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Hard hits, fast skates
Savannah Derby Devil Juila Harrison on the life of a roller derby girl

Note: Richmond Hill resident Julia Harrison is a freelance photographer for the Bryan County News. A native of Germany, she also is an Army wife and mother of one son. And, as it turns out, as Souxsie Skoolayrd she’s a key member of the Savannah Derby Devils. Here’s her take on the sport.

My love affair with roller derby started when my brother and I saw our first bout in Washington state.

When we set foot in the arena my heart skipped a beat.

After watching these beautiful, amazon-like women duke it out on the skates, I knew I had to become one of them.

Once I was back in Richmond Hill, I searched the Internet for a roller derby league in this area and found the Savannah Derby Devils (SDD).

As luck would have it, one of their home bouts was in couple of weeks. I was counting the days leading up to the bout, like a child would countdown to Christmas until the big day was finally here.

Watching a SDD bout was amazing. While at the bout, I found out that a Roller Girl Boot-Camp was scheduled a few weeks after the bout, and I knew I had to go. My husband and my son both thought I had lost my

mind, but they were both very supportive.

To make a long story short, I survived the weeklong boot camp, passed the tryouts, along with skill and written tests. I was a legitimate Savannah Derby Devil — meet Souxsie Skoolyard.

Being an Army wife, I did not know about life outside the Family Readiness Group, so being a part of a sports team like SDD was very intimidating to me.

These women looked tough and scary. Quickly I learned how lucky I was to have found my way to this amazing bunch of women and men. My husband was about to be deployed for the third time to Iraq and I was not sure how I was going to make it. Roller derby was a great way to get rid of the deployment stress and took my mind off worrying about my husband.

I really had no time to worry on the track, because if I lost focus for one second, one of my lovely team mates might smash into me and ring my bell. But besides the fitness side of roller derby, I found an amazing support network. No matter what I needed, whether it was help with watching my son during practice nights and bouts, or a shoulder to cry on, I had a Devil close to my side.

I have been with SDD since 2009, and witnessed our league grow from a small group of women who scrimmaged at Lake Mayer in Savannah and could barely fill a roster, to one with two solid team’s, the Savannah Derby Devil All-stars and the Hostess City Hellions bout.

We practice three nights a week for two hours. To be a part of the Derby Devils takes a lot of commitment. A lot of time and training is required to become an efficient skater.

Our practices are always challenging but fun and consist of scrimmaging, speed work, endurance, strength and agility training. There is always a risk of getting hurt when playing a full contact sport.

This might sound funny but the first thing a derby girl learns is how to fall and pop back up within seconds. Our pads and helmets are an additional layer of protection, which makes our spills less painful.

It took a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication for me to move up though the ranks from Fresh Meat to Savannah Derby Devil All-Star. It has not always been easy but hard work and determination paid off.

What most people don’t know about roller derby is that we don’t get paid, everything about and around the sport is organized for the skater by the skater. There are various committees with in a league and they handle training, public relations, sponsorship, recruitment, bout set up and much more.

At the end of the day each team member pitches in.

Recently SDD has become a Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) apprentice league and we are one step closer to being in an international ranking system.

The Savannah Derby Devils have been working hard to get to this point and this season’s five consecutive wins and apprenticeship show that our hard work has paid off.

Our next bout is scheduled for Saturday at the Civic Center in Savannah, where the All-stars will fight to keep their winning streak rolling and improve to 6-0.

If that is not enough, a Mini Roller Girl Boot Camp will take place on Aug. 25-26 in Garden City.

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