IF YOU GO
What: Chattanooga Roller Girls home bout
Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.
When: Saturday, Dec. 12, 6-9 p.m.
Contact: chattanooga firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.chattanooga rollergirls.com
What: Roller Girls Saturday school
Where: RollerCoaster Skate World, 2076 Lafayette Rd, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
When: Saturdays, 12-2 p.m.
Contact: Jen "Mom Core" Hines, email@example.com
They look like a Hot Topic ad -- fishnets, knee socks, short skirts and tattoos. But these women are musicians, nurses, accountants, moms, athletes. They are the Chattanooga Roller Girls.
The term roller derby dates back to 1922, when the Chicago Tribune used it to describe multi-day flat skating races.
The contemporary incarnation of derby, however, has its roots in Austin, Texas. Largely consisting of all-female grassroots leagues, roller derby is part contact sport, part entertainment. A 2009 film, "Whip It," starring Ellen Page and directed by Drew Barrymore, depicts an Austin derby team.
"It's gory and graceful," said Roller Girl Katie Schultz, who skates under the derby name Death Dealin' Drew. "These girls become your sisters and wives and best friends."
The roller derby resurgence has been associated with punk looks and bad-girl attitudes. Beneath the outfits -- and beneath the nicknames like Violet Heartbreaker, Corn Smut and Conway Gritty -- the Roller Girls are a sports team.
"We want to conduct ourselves like respectful female athletes, especially being in a conservative area of the United States," said marketing manager Devin "Delia Pain" Gobble, 26, a pediatric intensive care nurse. "We don't want to offend our audiences."
If an expected audience includes more families or young viewers, for example, they'll be more modest with their outfits. All team members are over the age of 21, due to beer sponsorships and post-bout parties in bars. No fighting is permitted, though the question often arises, Ms. Gobble said.
"Some of the attraction is guys want to see girls hitting one another in fun costumes," she said.
The Women's Flat Track Derby Association, the governing body of roller derby, specifies legal target and blocking contact zones to ensure safety. Common blocks include a shoulder check, a hip check and a booty block.
The Chattanooga Roller Girls began taking shape in August 2008.
"We started by meeting on Sundays and going to the skating rink," said Laura Lundy, a.k.a. Llama Trauma, who attended the first meeting. "I don't think a lot of girls knew what they were getting into."
About 25 women comprise the Roller Girls today. Several of the ladies act as a board of directors, including Ms. Lundy, a certified public accountant, who is the team's treasurer.
The Roller Girls are dedicated to their sport and their team.
Natalie "Tape Worm" Mason attended the first meeting and played her rookie bout three weeks in.
"Roller derby takes up most of my time," she said. "Sometimes it completely consumes my life, but in a good way. You got a team you can't let down."
Ms. Mason often skates as a jammer, the skater who scores points by passing opposing players in a pack, or jam, formation.
The Girls are also dedicated to the city of Chattanooga. Each team member is required to fulfill a monthly volunteer quota in order to skate. This year, the Roller Girls have chosen the Humane Society of Chattanooga as their volunteer organization. They filed as a non-profit organization in May.
The Roller Girls, who play their first home bout on December 12, are accepting new recruits. An inherent talent for skating is not a prerequisite. Neither is a history as homecoming queen nor a predilection for leather and lace.
"We take girls from all walks of life," said Ms. Gobble. "It's the girl in the corner who's maybe a little heavier; it's professionals, artists, mothers, wives. The main thing is to love the sport and come together with other women."