August 2013 Featured Skater: Grace Killy

August 11, 2013

Grace Killy joined the Brewcity Bruisers in 2007, and has been a force to be reckoned with in her league and the WFTDA ever since. Killy has served the WFTDA in numerous roles, including President, working to keep the extensive growth of roller derby aligned with the original guiding mission of the WFTDA. Killy is a proud leader in the sport and the movement of roller derby. And, at the end of the day, Killy makes time to play tough on the track, and on the field for the Milwaukee Hurling Club. Read on to find out more about Grace Killy.

What is your derby name? Grace Killy

Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
There really isn’t much of a story: I was on an old movie kick. I was going to be Flora Burn (which was sort of a story with a history, I figure skated as a kid and melted a hole in some spandex pants sliding across the floor at a practice once) but I made the mistake of putting it on myspace before I got registered and someone else started using it before me and registered it first, so I had a last minute change and went with a pun on Grace Kelly. I do like dressing ’40s and doing my hair all fancy sometimes too, so it sort of fit.

What is your number? 1

What is your home league? Brewcity Bruisers

You have been a skater for the Brewcity Bruisers since day one of your roller derby career. How has your league evolved over the years? What legacy do you hope to leave in Brewcity when you (eventually) retire from roller derby?
My league, like much of roller derby I think, has really evolved from spectacle with a touch of sport, to a sport with a touch of spectacle. I’m extremely proud of how we’ve made that transition and done so in a way that left a place for everyone who wanted to be involved, regardless of if they were a “super jock” or if they came to roller derby from another direction. I’m hoping that I’ve helped to build community and a sense of camaraderie within the league and that it would last long past my time as a member.

Which team(s) do you play on?
I started on the Maiden Milwaukee and skated with them for three years. I went into our league draft after that third year and became a member of the Shevil Knevils. This really fit my style, as a motorcycle riding tough chick, and I’ve been on that team for the last four years. I’ve been a member of our All Star team since the first year of our league. I also play on Midwest MEGAteam and Team Xtreme, both are pickup style teams and are just more opportunity to get my derby on as often as possible.

WFTDA Featured Skater: August 2013: Grace Killy

Photo by Colleen Curry Swartz

What is your skate gear of choice?
I currently skate with 187 pads, and Riedell 265 boots. I’m sort of a wheel freak and I have a lot of different ones depending on what surface I’m skating on. I mostly have Radar wheels, but I’m loving a set of Vanilla Backspin wheels and there is a set of Heartless that I like as well. I also sport a pretty sweet DonJoy ACL brace.

What do you think about when you’re lacing up your skates?
Mostly I’m thinking about what I need to do for the team in that game, what positions I’ll be playing, and working on getting mentally focused.

Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
I currently have two that I focus on:

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi
“Courage is being scared to death ... and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

The Lombardi quote (of course I have a Lombardi quote, I’m from Wisconsin) reminds me of the work that I need to do to get to where I want to be. The John Wayne quote helps me remember to try even if I don’t think I can achieve something or it’s scary.

Another phrase I keep in mind is “Today is the day to be a hero.” I go back and forth with giving up crap that’s bad for me like caffeine and sugar and stuff like that. One day when I was at school, running from one class to another and then having to head to work and then practice, I was standing in front of a big rack of drinks staring at the Coca Cola and instantly had the thought, “Today’s not the day to be a hero” in keeping to my plan of giving up the junk. I had to tell myself, “No. Today is the day to be a hero!” and stick to my guns and get something healthy. My one vice is crappy food and soda and I need to give myself the daily reminder to be strong and make good choices. So that sort of became a mantra for when the going gets tough to help me get through it.

How did you get involved with roller derby?
My 8th grade yearbook prediction was “Will be famous roller derby skater and team owner.” That was in 1993. I was a rink rat from the age of 4 and I skated artistic for a long time, taught kids to skate, and ran the open skates at my local rink (which happened to be a school gym). It was inevitable, fate, destiny. I knew someone who was part of the original group starting the Brewcity Bruisers, and I bugged her for information, but I found out that I missed the initial sign up and they had closed membership. I made my husband take me on “rink” dates so I could go and show off and attract attention on nights that I knew that some of them would be out at the rinks. This worked and I was one of about five skaters who got added to the league just before we really got started training for our first season.

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I played volleyball and basketball through 9th grade. I wasn’t much of an athlete. I was your classic bench warmer. I played stuff because that’s what you did in school and I was at small schools where everyone sort of got to take a crack at everything. I also played saxophone, was in the school plays, etc. I was very much a jack of all trades, master of none as a kid. A little gymnastics in the summer here, some swim lessons there. I didn’t really start playing a sport seriously until I found hurling as a freshman in college. I was frustrated, stuck at home, and looking for an aggressive outlet (just think if I’d been able to find derby then!). I was literally walking around campus with a women’s rugby flyer in my pocket when I saw someone playing a video of hurling in the student union and recruiting members. I got some information about the practices and they started before the rugby, so that made my decision for me!

WFTDA Featured Skater: August 2013: Grace Killy

Photo by Kristen Sullivan/Off Center Photo

We understand that in addition to roller derby, you are an avid hurler. Please tell us about hurling, and how you got involved in this traditional Gaelic sport.
So what the heck is hurling? I know. The best way to describe it is a mix of field hockey, baseball, rugby, and soccer. It’s a very fast-paced field sport played by passing a ball down the field from player to player, either on the ground or in the air, and then hitting it into a goal past a keeper. The goals also have a set of uprights, like field goal posts. You get three points for getting it into the net, and one point for hitting it over the net but through the uprights. The positions are either offensive or defensive and depending on how close to the goal you are, you run more or less. Midfielders run the most, and then full positions run the least, but it’s a lot of running no matter what! I’m in my 16th season with the Milwaukee Hurling Club (MHC) and it’s set up very similar to a derby league with home teams. We have 11 home teams this season, and we play an 8-game season against everyone else and then have a local playoffs and championships. We play co-ed, which is different from how it’s played in Ireland where the men and women don’t mix. I’ve been on a local championship team two times, and in 2010, I competed with our women’s team at the North American County Boards and we won the Junior B Championship. So, I’m technically a National Champion in this random and obscure sport. I have a medal and everything. This is probably my favorite sports achievement.

Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
My first year, I literally got tossed into a practice and told to jam. I got to read the rules first, at least, but there really wasn’t much in the way of standardized training at that point (it was nearly eight years ago), so if you could skate, you really just sort of learned by doing. In my rookie season, I scored 174 points in our home season games as a jammer and scored the highest scoring jam of the season with 17 points. (Man, remember those days? Heh.) Then everyone else caught up to me and the advantage of having skating experience didn’t count for much and everything sort of evened out. I became more of a blocker after that season. I eventually made it to 300 points, but it took me the next four seasons to round that out.

What is your position of choice?
I really like jamming, but I’m working my way back into the cardio shape I need to be in to do that regularly. I primarily play as a blocker, and often a pivot and back up jammer, as a relief for a primary who needs a sit or two. I really like playing everywhere and I think you need to be able to understand how to play all the positions to be any good as a blocker. If you can think like a jammer, you can be in all their holes before they get there. (That just sounds dirty, but I don’t know how else to say it.)

WFTDA Featured Skater: August 2013: Grace Killy

Photo by Bruce Berna

What is your signature move?
I don’t really have one. I am more of a catcher, than a clearer. I tend to be the guy who bursts out and brings a jammer back in, or gets a positional block on them just long enough for a teammate to come up and clear her out.

On and off the track, you are the possessor of a widely feared “stink eye.” For those who don't know, what is the origin of the stink eye? And how can it be avoided?
[From Alas, Grace Killy declined to answer this question. The mystery of the stink eye continues. Watch out for it at a WFTDA tournament near you!]

How would you describe your derby playing style?
I’m pretty aggressive, but clean. I like to stay on the track and I don’t like sitting, so I try and stay out of the box. I’m a goody two shoes: if it’s a rule, it’s followed. I’m not in the, “It’s legal until a ref sees it” camp. I’m not the big hitter, but probably more of a finesse player. I’m always working on the more substantial hits, but I suspect that has more to do with building my overall strength than my technique.

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
I think my main advice would be to prepare to be mentally challenged. Derby is a thinking woman’s sport. From everything from strategy to mental toughness when you might not like a roster decision or a ref call, it takes a strong focus to be a derby player. Prepare to be a team player with some confidence. You have to find the mix of selfless team play and cocky “I can beat anyone” attitude to be a great player.

For years now, you have dedicated a huge amount of time, talent, and passion to the WFTDA. Thank you! What made you want to continue to take on larger and more demanding roles in the organization: from Sanctioning Committee Chair to Games Officer to member of the Board of Directors (first as President and now as Ex Officio)?
I guess I’m just not the sort of person that does things half way. Not that just playing derby is a half measure, but I tend to binge on things when I get interested. I am the same way with hurling. I’ve also had the ability to set my own schedule as far as work and school and other life commitments go, so that’s made it much easier for me to prioritize supporting the WFTDA because I can make it happen when I need it to. You may have noticed as well, that I have lots of opinions, and someone told me early on to put my time where my mouth was, so I stepped up and started to push things forward that I felt were important to the organization. One thing led to another and I found myself in a position to run for the Board of Directors. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of top notch people in the WFTDA and they inspire me every day to keep engaged.

Another thing that’s played into my dedication to the organization is the fact that it is a women’s movement. It took me a long time to realize that. I sort of came for the sport, and I stayed for the empowerment. I also changed up my oversight to the marketing and PR side of the organization to be more in line with my professional training and experience. That’s sort of refreshed my interest and my enthusiasm for what I’m doing.

What are the most significant changes in the WFTDA that you have witnessed? Where would you like to see the organization in another ten years from now?
I think the growth outside the U.S. is the biggest change that I’ve seen. Brewcity joined in the first group of leagues when the WFTDA first opened membership, and the thought of a non-U.S. member was pie in the sky. I think we’ve still got a long way to go in becoming a truly international organization, but in ten years, I hope we’ve had several international Board members, some tournaments in locations outside of the U.S., and our first non-U.S. winner of the Hydra. (P.S. Come and ogle the Hydra in Milwaukee in November!)

Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
I think my best derby moment of all time is making it back to skating in six months after having a complete ACL reconstruction. That was an extremely traumatic experience for me, but it also made me a much better and stronger skater.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Some of my greatest derby moments are team victories. My favorite was a game I wasn’t even on the track for. Last year at the North Central Playoffs, Brewcity – as the 9 seed – managed to knock off Arch Rival Roller Girls – the 4 seed – in a nail-biter. Also a favorite is our win over Burning River Roller Girls in the first NC tournament in Minnesota. We managed to pull back a ton of points in the last few minutes to tie that game, and then win in overtime. That game I actually played in and I feel like I had some pivotal plays that helped to make that happen. Also, getting to ref my first sanctioned bouts in the last year or so.

WFTDA Featured Skater: August 2013: Grace Killy

Photo by Y.I. Otter

Off the track?
Off the track, winning the Camogie Junior B Championship at the North American County Boards in 2010 in Chicago, and a few league championships locally. (Camogie is the women’s only version of hurling.) Also, making it through six years in the Air Force National Guard, making it to the rank of Staff Sergeant, and being awarded a commendation medal. I’ve also received a few other performance awards during my enlistment. If I told you what they were for, I’d have to kill you. Hehehe.

Congratulations on your team’s invitation to D2 Playoffs! As a long time member of the Brewcity Bruisers' All Stars, how are you preparing to contribute to your team’s success in Des Moines, IA (August 16th to 18th)?
We’re really focusing on trusting each other on the track. Sharpening up our transitions from offense to defense, and being dynamic on the track are other things we’re working on. We’ve got a great warm up bout against Toronto Roller Derby on August 10th to get us in the right mindset for Des Moines. Also, we’ve got our eyes set on coming out of the tournament in the top spot, so that we have a chance to play on our home track at Championships in Milwaukee November 8th to 10th.

Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
Man, every game is exciting. I just love playing. Anywhere, anytime, any reason! Every game is a rush and I joke with people that I have lost my stomach for things like roller coasters and crap like that, because I have naturally induced adrenaline rushes on a nearly weekly basis. We are playing in the Des Moines D2 Playoffs, and if we can maintain our seed, we can play a game at Champs on our home floor in November. We’re really hoping to push hard these last few weeks and come out blazing at the tournament.

Who are your derby heroes?
My derby heroes are the women who scraped this sport up from the ground and got leagues started and then helped spread the word. The reps who work in the trenches in the WFTDA and spend their time really getting shit done and pushing the work forward. If I had to pick a most influential person, getting to work with Ivanna S. Pankin in my first positions in Games (in the WFTDA) was truly inspirational for me, and helped set the modus operandi for my future in the WFTDA.

What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
My day job was previously as a part time engineering technician for an environmental engineering firm, and I’m currently looking for full time work as a graphic designer (I’m on a contract position right now with Kohl’s and I'm hoping that sticks, or leads to something else). The project management and attention to detail really helps me narrow down my focus to get things done from start to finish. Working in a small business atmosphere also helped me be independently directed and that helps when your closest co-worker in the WFTDA might be 1,800 miles away.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
It’s definitely become a focal point for a lot of what I do. Between hurling and roller derby, I became a true athlete as an adult and it’s impacted on my lifestyle a lot. I spend a lot more time thinking about what I can do to be stronger and faster and have more endurance, and about how I function on a daily basis. I’ve become healthier and more focused on being in shape than I would have been otherwise.

You have described yourself as a “perpetual student.” What have you learned from your participation in roller derby? And are you still learning today?
Ha! Actually, after nearly 15 years, I have finally finished my ‘school years.’ I have an Associate’s degree in Interior Design, a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, the equivalent of an Associate’s in Emergency Management from the USAF, and pretty nearly a Bachelor’s of Letters and Science in History (I’m about 12 senior thesis credits shy of that one), but I finally bucked up and started looking for full time work after officially graduating in May. That only took me until I was 34. But, I am a perpetual student at heart and frankly I’d stay in school forever (I’m trying really hard to not say MASTER’S near my husband for at least two years). That attitude is one reason I like roller derby and other non-traditional sports. They are new and there’s always somewhere to go from where you are, no matter how good you are, or how long you’ve played. That’s also a reason that I started officiating a few years ago. Officiating presented a new way to commune with the sport, and to keep learning things about it.

How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
Luckily, I have probably the best husband in the derbyverse. He’s supportive of my participation, even the boring stuff like making Google docs and sitting on conference calls up to twice a week; that might not be glamorous, but it probably takes up most of my time at home when I could be hanging out with him. Now that I’m working full time, instead of part time (even though I was in school full time and working part time before, it’s a little different to be working a full time job), I’m finding I have to re-evaluate my work/derby/hurling/motorcycling/freelance/family/sanity balance to find a new life zen. I can’t imagine life without all the things that I do though.

WFTDA Featured Skater: August 2013: Grace Killy

Photo by Bruce Berna

You have had some major injuries in your roller derby career, including a complete ACL tear and several surgeries. Ouch! What advice do you have for other skaters who are recovering, both physically and mentally, from injuries?
The biggest thing that I did when I was recovering was LISTEN TO MY DOCTOR AND PHYSICAL THERAPIST. Those people really do know what they are doing. Following a rehab plan and doing it with as much focus and enthusiasm as practice and playing derby was the key for me. I told myself, “I got hurt like an athlete, I’m going to rehab like an athlete” and I really did that. Everything the PT said to do, I did and then I did it again when I got home. I literally had my dad build me a balance board so I could do the same exercises. Finding that mental discipline and toughness to push forward, even when it’s hard, is a key factor to recovery.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
I just want them to know that I appreciate everyone who comes to watch derby anywhere. Without the fans, I don’t think we’d have the ability to play at the level we play at. They really are as much a part of the game as the skaters and officials.

Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
People like Ivanna S. Pankin, Amy Spears, Ms. D’Fiant, Karmageddon, Bonnie Thunders, Professor Murder and Umpire Strikes Back, Tamarra Neverdyes, Evie McSkeevie, and my fellow BoD members and colleagues. I could go on, there are so many people that I wish I could list here, but it would pretty much read like a contact list for WFTDA committee chairs and volunteers. Oh, I should also probably thank my husband for being probably the coolest derby husband out there. I hear people talk about having to negotiate time or about getting hassled about spending too much time doing derby, but he’s never done that to me. He’s always been extremely supportive and enthusiastic about my interests and I try to be the same for his.

Do you know a WFTDA skater with a dazzling derby career that should be featured on Please email and tell us why!

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.