Skater girls

Skater girls

Members of Gainesville’s Roller Rebels have strong ties to UF health colleges

 By Allyson Fox

Members of the Roller Rebels compete in a recent bout./Photo by Jesse S. Jones

The whistle signals the start of the bout. Wearing metallic gold shorts and a green jersey, Killary Clinton bumps her opponent aside and takes off on her roller skates.

Killary Clinton is a member of Gainesville’s roller derby team, the Gainesville Roller Rebels. By day she loses the metallic gold shorts and is known as Sarah Kiley, a graduate research assistant in UF’s C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory.

Kiley isn’t the only Roller Rebel associated with the Health Science Center. About one-third of the team has ties to health professions colleges.

Miriam Hill, aka Stocky Balboa/Photo by Jesse S. Jones

“I was looking for something to take my mind off grad school,” Kiley said. “It’s an outlet to alleviate stress you may have in a positive way.”

You can feel the adrenaline in the arena. Skates screech as jammers — the skaters who score points — round the corners of the track. Sweat drips down the competitors’ faces, and there is no shortage of booty bumping, pushing and stumbling.

But roller derby is about more than how hard you can hit your opponent. Many of the team members agree the skills they learn in the roller derby rink help them thrive in their professions.

It requires a lot of strategy that forces competitors to think and problem-solve. It goes hand in hand with reality, Kiley said.

Shannon Sisco, a.k.a. Sisco Inferno, who works in the College of Public Health and Health Professions department of clinical and health psychology, said part of her job involves being a therapist, and she is required to keep a lot of her work confidential, which can be stressful. Roller derby has become an outlet for those emotions.

“It helps me get through things that are difficult at work,” Sisco said. “Part of what pushed me to do roller derby was it was way outside my comfort zone. I have something in my life that pushes me to work really hard.”

Up to four days a week the roller derby girls lace up their skates for practice — three hours of conditioning, scrimmaging and skill sets, which include weaving through cones and practicing falling safely.

“It’s like a second job,” said Miriam Hill, known as Stocky Balboa in the rink. The president of the Roller Rebels also works in the College of Medicine Office of Research Administration and Compliance. “It’s a very dedicated group of people.”

Hill thrives off the adrenaline of a bout.

“As a player it is the biggest adrenaline rush ever,” said Hill, whose husband, Dana, is the host of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Airwaves Live on WUFT-FM. “I always leave (practice) feeling 100 times better. The stress of the day is gone.”

The fans are cheering, music is blasting and the Roller Rebels are ready for action in their kneepads, elbow pads, helmets and bright uniforms.

“There’s so many women involved that come from a diverse background,” Kiley said. “The combination of camaraderie with teammates and being part of a sport that’s making a great revival keeps me coming back.”