Courtesy of Beth Hollis
After a particularly dreary day at work, 53-year-old librarian Beth Hollis was about to go home for the night when she decided to treat herself to something she had read about in the local paper. A roller derby team near her home was looking for new players and was holding auditions that night.
She called her husband and told him she would be home a little late and made her way to the rink where the Rubber City Rollers team practiced. "I just felt like I needed something to perk myself up, so I said I was going to drive out there and check them out and just watch them...not anticipating that I would actually sign on," Hollis says.
After that last-minute trip in early 2009 to check out the Akron, Ohio, Rubber City Rollers, Hollis became hooked on roller derby. All it took was a little convincing by the team's much younger players, and Hollis was on the track in a pair of skates. "I'm a kind of avid Rollerblader, so skating to me wasn't anything too terribly challenging, and I had gotten such great encouragement from the women and had so much fun. I asked, 'Do you have an age limit of who can join?' and they said the only age limit was that you had to be 18 and have health insurance," Hollis says.
Health insurance is important because roller derby can get a little rough. The typically all-female sport pits two teams against one another, and they skate around a track—fast—trying to break past the opposing team's players. The three positions played in roller derby are blocker, jammer and pivot, and bruises and occasional broken bones may come with each position. "I'm generally a blocker and a pivot. ... [The pivot] is the person who is in front of the pack and tries to maintain the speed of the pack," she says.
Luckily, Hollis has escaped serious injuries, and despite her petite 5'4" frame, she's gained a fierce nickname from her teammates—MegaBeth."I like the nickname MegaBeth. I've always been kind of the small one in my family—my sister is 6 feet, my husband is 6'4", all my kids [two grown sons] are 6'2", so I have always been kind of 'mini Beth.' I like the opportunity to become MegaBeth," Hollis says.
Her husband and sons are delighted she's taken on such a challenging sport, but Hollis says some of her biggest fans are her fellow librarians. "They're proud that there is somebody that is sort of emblematically breaking the stereotype of librarians as being the timid little figures, so that has been fun," she says.
While some may think of roller derby women as tough chicks who like to beat each other up, Hollis says she's found the opposite to be true. "I think it is [about] women who like to express their strength and do it as a team effort and like to help each other out. I am getting a sense of community from it; I'm not getting the sense of women battling each other," she says. "Obviously, I'm connecting with women with a few hits too, but that is just part of the game!"
Now, as Beth approaches age 54, she isn't slowing down. In fact, she says she feels better than she has in years and is having more fun that she could've ever imagined. "I think that's one of the things that are indicative of the baby boomer generation—we are not ready to give up having fun just because we have gotten older. This is about living life to the fullest," she says.
Published on September 21, 2009