On the outside, Kiaya Young, sophomore from Paducah, Ky., is just the typical college student. However, when Young is not in class, helping visitors at the Curris Center information booth or participating in PRSSA, she spends her time at Kingsway Skateland in Paducah, Ky.
Young doesn’t skate for leisure. She skates for competition. She is a member of a roller derby team called The West Kentucky Rockin’ Rollers. A team that prides themselves on being athletes, professionals and a group.
Roller derby is a team sport played on roller skates and a flat, oval-shaped track. During each game, or bout, the object of the blockers is to prevent the jammer, marked by a star on her helmet, from passing through. Scoring starts when the jammer gets through the blockers once and passes as many blockers of the opposing team again as possible.
Young said she was never much of a skater, but after watching the sport in action, she was hooked.
“I had skated when I was little, but I thought I might as well try it,” Young said. “I watched a few games of roller derby and then a lady I used to babysit for started a team in Paducah, so I decided to try it out.”
Young said starting out she learned all the basics of roller derby, including how to skate, block and fall properly.
“You take a lot of hits, but the sport is moving away from what people call showboat hits,” she said. “Showboat hits are the moves people do just to kind of show off. Instead, people are moving more toward positional blocking or booty blocking.”
The Western Kentucky Rockin’ Rollers team practices a couple of times each week and compete in roughly eight bouts each year.
“It does involve a lot of travel,” Young said. “We can travel anywhere from one to five hours to compete, and we travel to Paducah twice a week for practices.”
Despite the traveling, Young does have a favorite aspect of the sport and acknowledges the difficulties as well.
“I love the competition and I love to skate fast,” she said. “You have to be very driven and you have to push yourself. You also have to realize you are not competing against your teammates. It takes a lot of dedication to your team and the sport.”
Young, however, has no problem with dedication. Instead, she struggles with another aspect of the sport.
“Personally, I have a hard time hitting,” Young said. “I’m not an overly aggressive person, so it’s not my first instinct to go out and hit. For other people, hitting is the easiest part.”
Roller derby is an ever-growing sport, and most major cities have acquired a team. Teams often have 20 to 25 members, including both skating and non-skating positions.
The sport tends to be a female sport, although men often coach and referee.
Recently, however, men’s leagues have been popping up in areas such as St. Louis, Mo.
“Some people think it’s a women’s empowerment sport and would rather men not join,” Young said. “But I am one of those people who just wants everyone to love roller derby as much as I do.”
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Story by Hunter Harrell, Staff writer.