Highway to HellBillie: My journey to becoming a Hard Knox Roller Girl

I don’t come from a skating background other than rollerblading around my old neighborhood as a kid. Being relatively new to Knoxville I didn’t have many friends, much less any connections to the local roller derby scene. I didn't show up at a meet-n-greet to get recruited or meet any of the Hard Knox Roller Girls around town and get talked into checking it out. I honestly didn’t even know Knoxville had its own roller derby league. No, I was introduced to roller derby by different means…via virtual reality.

I was bed ridden at home recovering from my second knee surgery when I stumbled across an online roller derby game. It had been years since I had played softball and felt the rush of physical competition. I had always yearned to return but was afraid of hurting my knee again, which ironically happened anyway. So I figured this was safe. I was on one end of a computer screen watching my virtual self get hit by other players but I never felt a thing. No injuries. But I started to feel really ridiculous when I realized I was living a lie and that the pixels on my laptop’s screen weren’t really me. So with no experience in skating or roller derby, I decided I needed to at least give this sport a go, if for nothing else than my own self dignity. So I got on the Net and searched to see if such a sport existed in Knoxville, and that’s when I found Hard Knox. I watched their old YouTube videos and instantly fell in love and wanted to be a Hard Knox Roller Girl.

So I decided to volunteer for one of their scrimmages and see the action for real. I wasn’t disappointed. My eyes and ears were glued to the sights and sounds of a real derby bout. Everything I had experienced playing my little computer game had been brought to life and I was on cloud nine. After months of just talking about joining, I finally went ahead and took the plunge. I was so nervous on my first night. I didn’t know what to think other than the harsh fact that I had really let myself go. Roller derby was like a drug to me. Ever since my first night, I was addicted. I kept coming back for more. More sweat, more tears, and more bruises until finally I started seeing small improvements. My knee bothered me a lot but everyone was so helpful and always encouraged me to keep moving forward.

I have had many occasions when I wanted to throw in the towel and just give up, but I knew in my heart that was never an option. Not long ago I received my first derby-inspired tattoo. I look at it everyday as a constant reminder of what I almost gave up and how far I’ve come. Roller derby has been, by far, the best decision I have made in my life. It inspired me to lead a healthier lifestyle and gave me a newfound confidence in my day-to-day life. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.