November 14, 2013
As Captain of the Altanta Rollergirls' All Stars, the Dirty South Derby Girls, this month's featured skater has a success record and track experience few people can boast. Learn a little about the wild side from this month's featured skater (and possibly what the fox says), Wild Cherri!
What is your derby name? Wild Cherri
Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
My name is Cheri. Cherry was pretty close so I went with it. Wild Cherri.
What is your number? 6
What is your home league? Atlanta Rollergirls
What is your skate gear of choice?
Luigino Vertigo Q-6 boot, Pilot F-16, Strokers
Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
When it’s game time I have to get myself pumped. I start jumping around and beating my wrist guards together. You may find me singing or acting goofy, anything that helps get the butterflies focused into adrenaline.
What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
There are a lot of things that go through my head such as things that I want to focus on while warming up. I think of things like the vibe in the locker room, getting my teammates focused, reminding them of things to think about in warm-ups and how hard we have been working this season to get where we are today.
Do you have a theme song?
I don't know if I have a theme song but I do listen to a little hip hop to pump me up.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
In 2005 a co-worker knew I was competing in figure skating and mentioned that Tampa was starting a roller derby league. I showed up to the first meeting in my white figure boots and was hooked.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I started on skates when I was 2 years old. My parents placed me on roller skates after a doctor suggested it would help with my pigeon toe (a condition that causes the toes to point inward). Many years I skated in the garage, streets, and skating rinks. When I was 9 years old, my grandpa took me to a Saturday 'Learn to Skate' class and later the skating coach convinced my parents to start private skating lessons. In 9th grade I started playing volleyball and soccer in high school. After college I came back to skating for 2 years and competed in some fun events. Want a good laugh? Watch this!
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
Thankfully I had a skating background, so I didn't have to worry about my feet and watching them do what they did. I only had to focus on the team aspect and the rules. With Tampa starting a derby league, we were all learning how to play the game at the same time. It’s funny, I watched one of the first derby bouts I skating in the other day. I was really close to yelling at the TV “You let her skate right by you, twice!" WOW the sport has changed so much since then.
During your roller derby career so far you have skated with a number of teams, including the Brandentucky Bombers, Tampa Bay Derby Darlins, Gotham Girls Roller Derby, and most recently the Atlanta Rollergirls. What have you taken from your experiences with each of these teams – skills, personal insight, etc – that has helped you continue to grow as a skater?
I played team sports in high school, so I was familiar with playing with teammates. I was a mediocre athlete, nothing that I was looked up to as a leader. When I joined derby, at times I was projected into leadership positions, and I didn't have much experience. Over the years I feel like have grown as a person and as a leader. Today, being in a leadership role I really want to make sure I demonstrate what I expect. I think that has helped push me forward as a skater and a leader.
What is your position of choice?
I have been a jammer and a blocker. I enjoy both positions, with DSDG I have been focused on blocking and working on the team unity and communication on the track. Who knows, maybe you will see me with a star on again in the coming years.
What is your signature move?
I think my signature move is either my one-on-one at the front of the pack OR maybe how I jump an apex as a blocker to get to the front and chase down a jammer before she is out of the engagement zone.
How would you describe your derby playing style? Eight years ago I would say it was a little "Wild." Today I focus on working with my team and communicating what is happening on the track. I do have those moments where the "Wild" still comes out, but I have to lock it back down really quick and join my wall.
We understand that, as a part of the Atlanta Rollergirls’ training committee, you have been instrumental in helping the league's skaters perform at their very best. This includes the Dirty South Derby Girls qualifying to compete at the WFTDA Championships this month. What are some of the most important skills or strategies you have been working on? How do you feel these will help your team to be successful at Championships?
Coming from a figure skating background and also teaching figure skating basics, I want to make sure that people are working the basic skills and learning new things to add into their "tool box." Everything builds on top of each other, so if we can make the basics stronger we make the skater stronger. This is also something I focus on during my derby workshops. We talk about the things that the team wants to focus on for the workshop and I take it back to the basics and show how the pieces fit together.
These are things that we work into, not only the Atlanta Rollergirls training sessions, but also DSDG, and then we build on it. Sometimes I throw in some fancy stuff to mix it up :)
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
My derby timeline has been an amazing ride so far.
One of the best moments that stands out to me and I will never forget is when I was with the Gotham All-Stars at the 2011 WFTDA Championships standing on the side of the track before our first game and taking in the experience. It was real moment for me, people may say they saw a tear in my eye but I will never admit to it.
Becoming a member of Team USA is also a great moment.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Skating at South Central Playoffs with both Tampa and Atlanta I was familiar with the teams that competed for the top spots every year. A really big moment for me was 2012 South Central Playoffs with Atlanta. We played Kansas City and Texas—I always have looked up to both of these teams and appreciated their athleticism. I think that was the weekend that Atlanta realized how the team had progressed through the season. It was really special to be a part of the team and alongside some of the Atlanta All-Star skaters that you could tell have been fighting for a placement at Playoffs for so many years. That weekend was really great.
This year you were recognized as “Best of Atlanta – Local Athlete,” putting you in the company of some nationally recognized NFL and MLB athletes. Congratulations! What does this honor mean to you? How do you think this reflects how the city of Atlanta feels about roller derby?
This blew my mind. All of the names listed as previous winners are major athletes and all of them are men. It’s really cool that Atlanta recognized derby and a female. I think this is great for the Atlanta Rollergirls. It’s hard when you are a sporting event in a city with major professional sport teams. The more we can get the word of roller derby out in the community the better. The sport is growing and so are the fans, it’s exciting to see this growth over the past couple years.
Please tell us about your involvement in the Atlanta Rollergirls' "What Does the Fox Say?" video that was made in honor of DSDG's trip to 2013 Playoffs. What is your spirit animal, and what does it say? And, what DOES the fox say?
The idea came up during a home game bout. In the locker room, our home team plays music to get pumped. Some people had not heard of “What Does the Fox Say," so we had to show them. Then the idea popped up of making a DSDG video to promote Salem Playoffs, like London did for Fort Wayne. Within a week we had everything organized, and in a 4-hour shoot we all knew what the fox said, over and over and over. I was given the spirit animal of a Velociraptor. It may have to do with jumping the apex as a blocker to get a jammer at the top of the pack OR because as a release of energy and exertion I sometime make a loud roar noise, so I've been told.
Who are your derby heroes?
There are so many great skaters. Everyone has their strengths in different areas and it is really great to watch.
The skater that I'm always watching in amazement is Bonnie Thunders. Everyone recognizes her talents on the track and how hard she works but I was also fortunate to practice with her for a season. Her dedication and the energy she puts into drills, skills, scrimmage, off-skates, practices…it’s all really amazing to watch. Then I realized I am also supposed to be doing those things as well—giddyup!
What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I'm a project manager. Staying organized, planning steps, leading people, I think derby has helped with the day job as well as the day job has helped with derby.
We hear that you are working toward opening your own bricks and mortar skate shop in Atlanta, to cater to the growing demand for roller derby gear. Please tell us about this project. When will the derby-verse be able to visit your store?
Yes! I’m so excited about this new adventure. Atlanta has really grown in the past couple of years, not only with women's derby, but also junior and men's derby. In addition, we have so many surrounding leagues that are growing and starting up.
I have been skating for so many years and I want to give something back. I want to provide a shop that skaters can come in and ask questions, find their best options, and be able to try things on. To have a space where you can talk derby, ask questions about skills and 'How Tos', sign up for training sessions, and to also provide the skating community with everyday skating equipment for all of their needs.
Powerhouse Skates coming soon to Atlanta, in store and online.
How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
It’s hard to find that balance between derby and real life, but one thing that my boyfriend and I do is "date night." It sounds cheesy, but our weekends are always packed with traveling to visit family, derby, and events. We wanted to make sure we had a night a week where it’s the two of us. Every Tuesday we trade off on who buys from week to week. It’s something we both look forward to, the other person doesn't know where we are going for dinner and it has to be a new place each time.
What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Do it! It will be one of the best things you have ever done. Don't be afraid of what you see happening in a bout. You don't start at that level. We walk you through learning how to skate, learning the derby skills and rules, and how to work up to hitting. It’s a great experience for competition, in addition to instantly having an extended family that is fun, crazy, and always there for you.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
Thank you so much. Your support over the years has been amazing. The stories you have shared with me of how I have inspired your derby has, in turn, really been inspiring to me. If we are ever at the same venue please come up and say “Hi.” I would love to meet you.
Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
One game at a time, London! Atlanta is excited to attend Championships for the second year in a row. We have worked really hard this year to return to Champs. We want to come in focused and determined to play our best game.
Editor's note: Atlanta Rollergirls won their first bout of Championships against London Rollergirls, but lost in the second round to Texas Rollergirls.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.