You've seen her on the track for many, many years. She jams, she blocks. She crabs around the outside line. She likes to wear short shorts. She's not very sweet... or is she?! Who could it be?... That's right, you've guessed it. This month's featured skater is the one, the only, Unsweet T!
AnnihilApe chose her as the next featured skater because she said she is--in fact--totally sweet. Ape thinks T is a badass 50 year old, and we all agree! Ever wonder how she got her start in roller derby? Want to know who her derby heroes are? Are you curious about how she trains for this incredibly challenging sport? Well, to find out the answers to these questions and more, read on to learn a little about this month's featured skater, Unsweet T.
When did you start playing roller derby? How did you get involved in the first place?
First off, let me thank AnnihilApe for selecting me as the featured skater. That was very nice of her. I started playing roller derby in 2008. Back in 2006, my husband and I started watching a documentary called Rollergirls. It featured a roller derby league in Texas. They played on a banked track. It was fun to watch, and it really made me want to play. About a year or so later, a league popped up in Greenville, SC--where we were living at the time. We heard about it around the same time we were getting ready to move back to TN so I didn’t pursue it at that time. My husband encouraged me to find out if there was a league in Knoxville once we moved back. We moved back and a friend told me that Knoxville had a league. I was stoked! I got in touch with the league, showed up at a practice to watch, started purchasing all the gear I needed shortly after, and have been playing ever since!
What has been the driving force that’s kept you playing derby after all these years?
That’s a great question because I’m always so damn sore but keep coming back for more! It’s really hard to pinpoint the driving force. It’s such a unique sport. I love the game, I love my teammates, it’s mentally and physically challenging, it’s fun, it’s hard, it’s a great workout, it helps keep me in shape, and it continues to inspire me.
For the better part of your derby career, we’ve seen you rock the jammer star on your helmet. Over the last couple of seasons, you’ve started blocking more. Which position do you prefer to play, and why?
I like to play both positions. They both have their challenges and rewards. Jamming is a bit tougher on my mental game. I have a tendency to get in my own head. Fortunately, I have awesome teammates who encourage me and want me to jam. What I love about jamming is seeing the move you need to make and then make it! Whether it’s an opportunity you created or your teammate created for you, it’s a great feeling.
I like blocking because, for years, I only just jammed so it’s an entirely new challenge. It gives me the opportunity to work directly with my teammates to accomplish something, and I like doing that together. It’s also a great feeling!
What has playing roller derby taught you about yourself? What sacrifices, if any, have you made for your derby career? Who is this new you—as in—in what ways are you a different person now than compared to who you were before you started playing roller derby?
Well my husband would say it’s taught me not to be a *ussy! It’s taught me that I’m strong, competitive, athletic, and determined. I do very little else outside of derby as it does tend to consume me. It’s worth it though. I have gained another family through derby, and I wouldn’t change that because it’s worth the sacrifice. I still feel like the same me except that I feel mentally and physically stronger.
Who are your derby heroes?
There are so many incredible athletes playing roller derby so there are just too many to name. A few that may not get mentioned as often as others that I am a fan of are Violet Knockout from Gotham and Luz Chaos from Arizona. I’ve seen them both play at different events and was just really impressed with their skills.
Tell us about your gear set up.
I bought new skate boots this year. Yay! I got the Solaris boot by Riedell and had them mounted to Rival plates. I skate on Halo wheels with Bones bearings. It’s a great light set up, and I love it. My knee pads and elbow pads are 187 Killer Pads, I wear Smith Scabs knee gaskets, K2 wrist guards, a Triple 8 helmet, and a SISU mouth guard.
We know you like to hit the skatepark from time to time. Tell us a little bit about what aggressive quad skating is all about. What challenges you most when skating transition? Which new tricks are you working towards unlocking? All in all, why do you love skating the skatepark so much?
Ooh, it’s fun! I go to outdoor and indoor skate parks and take lots of ‘risks’. I drop into bowls, do tricks and jumps, and it’s rad! I love everything about skating transition. It’s totally different than skating on a flat surface. However, you can take your flat track skills and transpose them to vert skills. Some tricks I'm currently trying to learn are: frontside stalls, backside stalls, and half cab stalls. I also enjoy working on my Ho-Ho inverts (pictured below). I love skating, and the skatepark is just one more place to skate. I get to skate with my Chicks in Bowls crew. We encourage each other. I love being outside, and it gives me a big ole’ thrill to drop into a bowl and nail a trick.
If you could take a skate trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I have little knowledge of all the awesome skate parks in the world. I’d love to go on a road trip with my friends and just check out as many parks out as possible. I would like to check out the MegaRamp in CA.
Tell us why you think Prince is so dreamy.
I’m blushing. I grew up listening to Prince and have so many fond memories dancing and singing to his songs with friends. He was so incredibly talented and gifted. His music, his lyrics! Yes! He’s one sexy man!
Throughout the years, you’ve held several positions within the league. Tell us a little about each one so that the fans can better understand the inner workings of how our roller derby league operates. Which positions do you currently hold? How much time would you say you spend a week on derby related tasks?
Hard Knox is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is owned and operated by its league members. We have a Board of Directors that is voted into office each year, and those positions have committees to help disperse the workload amongst all members--as it takes everyone to keep the league going. I have been the Secretary, the President, the Interleague Coordinator, the attendance keeper, and a skating coach. Currently, I am the attendance keeper and a skating coach. The amount of time I put in varies from week to week and depends on the task. Sometimes it can be 8-10 hours a week (including practices), but other weeks, much more.
How do you find a balance between derby and your daily life? Does your day job help or hinder your ability to fully immerse yourself in the derby lifestyle and your training? Do you ever take time off from training? How important do you think mental health days are in keeping that flame for derby alive?
I don’t find a balance; I just roll with it. I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me time off to do anything derby related. I rarely take time off from training. Even during our off-season, I still skate and train. I do think mental health days are important. Derby takes a lot of focus so if you’re in a funk or just need a day or two away, it’s good to take that time off so you don’t burn out.
In season, what does your typical workout week look like? How does this change during the off-season? What do you do to stay active during the cold winter months?
I have practice twice a week, and I go to the gym four times a week for weight training and cardio. I also go to the skatepark whenever I can. During the off-season, we don't have mandatory practices, but I still hit the gym four times a week and also the skatepark whenever possible.
Fortunately, I spend about 6 weeks of our winter in Costa Rica and hit the skatepark almost daily. I also go to TRX and yoga classes and do a boxing circuit training class a few times a week at a place called Enchanted Forest with Brenda Burnside--a former first generation pro female boxer!!! Shout out! Oh, and I try to surf, but I’m not very good at it!
What does Kitty Kitty Fred do in his free time?
Kitty, kitty Fred, kitty, kitty Fred!!! He likes to chill out in boxes so we keep a few out just for him. He also likes to look out the window and watch all the birds and squirrels. I imagine he longs to be outside with them.
What goals do you have for yourself this season?
As an individual and as a team, I want to be as competitive as possible. I want to push myself skill-wise to learn new things and always improve my game. Another goal I have as a skating coach is to teach others skills they may not yet have to help them improve their overall game and feel confident on their skates.
Who would you like to see as next month’s featured skater, and why?
You, Space Riot, because you handle all the awesome interviews for the featured skaters and you do a lot for the league, so I’d like to give you the spotlight for a moment.
Oh T, that's very sweet. Thank you for the kind words. I guess I'll have to get you to interview me because I can't very well interview myself, ha ha! Speaking of interviews though, thanks so much for this one. It was a lot of fun getting to pick your brain about derby and other things. Keep on skating!
Until next month~