Like most busy moms these days, Vanessa, Jennifer, and Noelle are juggling a lot of commitments: helping their kids with homework, shuttling them to afternoon activities, and volunteering at their schools. But these moms also have alter egos that take them far from the daily grind of typical mom duties. When Suzy Ho’maker, Duncan GoNutz, and Electra Cal slip on their roller skates and take to the track, they transform into Nashville Rollergirls—some of the toughest mothers in town.
As members of the Nashville Rollergirls roller derby team, a competitive, all-female league founded in 2006, these women train hard and skate fast. They dedicate long hours every week during the season to practices, games, and traveling. Sometimes, they emerge from bouts with bruises, cuts, and more than a few sore muscles. For many of them—like Vanessa, aka Suzy Ho’maker, who has been with the league since 2008—it’s “an addiction.”
For mom-of-three, Suzy (the name she is most likely to respond to these days), Roller Derby has evolved into a lifestyle for her entire family. Her husband is an announcer for the games, her 17-year-old son is a referee, and her 13-year-old daughter is on the junior roller derby team—which she coaches. Her 10-year-old daughter is just a fan at this point but poised to jump in anytime.
Suzy says that derby has kept her fit and healthy at the age of 45. “If I didn’t do this, I don’t know what I’d do for exercise. I’ve never been into sports until I started this.” It’s also been a great outlet for her daughter who “doesn’t take crap from anybody, and doesn’t settle for anything but the best.” Suzy doesn’t worry about her kids being exposed to the tattooed, brash-talking Rollergirls. “I’ve always been a tough-love kind of mom. I’ve never coddled them, and I always explained the truth of the world to them.”
A long-time stay-at-home mom, Suzy appreciates the diversity of women on the derby team, who come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. “We have all walks of life here. All who come through the door are welcome.” When she first started, there were only one or two fellow moms, but over the years, more have joined the team.
One of the newer Nashville Rollergirl moms is Jennifer, aka Duncan GoNutz, mom to two girls—ages 8 and 2. She came to Roller Derby while suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of her second child. “I tried anti-depressants; nothing worked.”
When she connected with the Rollergirls, it turned out to be the key that got her life back on track. “I was so excited to find something to do just for me.” Jennifer, who is president of her daughter’s school PTO and a Girl Scout troop leader, says that being involved with an activity like derby—where she is not immediately identified as a mother or wife–was just the boost she needed to get her confidence back.
Even though she’s only been officially part of the team for a few months, Jennifer has been training with them since 2013 and says she has experienced a noticeable difference in her health and outlook. “I’m a happy, healthier mom. It’s totally changed my life.”
Noelle, aka Electra Cal, is a veteran Rollergirl mom who could hardly be more immersed in the world of Derby. Her husband “Mista Cal” is the coach, and she trains skaters as well as recruiting and retaining new team members. She’s also in school at Belmont University, working on a degree in exercise science. Oh, and did I mention she’s the mother of five children (ages 13-20), has a younger step-daughter, and lives in Columbia—about an hour’s drive from the Rollergirls’ Nashville practice facility?
A Rollergirl since 2009, she has clocked thousands of miles driving from home to practice and back again. Like other Derby moms, she wouldn’t trade it. “I hope being part of Derby shows my kids about commitment and doing something you love.”
Electra Cal credits Derby with inspiring her to return to school and earn the college degree she never finished, “because [she] had kids so young,” and getting all her children to be more interested in fitness. She also wants to inspire other women and moms to meet their own challenges, whether on the derby track—or off. “I try to lead by example, and I hope to inspire others.”
Catch Electra Cal, Suzy Ho’maker, Duncan GoNutz, and all the other Nashville Rollergirls during their last pre-season game at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds on February 21st. Their regular season begins March 28th with a doubleheader at Municipal Auditorium. More information can be found at www.nashvillerollergirls.com!