Charlotte Roller Girls, a photo essay—tickets on sale now!
Posted on 27 Feb 2012 by Carlos Lopez
If you have never heard of the Charlotte Roller Girls, it’s time to check them out. The chances are high that you have met one and never even known it. That’s because the Charlotte Roller Girls are just like any other citizen of Charlotte, except they have a passion for roller derby.
It is 7 pm and already dark as the Charlotte Roller Girls arrive to practice in the large warehouse sitting between two sets of railroad tracks off 36th and Davidson.
Cars pull up to park next to the warehouse—their lights reveal a line of women carrying gym bags, skates, helmets, and pads as they file in through a purple metal door.
Marissa Sherman, a librarian at Johnson C. Smith University who holds a Master Degree in Library and Information Sciences, pulls up in a small Toyota Corolla. She stands about 5’2” and tugs on a suitcase full of gear that threatens to knock her over. She’s tough– she refuses help and when she finally gets it out it follows behind her in a rolling suitcase and she disappears through the purple door. A librarian by day, and Charlotte Roller Girl by night.
Such is the case for all of the roller girls. A chef, a chemist, student –- these are just some of the different paths that come together as the Charlotte Roller Girls, all united by the love of their sport. Yes, it is a sport, and anyone that has doubts about the legitimacy of roller derby as a sport should attend a bout, and see just how real it can get. The team is a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) which sets up rules and guidelines derby teams.
Inside the warehouse, the team is strapping up; they are getting ready for a two-hour-long practice. Emily Nolan, also known as Vibrant Thing by her teammates, sits on the concrete floor in black tights and a helmet as she tightens a brace over her knee before putting on her skates. She suffered a torn ligament several months ago, but that is not enough to keep her away from the track. “I love derby,” she says as she continues adjusting her brace, “I’ve spent over $500 on all my gear. I started out on $150 pair of skates—it’s all about what you’re looking for and how fast you want to go.”
Coach Lacey Williams, or Lace of Spades as the team calls her, stands by with clipboard in hand. “These girls put a lot of blood and sweat into this organization. We are self-funded; everything that is Charlotte Roller Girls comes from the effort and funds of players and volunteers, and we give some of it back to our community as well.”
Practice continues and although there is no heat in the warehouse, the Roller Girls don’t seem to notice it as they whip around the track. In a two– hour practice, there were three injuries. One roller girl yells, “Oh my face!” as she hits the ground. She caught a fist to her face; punching is not allowed in roller derby, neither are elbows or anything else of the sort, only body checks, but this one was accidental. The rest of the team takes a knee as the injury is assessed and slowly begins to clap as she walks off the track; it will happen two more times in practice. Sherman approaches the bench with her mouth guard in and it’s difficult to tell if she’s scowling or smiling. She says, “We put or bodies on the line every time we step onto the track, to help prevent injuries we cross train by doing plyo-metrics, core strengthening exercises and yoga.”
The Charlotte Roller Girls have their first home game March 17 at the Grady Cole Center. You can learn more about the Charlotte Roller Girls at