The Rat City Roller girls have grown over the past decade to become one of the major sports teams in Seattle.
SLIDESHOW: Rat City Roller Girls now a major Seattle sports team
By Hannah Danforth
“Baby Got Back” blasts from the loudspeakers inside of Key Arena. Girls with outrageous make up, tattoos, colorful mouth guards and glittery helmets skate around a flat track greeting the crowd with excitement. The clatter of speed skates as two teams approach the track signifies the start of the bout. The women of the Rat City Roller Girls are edgy, beautiful and sassy. As they prepare themselves for the whistle blow, they stand in skates, tough and ready for victory.
Now in their 10th year, the Rat City Roller Girls, have replaced the Seattle SuperSonics as a major Seattle sports team hosting their bouts at Key Arena. Despite the fact that roller derby is carried out on roller skates, it is actually a contact sport with two teams, much like football, and like many other contact sports, roller derby requires a great deal of strategy, planning, athletic prowess, and teamwork.
The Rat City Roller Girls’ modest roots began when, over dinner one night in 2004, three friends decided to start a roller derby league. Identifying with the rough, resilient, offbeat neighborhood of White Center, the Southgate Roller Rink was their first home. The league quickly gained national recognition in 2006 and 2007 placing second in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association National Championships. With more than 400 leagues in the WFTDA, The Rat City Rollergirls have consistently been among the most successful. With this success, girls from other Northwest leagues aspire to be chosen by one of Rat City’s four home teams; the Sockit Wenches, Throttle Rockets, Grave Danger or the Derby Liberation Front.
Once rivals from the Tacoma Dockyard roller derby league, West Seattle locals, Jamie Barnhorst, better known as Ethel Vermin, and Deva Samuels, aka Deva StateHer, were picked up by the Throttle Rockets this past September. Deva, a regular at the Southgate Roller Rink, is passionate about the community aspect of roller derby. “I didn’t play sports in high school, I hated sports, but when you get out of that, when you’re older, you want the camaraderie with women,” said Deva. “Derby is my place to be.”
Jamie enjoys the endurance, speed and strategy that roller derby offers. She likes that the team captains lead practices in addition to coaches. While in school, Jamie felt she had to make a choice between music and sports. “This is a nice combination. You can be a little bit whacky, have pink hair, show your different fashion sense, but also be an athlete. I think that’s empowering for young women to have an outlook like that and to also meet other girls that are similar to them, you have a great community.”
Reinforcing this incredible community is the network of volunteers. Friends and spouses, known as “Derby Widows,” take on the responsibility of running the organization, facilitating practices, promotional assistance, refereeing and score keeping and general support of their league. The Rat City Roller Girls combine athleticism, attitude, and flare having created a significant sports fan following for the greater Seattle area. “Determination and heart. You can’t do this unless you want to work hard,” says Ethel Vermin. “That’s what keeps you part of a league like this.”
The Rat City Rollergirls are celebrating ten years strong by allowing all 10 year olds to attend their matches at Key Arena for free during the 2014 season.
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