Taking a spin around the track will have a different meaning for four local educators from Hinesville who will be featured in Saturday’s Savannah Derby Devils Fresh Meat Scrimmage at Supergoose Skating Center in Savannah.
Three of the teachers will be making their debut in a bout, the other is old hat at the sport and all say that derby has added to their lives and their teaching skills.
“Derby is all about teamwork,” said Ashley Hough, a sixth-grade English and language arts teacher at Snelson-Golden Middle School. “I stress that with my students. We are there to achieve a common goal — success — and we cannot do that alone. The students cannot be successful without support from their team, their classmates, family and teachers, working together in a positive way.”
“Roller derby is so intense and satisfying and frustrating all at once,” added Carol Lemke, who teaches art to grades K-5 at Joseph Martin Elementary. “I have to constantly tell myself the same things I tell my students: Do your best. You are an individual. You have your own strengths and weaknesses. Don’t compare yourself to others. All of that applies to both being a derby girl and being an artist.”
Hinesville Methodist preschool and kindergarten teacher Kris Whitman said her students are too young to fully understand what derby is. She said derby, much like teaching, is “never boring and there’s always a challenge.”
Whitman, Lemke and Hough are newcomers to the sport of derby. All three educators attended the Derby Devils’ boot camp in May. Whitman and Hough had either skated or rollerbladed in the past, but slipping into quad skates was completely different. For Lemke, it was a first.
“I was hesitant because I couldn’t skate,” Lemke said, adding that Whitman took her to watch a Derby Devils bout in April and while there they learned about boot camp. “(Whitman) said it would get us out of the house and it was basically a skating skills class. Now I’m on the team. It’s crazy.”
Tori Lewis teaches 10th-grade biology at Bradwell Institute. Lewis played derby while attending the University of Georgia as a founding member of the Classic City Roller Girls in Athens. She moved to Hinesville to begin her teaching job and was off skates for a while as she tended to her job and her daughter, Corbin.
She missed being on skates and jumped at the opportunity to join the Derby Devils when they had an open tryout in January.
“Derby helps me to be a team player and to accept constructive criticism with a positive attitude, so I hope that I’m conveying those same messages to my students on a daily basis,” she said. “We are only as strong as our weakest link.”
Derby also has taught these educators something new about themselves.
“It’s given me something to really get into that’s just for me, and I haven’t had that since moving back to Hinesville,” Whitman said. “It’s helping to fill in a huge gap. It’s also a great opportunity to be able to get some real exercise and play an incredibly challenging and interesting sport without giving up tons of afternoon and weekend family time.”
“It’s such a great release,” Lewis added. “It has given me a hobby and a family, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the whole world.”
Lemke said derby helped her lose 20 pounds and gain muscle.
“I’m stronger — both mentally and physically — than I ever knew,” she said.
“Derby provides me with something to look forward to every night,” Hough said. “I get to try something I have never done before at every practice. The girls are great. They are really supportive and understanding. We laugh, we cry, we get knocked down and we keep getting back up. It is nice to have derby because it serves as a reminder that it is OK to have some me time and not feel guilty about it.”
Founded in 2006, the Savannah Derby Devils’ organization has grown each year. This season they started competing at their new home arena, the Savannah Civic Center. With several new skaters onboard from boot camp 2010, they were able to form a “B” squad, the Hostess City Hellions. With the addition of the Fresh Meat class of May’s boot camp, the SDDs have around 50 active skaters. Saturday’s Fresh Meat Scrimmage will be an interleague bout featuring members of the All-Star team, the Hellions and the 2011 boot camp graduates.
Hough, Whitman and Lewis will skate with team Bay Street Butchers. Lemke will skate with team Mystery Meat. The Tenderizers and the Meatwads round out the other two interleague squads whose names keep with the Fresh Meat theme.
“I’m very excited to get to skate with everyone … and slightly terrified,” Whitman said about Saturday’s bout.
“I am excited that I actually get to skate in front of others and wear a jersey with my name and number. At the same time, the thought of that makes me so nervous,” Hough added.
The scrimmage will be at Supergoose, 3700 Wallin St. in Savannah. The doors open at 4 p.m. with the first bout beginning at 5 p.m.
Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Tickets may be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/152322.
Editor’s note: Courier sportswriter Patty Leon is a member of the Savannah Derby Devils.