It was the 2009 movie “Whip It” that motivated Kate Boltz to join a roller derby league near Fort Gordon, the Georgia Army base where her husband was stationed.
Boltz, 25, was a member of the Soul City Sirens for only eight months before her family was relocated to Fort Riley, but her entrée into the adrenaline-fueled world of “rugby on skates” was so powerful that she refused to leave it behind when she moved to Kansas.
Just weeks after “Worst Case Scenario,” as she’s known on the rink, arrived in Junction City, she founded the first roller-derby league in this area. The all-female Flint Hills Roller Derby League has one team, called the Stone Cold Foxes, that will compete against other teams from leagues in Wichita and Topeka in about a year.
“We were originally called the Junk City Jezebelles,” Boltz said. “But some of the locals said that portrayed Junction City in a negative light so we chose ‘Stone Cold Foxes’ because it had a tough sound that also related to the Flint Hills.”
A rotating cast of about 10 women, many of them “married to the military,” and/or in the military themselves, train together three times weekly at Spin City, 915 S. Washington St. Skating skills are not a prerequisite for joining the team, and no one gets cut during tryouts, which are instead used as an opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each new member, she said.
Roller derby games, or “bouts,” consist of two five-member teams. Each team has one jammer who scores points by lapping the other players on the rink, and four blockers tasked with doing whatever they can to stop the jammer from scoring.
“No matter what skill level you start at, you can become quite athletic,” she said. “But derby isn’t just a no-holds-barred brawl. There are technical rules just like there are in football. You can’t hit someone in the face or throw elbows without getting penalized.”
Boltz said she wasn’t surprised most of her team members live on Fort Riley.
“The only sport for women on post is softball, but a whole range of sports are available for men,” she said. “This provides them a nice, safe place to work out and be a part of a community off post. You can pretend you’re a super hero a couple times a week, then go home and do homework or take care of the kids.”
The Stone Cold Foxes are like a family, she said. They babysit for each other, walk their dogs together and share a sense of camaraderie they haven’t been able to find elsewhere, she said.
“A lot of women come here searching for themselves,” she said. “They’re curious about what they see as a cross between hot and tough powerful women who don’t do things that are normal.”
Boltz said watching her teammates evolve from timid, out-of-practice roller skaters to fully embodying their alter-egos on the rink is rewarding.
“I put together what I saw as a perfect team,” she said. “Derby attracts an alternative crowd, but we have school teachers, nurses and biotech workers. You feel all that stuff melt away when you stem on the rink and become your alter ego. You don’t have time to think when everything is happening a billion miles an hour.”
When she’s not teaching her novice team how to take hits and how to fall down without getting hurt, Boltz is a paralegal in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office on post. She is also teaching her daughter how to skate, after the 3-year-old showed an interest in watching derby practices and received her own pair of white Barbie roller skates.
The Olympics might recognize roller skating as a sport someday, she said, so “maybe we can train generations of future derby Olympians!”
“People surprise themselves when they show up to practice regularly,” Boltz said. “No one skates the same, but everyone will reach a point where they can skate fearlessly on anything.”