April Featured Skater: Kitty Twister

Welcome back HKRG fans! Our 2017 season is just getting started as our Brawlers had their 1st bout against the Chattanooga Roller Girls a couple of weeks ago. If you noticed a skater with the number 1234 on her back, then you saw one of our newer girls in action. That was Kitty Twister, our frisky kitty-loving roller girl, tearing up the track. She’s been with us just over a year now, and man, is she developing some rad skills fast!

Terror Tot closed out the 2016 season as our last featured skater of the year. In her interview, she told me she wanted to see Kitty Twister as the next featured skater because of her drive from the very start: from her beginnings in our rec league all the way to now. Tot wanted to hear about Kitty’s “ah ha” moments in derby, her positivity, and of course, her kitty cats. So if you’re like Terror Tot and as curious as a cat yourself, then read on to find out more about this month’s featured skater, Kitty Twister.

How did you hear about the Hard Knox Roller Girls, and what made you decide to play roller derby?

My twin sister joined a fresh meat program with the Charlotte Roller Girls in late 2015. She told me about how much fun she was having and said that she thought I would like the sport. So the next time I visited her in Charlotte, I borrowed skates and went to a newbie practice with her team. I was hooked right away. I did some research and found out that Knoxville had a team. I saw that HKRG had a meet ‘n’ greet coming up, so I went to it (even though I was ridiculously nervous). I quickly discovered that roller derby/Hard Knox filled the void of all the things that I felt were missing from my life. I love the physical challenges and mental stimulation, but most of all, my derby family!

Did you already know how to roller-skate when you started attending practices?

No! I had been roller-skating a few times as a kid, but that’s it. I was a rollerblader previously. (My blades are still in the trunk of my car, sad and neglected.) I used to blade for a minimum of 11 miles each outing, sometimes up to 25 miles, so I was already accustomed to pushing myself physically. That’s about all I had going for me. On skates, I didn’t know how to do basic things like stop or skate next to other people without either tripping them or myself, and toe stops were completely foreign to me.

Do you come from a background in sports?

I was on swim team and played softball as a kid, but those sports didn’t stick with me. As a teen growing up in Florida, I went surfing and swam in the ocean a lot. I have always participated in extreme sports throughout my life, but a lot of those sports are seasonal (such as snowboarding and wakeboarding), so I felt like I was always moving from one thing to the next. Additionally, extreme sports tend to be individual-based as opposed to team-based, so it wasn’t until I started playing roller derby that I realized how much I love being part of a team.

What’s the meaning behind your derby name?

It has a few meanings. First of all, anyone who has ever talked to me for at least five seconds knows that I love cats, so having that come across in my derby name (Kitty) was important to me. Secondly, Kitty Twister is a crude play on words (titty twister, hehe), which represents my childish and fun-loving disposition as well as my crude sense of humor. Third, I like to think that “twister” represents a tornado. I’m crazy and unpredictable like a tornado, and with time, I hope to be like a tornado on skates: fast, ruthless, and taking victims.

Yes, yes, all your teammates know you love cats. You’re our crazy cat lady, LOL! Terror Tot wanted to know more about your cats. Can you introduce each one to us?

I have three cats. Smoky is my Russian Blue. He likes to bring me both living and dead presents such as mice, chipmunks, snakes, skinks, shrews, and bugs. Panda is a super awkward calico. She has been weird ever since I rescued her from the dumpster at my old workplace. Her intelligence level is questionable, but I love her anyway. May is my evil attack cat. If you don’t believe me when I say attack cat, just ask Terror Tot, LOL. I rescued May and her two brothers when they were three weeks old. Their mother had abandoned them, I think, because the boys were sick. (The boys didn’t make it.) I bottle-fed May for weeks, so she is very attached to me. The problem is that she hates everyone else, haha. She is known for cornering people in the bathroom and also for attacking without warning. She inspires me to be a more aggressive derby player.

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

You’re rapidly improving as a new skater, and you’re already pretty aggressive! What are some of the things that you work on outside of practice? How do you cross-train? Tell us your secrets to progressing so quickly.

Honestly, outside of practice, I tend to work on mental exercises rather than physical ones. Having confidence in myself and staying focused are challenges for me, so I meditate and take some time each day to tell myself that I am strong and capable. It may not sound important, but state of mind makes a huge difference in how I perform physically. Also, I basically live on a small mountain, so I spend a lot of time hiking and playing in the woods with my dogs, LOL. As for progressing quickly, I just really love to skate. I rarely miss practice and I skate outside of practice every chance I get.

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

Do you have any goals for yourself this season? Or as Tot wondered, have you had an “ah ha” moment of clarity on the track yet?

More than anything, I want to understand strategy and game play, but I think that will come with experience. I am always striving to learn new things and to be a better skater. I don’t necessarily have specific goals, because I want to improve in every aspect of roller derby. Basically, my objective is to continue to hone my skills and to learn something new at every practice.

I don't think I've had one, specific moment of clarity related to derby. My ambition is to always try to have fun and learn something every day. Other than that, I think I experience a small moment of clarity every practice as I slowly learn another little piece of the roller derby puzzle. 

Whether it be the physical game, the mental game, footwork, strategy, team chemistry, fitness, or anything in between…what do you find to be the hardest part of roller derby for you personally?

For me, the hardest aspect is definitely mental. I don’t like not being good at things and I’m impatient, so when I do something wrong or don’t learn fast enough, I criticize myself. Strategy is still very confusing to me because the game moves so fast. I want to understand everything right away and that makes me feel overwhelmed, and then the self-criticism starts. I’m learning to tone down my unrealistic expectations and to concentrate on what I’m doing well instead. It isn’t an easy pattern to break, but I refuse to allow my own negativity to hold me back!

In what ways has being a roller girl positively impacted your life?

In every way. I lost my mom to cancer a few months before I started skating with HKRG. I had quit my full-time job and moved from Florida to Tennessee to be her caregiver, so she was my entire life, 24/7. When she died, there was a huge void in my life. I was an empty shell. I didn’t know anyone in Tennessee, I no longer had my job as my mom’s caregiver, and I was absolutely heartbroken. Joining HKRG allowed me to make friends and provided an outlet for my grief and anger so I could heal. In hindsight, I like to think that my mom led me to HKRG, because I never would have moved to Knoxville and become a Hard Knox Roller Girl if it weren’t for her. Because of this, my roller derby number is actually a tribute to her. I have never been happier in my life than I am now thanks to the sport of roller derby and the friends that came with it.

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

How is your derby number a tribute to your mother?

My number, 1234, is a time: 12:34. My mom was a little superstitious and always "saw numbers," such as 3:33 or 11:11 on the clock. Before she died, she picked a time on the clock (12:34) so we would have a designated time at which she would try to contact us from "the other side."

That’s a really neat story about your derby number. What a great tribute to your mom. We are sorry for your loss yet so glad you found Hard Knox. I think your mom led you to us so that you could start the next chapter of your life, that of a derby girl. Speaking of new beginnings, spring is officially here. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining a little warmer. What is your favorite thing about spring?

I love to swim and spend time outdoors, so it’s always a great feeling to be able to jump into the lake, or river, or creek after the cold winter. I really like to lie in my hammock and look up in the trees with the sun shining down and the breeze blowing. It makes me appreciate life and focus on what’s important.

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

Photo by Allison van Donkelaar 

Are there any fun and exciting events the Hard Knox Roller Girls will be involved in that we should know about?

HKRG will be participating in the Dogwood Arts Chalk Walk on Saturday, April 1st . It's held in Market Square and Krutch Park from 8:30am to 4:30pm, and it's free to attend. Skaters from HKRG will be hashing out their chalk skills by decorating a sidewalk square. The family-friendly event typically attracts over 25,000 people, so come out and peruse the colorful, art-filled streets and soak up the spring weather with us. And for all you pasty gingers like me, don't forget your sunscreen!

You recently took a big trip. Care to tell us a little about it?           

Sure! I love to travel, so when my sister found round-trip tickets to Sweden for $200, we jumped on them. My favorite experience in Sweden was kite skiing on the frozen lake. You basically maneuver a small kite so it will catch the wind, which then allows you to propel forward very quickly across the ice. A close second favorite activity was the twice-daily “fika.” In Sweden, they basically have a delicious snack time between breakfast and lunchtime and then again between lunch and dinnertime which involves partaking in pastries and hot coffee or tea. I also went to a Viking restaurant and ate moose heart. I like to pretend that it gave me Viking powers.

Photo by Ashley van Donkelaar 

Photo by Ashley van Donkelaar 

Because you yourself are still fairly new to the sport, what advice would you give to our fresh meat girls who are just starting roller derby?

It’s okay to get overwhelmed. It’s okay to cry. There’s a very big learning curve to this sport. I’m one year in and I still have a hard time figuring out what’s happening half the time. What matters is that you keep coming back and you keep trying. It gets easier. You learn a little more with every practice, even if you don’t notice it. Be patient with yourself and remember to have fun!

Who would you like to see as next month’s featured skater, and why?

It’s a hard choice, because I want to know more about everyone! I pick Lethal PathoJen, because she’s a complete mystery to me. I want to hear more about her roller derby journey (and her super cute dogs, of course)!

Thank you, Kitty, for the purr-fectly delightful interview. 

Until next month…

~Space Riot