We have all heard the saying “Good things come in small packages,” and that is definitely the case with number 49: smalls. She has only been skating a few months, but has already made a big impact. I got a chance to sit down with her and learn about her road to the world of roller derby.
Travel Team: Brawlers
Home Team: Lolitas Locas
Years skating: <1
Thurmanator wanted to know what sparked your interest in roller derby?
I had read this book a few years ago called Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and it is about this little girl who is about 12 years old. She decides to play roller derby. It was adorable and, you know, I had wanted to get into better shape. I decided this would be fun. I had never done anything like this before, and I decided if I failed, that would be ok: at least I gave it a try.
At least you died trying?
Yes, and I felt like I did several times in Fresh Meat.
I have watched you work extremely hard; you never gave up.
Or people never let me give up. They kept pulling me through.
So what do you think would be your advice for anyone considering derby?
That you can make it what you want. I went in thinking I was just going to do Fresh Meat: meet new people and have a good time. And then I fell in love with it. At no point did I feel pressured to be part of the team. It was just always being encouraged. So I guess my advice would be, “Try it because you will find a really supportive community.”
Talk to us about your experience with Fresh Meat and getting on the team. Now you have your jersey which is super exciting.
Yeah, I joined Fresh Meat in Spring of 2018. I was just trying this out for fun. I had not skated since I was a kid at roller skating parties. I thought maybe I would be able to pick this up ok. Well, it was a lot harder than that. But the Fresh Meat program was a lot of fun, even as I was trying to watch other people and see what they were doing so I could try and figure out how to do it. When we were trying to get ready for the test, I genuinely did not think I would pass even half of the skills.
But you passed all of them other than your laps?
Three. I passed all but three. The three that I did not get were the backwards skating, and I got that one by our Skate-A-Thon, which was just a couple weeks later; the weaving through the cones (Persephone helped me with that), and once I got new wheels, I was able to do that one…
Gear makes a difference.
Yeah, I was no longer ridged with my Fresh Meat wheels, and finally the laps.
One question we always like to ask is, “What is your gear set up?” That was such a good transition you made for me there; you are good at transitions.
A lot of my gear is still Fresh Meat things I got in the package I bought. I did get new wrist guards and elbow pads for Christmas. My wheels I got at Asphalt Beach [Nashville] are Radar POP 93a.
I always like asking about derby names. I think they are fun because it is an identity you get to create and define for yourself. I see it as you getting to create your own superhero identity. So you went with “smalls” in all lowercase letters, which is pimp. What made you pick that?
So originally I wanted to do a play off my name. I was thinking “Tiny Kim” like Tiny Tim. I knew it had to be height related because I am 4’9” and everything pretty much is. Then Unsweet T started calling me “Smalls” because she didn’t know my name yet; there was a pretty good sized Fresh Meat class. So I went back and forth for a few weeks deciding which one I wanted to go with. I decided if someone cared enough to come up with a nickname for me, I might as well kinda just go with it. And I decided to go with all the letters small, too. My number is 49 because I am 4 feet, 9 inches.
I wanted you to be “Kim Possible”.
I liked that, too. And one of the reasons I wasn’t sure about going with “smalls” is that I thought there is no way someone had not already used it, but I’m the only one.
You are not originally from Knoxville. How long have you been here and what brought you here?
I moved here for college, so I have actually been here since 2009.
You are from Memphis?
Yes, born and raised.
What do you like best about Knoxville?
Knoxville feels like a small town, but there is so much to do. Like, the fact we have a roller derby team. Like, the fact we have a downtown where you can walk around and feel safe. We are forty-five minutes away from mountains, and we also have lakes, and all these things.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I like to do a lot of reading. I teach 8th grade reading, so I like to say reading young adult literature is part of my professional development, but it is really just something that I like to do. Right now I am finishing a book called Blindsided, by Priscilla Cummings, which is about this girl who has slowly been losing her sight her whole life, and she is fifteen.
Oh, that is depressing.
Well, it sounds like it would be, but it is really good. It sometimes has felt a bit “After School Special,” but in a good way. So I have over 1000 books in my classroom library, and I have read around 1/3 of them.
This is going to be your first full season. You got to skate one bout last year. It was a home team scrimmage where the Lolitas won, of course. Well, one out of two. What was your biggest take away from that bout, and what do you look forward to most this season?
I don’t know if this is a take away…I did not know what to expect in the first one. I was out there, and I felt like people were just flying by me so fast. I was just trying to play catch-up the entire first bout. By the second one, I felt like I was making a difference a couple of times. I considered that success for me. When I was out there at first, I was… “nervous” is still too strong a word, but something close to it. By the second one, I was having fun, even as I was falling to the ground. I am super excited for this season, because I feel like it is my first real season, as a Brawler, as a part of Hard Knox. I am also excited to get in other people’s way as a blocker. I want to be underestimated by the other team, so when I mess their stuff up, it is fun.
Well, we have reached that point in the night where you get to nominate the next Featured Skater. Who would you like to nominate and what would you like to ask her?
Since she helped me with some of the skills I was trying to work on, and I greatly appreciate it, I would like to hear from Trans Jam. I would like to ask her what her goals for this season are since she kicked so much butt last year.
Thank you, smalls, for sitting down with me.
She is going to be fierce on the track this year. Come out and meet smalls and the rest of the team at a very special showing of Whip It at Central Cinema on March 16. I hope to see you there.