Roller derby is fast becoming a legitimate sport, participants say

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Some of the lessons Brittany Carpenter applies to her life she learned in the roller derby rink.

When you want something, go all out and push your fears aside, she says.

As a member of CarnEvil, one of the teams in the Jet City Roller Girls league, Carpenter knows how to throw all of her passion and drive into what she wants without being overly aggressive.

“You have to be patient and wait for your opportunity,” she said.

During the day, Carpenter is a marketing coordinator and media assistant buyer in Seattle. Her winged eyeliner and the purple stripe in her black hair hint at “Stiletto Libretto,” her alter ego on the CarnEvil team.

Don’t be fooled by her petite stature. The 22-year-old is primarily a defensive blocker, making calls to help the jammer maneuver through the pack. She’s also taken turns as jammer, who scores points for the team by lapping other players.

“I basically knock people down,” she said.

After things turned sour with her fiancé a few years ago, Carpenter decided to try something different. She went out and bought a pair of skates. When she started refereeing for roller derby in 2010, something clicked.

“Roller derby is working toward being a legit sport with strategy and rules,” she said. “It’s not just girls dressing in skanky outfits; it’s about the sport.”

Carpenter thrives on the mental aspect of roller derby. She’s learned there isn’t time to feel afraid. She tore her posterior cruciate ligament, a common knee injury, when she was a referee and collided with another ref. One of her fears, falling down and getting injured again, was one she quickly overcame.

“Don’t be afraid of what could happen,” she said.

Another challenge involves building up her endurance, which for Carpenter meant quitting smoking. “My lungs itched,” she said.

Carpenter spends roughly eight hours per week at practice and the gym.

Roller derby has forced her to have a sense of humor when dealing with misconceptions.

People presume all the girls are really wild. Not so. Most have stable jobs like librarians and many are moms.

“Guys ask me if I Jell-O wrestle,” she said with an eye roll. “For the love of God, no!”

Competing in roller derby allows the drama major to express herself. It’s common to see roller derby girls wearing plaid skirts, striped tights or skulls and crossbones.

“It’s a fun life I lead,” she said.

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