Knoxville is home to the Hard Knox Roller Girls, who come together to compete in the full contact sport of roller derby.
When not slamming opponents into the ground, the Girls find ways to give back to the community.
Roller derby is a sport in which teams play offense and defense at the same time. Five girls from each team are on the track. One player from each team, called the jam- mer, scores the points while the other four players, called blockers, block the opposing team’s jammer.
“It’s so fast-paced and full contact and hard-hitting,” Lee “Space Riot” Yarnell said, blocker for the Hard Knox Roller Girls. “All of these women are doing it. It’s so physically
demanding, and they’re doing it with wheels on their feet. You have people turning around and skating on one foot while avoiding a hit or trying to get a hit.”
The Hard Knox Roller Girls are ranked 108 in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The Hard Knox Roller Girls Brawlers, made up of newer team members, suffered a 331-81 loss to the Richland County Regulators of South Carolina Saturday. The Hard Knox Allstars, made up of more experi- enced team members, suffered a 207-104 loss to Florida’s Gainesville Roller Rebels, ranked 54, Saturday.
“Playing against such a hard team, I feel like we did really well,” Space Riot, team member for three years, said. “We didn’t get distracted by what they were doing. We communicated and I think it worked to our advantage.”
Roller derby is unlike any other sport, according to Kristin “Wrecking Ball” Johnson, blocker for the Hard Knox Derby Girls. It appeals to a diverse group of players, from college students to women with full time jobs and children, and is a challenging and aggresive sport to play.
“It takes determination to do this. If you’re determined to do it, you’re going to get where you need to be physically and men- tally,” Wrecking Ball, who joined the derby girls in 2010, said. “This is the hardest sport mentally and physically I’ve ever played. You have to want it really bad.”
Hard Knox Roller Derby is a 501c3 non- profit organization. A different charity is supported in each bout. Saturday’s bouts sup- ported the YWCA of Knoxville, which helps improve lives of women in the communities of Knoxville, accord- ing to YWCA Knoxville.
Other charities supported by the Hard Knox Roller Girls include the Boys and Girls Club, Young-Williams Animal Shelter and Habitat for Humanity.
The fans of the Hard Knox Derby Girls go all out for the bouts. They come dressed in neon green, wear tutus and blow their horns in support, according to Space Riot.
Fans bring their own chairs and blankets to sit in “Suicide Seating,” inches from the track and are able to circle the track to high five players during team introductions.
“I think we have the best fans of anyone around,” Space Riot said. “They’re really supportive. We’re like a little family.”
The Hard Knox Roller Girls play their next home bout July 13 against the Dixie Derby Girls of Huntsville, Ala.