Amy Spears '98: An Athlete on Wheels

Where Are They Now - Amy Spears '98

In the winter of 2006, Amy Spears ’98 (at right) and the inaugural roster of the Ohio Roller Girls traveled west to take on the well-established Minnesota Roller Girls. “We were babies,” Spears says of their first bout. The rink was packed, and when they announced Spears’ name, she skated out and heard the crowd booing. For anyone else, the start may have been daunting, but Spears just thought: “This is really cool.”

Roller derby started out as a marathon skating event back in 1935, but it has since morphed into a full contact sport full of tough competitors donning colorful gear and funky names. (Spears’ derby name is “Alli Catraz,” but she’s part of a growing movement to have players go back to using their real names.) The gist of the game, these days, is this: A pack of eight blockers works to keep the opposing team’s “jammer” from passing them and earning points along the way. Spears, who is president of the two teams that make up the Ohio Roller Girls, plays the position of “pivot,” a blocker who skates at the front of her team calling plays and acting as the last line of defense against speedy rival jammers. By day, she’s manager of The Digital Media Project at Ohio State University, but she spends two to four nights a week at practice, performing speed skating drills and hitting drills akin to hockey. There’s plenty of strategic maneuvering involved, although pushing and jabbing opponents is strictly forbidden. Still, the track sees its fair share of injuries. Spears herself has only suffered bruises, but concussions and broken bones are all part of the game.

Today, roller derby bouts are even better attended than they were when Spears made her derby debut in 2006. It’s all thanks to a recent revival of the sport spanning the last ten years. Even Hollywood has taken notice: Spears knows several of the “extras” from Drew Barrymore’s 2009 movie, Whip It. She competed against them on the track.

Published November 2010