Cassie "Pit Bull Terror" Tackett of Vilonia, wants observers to know there’s nothing fake about the blocking and bumping, pushing, shoving and occasional clobbering that goes on at the bouts involving the Faulkner County Roller Girls.
"This is a real sport," she explained. A fairly new team headquartered in Conway, the 12 or so members are working toward a membership with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Members play under alter ego names such as Ragin Roxie, who serves as the team president, Slameron Diaz, skater liaison and Voice of Treason, secretary, as well as team mates Wreckquiem, Sassy Longlegz, and Tricky Minaj.
All members, Tackett said, have trained and practiced and are gearing up for their first "real bout," Tackett said. Sporting lime green and purple uniforms, they are scheduled to compete Sept. 8, against the River Valley Roller Girls. A portion of the proceeds from all of their bouts go to a non-profit agency. The September bout will also serve as a tribute to the emergency workers from Sept. 11, 2001. Bouts later in the year are also set up against teams from Branson, Mo., and Oklahoma.
Tackett — who is about 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds — says she never expected she’d get involved in the hard hitting sport of roller derby until about a year ago. Now, she said, she is "in love" with roller derby. Her initial contact, she said, came when she was invited to a "fresh meat" practice with another league that has since dissolved. Reluctantly, she went and since has "never looked back."
"I was kind of scared at first," she said. "I hadn’t been on a pair of skates in close to 20 years."
The team, she explained, trains about three hours a night, two nights per week. Newcomers, she said, are taught to skate, then to "skate well" and fall properly. It may be three months or longer before an amateur is actually ready to do anything but practice.
There’s no real qualifications other than skaters must be 18 and have a desire to play and be physically fit. It doesn’t matter, Tackett said, if players are married, single, moms or grandmothers. As far as size, she said, that doesn’t matter either.
"We all have our place," she added. "But, we are focused on athleticism."
Roller derby, she explained, is not all about brute strength. If you’re a good skater, she said, one’s stature really doesn’t matter. Explaining the rules of the game, she said, there are five skaters at a time serving as the team, one jammer and four blockers, and the jammer must fight her way out of the pack and lap the others within 60 seconds to score.
"One of my hardest things to get past was to hit someone when you are not mad," she offered. However, the hits are only legally done with the shoulders and hips.
"You can’t use your arms at all," she explained. "Your arms must say tucked in. You can’t touch the other team with your arms."
At that point, she made reference to some "renegade" teams, who do not abide by the rules.
In addition to needing additional team members, Tackett said, skating officials are needed to keep score, call penalties, run the score board and handle the merchandise table. Men, she said, are invited to help out in these areas.
Practices are held at 6:30 p.m. on Sundays at the Conway Roller Rink. Those wanting more information or who want to join, Tackett said, are invited to show up.