to move. People don’t get past me. I hit pretty hard. And then to get applauded for that several times a day during practice and during bouts, it’s like, this is okay. I’m in better shape now just from doing derby, but I’m not as preoccupied with the number on the scale, or my size, or anything like that. It’s more like I can crush you. So I’m not worried about it.

It’s more like I can crush you. So I’m not worried about it.

Q: How did you earn your nickname “Bootyvicious”?

A: It was bestowed unto me by some of my teammates, and I like it because it gives me confidence about some of my assets. It’s fun to have a nickname in roller derby because it can be your alter ego or something that gives you a little extra oomph, something that fits your personality, or something that you like or like about yourself. It’s really fun to kind of incorporate that into your derby persona. As roller derby gets more mainstream, there are a lot of skaters that are using their regular name or variation of their name, but I still think the nicknames are fun.

 Q: What do you love most about the sport?

A: It just meets so many needs. You get stress relief, because exercising is stress relief. You also get to hit people, and they’re your friends, so when you hit somebody they’re like, “Oh my gosh, that was awesome. That hurt. But it was great.” And you’re also getting hit too so it’s very even in that. But that’s a nice stress reliever as well. The sense of community and friendship that you have just checks off so many boxes that help you feel more complete.

Q: What’s special about this year?

A: This is the 10th anniversary of GRR. It’s a really big deal for us because roller derby is gaining popularity. It’s one of the fastest growing women’s sports in the world. So it’s really great that we’ve been going strong for these 10 years and hopefully we’ve got another 10, 20, 30 years left that we can keep going.

Q: What does GRR do for women and the community?

A: We do a lot of community projects with women, like we were just invited to the Harn Museum for a Wonder Women event and GRR will be there as a representative of different activities that women can do. We also do Adopt-a-Highway, Active Streets Alliance, and we skate in the Pride Parade. That’s a big event for us every year. And at our bouts we always fundraise for various charities. Derby itself is great for women because it can really empower you to do more than you ever really thought you could do.

Q: What else should people know about GRR?

A: I think what people should know about GRR is that everyone is welcome. We have all types of people, all ages of people. Even if you don’t want to skate, you can volunteer, learn how to referee, learn how to be a non-skating official, score keep. There’s always different things to get involved with in the league, and once you get involved and you really feel that sense of community that we have you’ll want to keep coming back.

About Sara Girard

Sara is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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  • Adam Wendling

    What is the age range for participation and how frequently do injuries occur? Is this a potential sport for teens? For pre-teens? I’m asking for my daughter.