Lacey Evans is a pioneer.
Not the gingham-bonnet-covered-wagon kind. She’s the kind that rolls on the flat track.
Lacey Evans, a.k.a. Carmen Getsome, is a pioneer in the resurgence of women’s roller derby. She’s a leader in the Rat City Roller Girls, where the women push and shove without apology, the fans scream, and the men cheerlead – in multi-colored tutus.
This is the real deal. None of the action you’ll see is scripted or pre-planned; this is a real sport, and we play for keeps. ratcityrollergirls.com source of text and image above
A former soccer player – the one who liked to stand right in front of the penalty kick daring her opponent – Lacey watched her first bout in 2006. She went there expecting “something hokey like WWF Wrestling,” but instead saw something that amazed her. She was hooked immediately. “I went with a bunch of co-workers and they all thought it looked nuts, so I decided to try out.”
Despite not having been on skates since circa fourth grade (I forgot to ask if she still needed a key to tighten her skates back then, and has anyone yet discovered where all those lost keys went?), Lacey earned one of four open spots on the team. It was sort of a training spot. They made her skate on the outside of the pack for the first three months until she got her chops and could stay upright while her teammates bumped their way past her.
But just as the jammer angles her way past the other team’s blockers, (how’s that for derby talk?) Lacey skated her way up the team ladder to where she sits – or skates – now, as Captain of both her Grave Danger team and of the traveling all-star squad from the Rat City Roller Girls.
Lacey Evans a.k.a. Carmen Getsome leading her team Grave Danger (photo credit Joe Schwartz)
I met Lacey Evans at her team’s Saturday morning practice inside a hidden warehouse in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. She and 15 or so of her teammates were skating infinite ovals, their wheels clacking against the plastic tiles laid over cement floor which make their practice rink. Coach Quadzilla, watched the action atop his own set of skates, occasionally barking out commands and issuing blasts from his whistle which would provoke some reaction that my untrained eye was unable to discern. The whistles echoed in the immense space, the open beamed ceilings rising a good forty feet above, and nothing within to absorb the sound, the extent of décor being a few fold-out camp chairs and one overstuffed floral sofa.
One drill had the skaters packed tightly together in rows. At Quadzilla’s command, the trio of skaters in the rear attempted to break through the front ranks, delicately rising to their toes or sending their bodies sideways through the small gaps in the pack ahead. Once to the front, two of the three skaters attempted to block out the third with hip bumps, sliding to close a gap, or splitting their legs wide to grab as much space as possible. Occasionally, any of these actions might send a skater sprawling. The others in the dense pack reacted seamlessly, parting around the fallen while skating onward.
Derby is a full-contact sport and skaters will use all legal means at their disposal to get the job done, including hitting the opposing team with their shoulders and hips, pushing and pulling on members of their own team, and doing a cool slingshot-like maneuver called a whip to speed their jammer through the pack.
Practice ended and most of the team headed to the chairs or the sofa to undo their many items of padding and change into street shoes. Some put in a bit more time on the track but Lacey and the coach had team business to attend to. Along with the captain’s title comes the uncomfortable job of informing a couple skaters that they won’t be carried on the roster for the championship bout next weekend. With great talent comes great responsibility.
Afterwards, Lacey and I hook up in the storage room off the track and settle in for our conversation. I find myself facing an athlete like any I might spin with at the gym or play softball with in the evening. A composed and focused young woman, absent any extraneous body piercing or tropical tattoos. She appears to have all her teeth and speaks articulately, her passion for the sport exploding forth in everything she says.
Carmen Getsome rose to her title of Captain with a combination of hard work, aggressiveness, and, as one of her teammates offers on their web site, “she not only is a leader and positive force on the track, but works her butt off getting the league training program up and running. She’s always ready and willing to do what it takes to get everyone motivated. She’s an outstanding member of our league!”
(Carmen in her all-star uniform, photo credit Joe Schwartz)
Working hard means four practices a week, each of which is 2 – 3 hours long. It’s a 50 minute drive each way from her home. In addition to captaining two teams, she’s head of the training committee and pulls extra shifts, as do all the skaters, helping with marketing, p.r., production, and anything else that needs to be done in this all-volunteer operation. She’s one of the reasons for the league’s astronomic growth in its few years.
When Lacey started skating, the bouts were held inside an old airplane hangar in Magnuson Park where the indoor event could be rained out because the roof leaked like a sieve. Nonetheless, the 2,500 tickets for each bout sold out within hours, and Carmen and her teammates always skated before throngs of cheering fans, packed into the temporary bleachers. Rat City Roller Girls lost their permit to skate in the hangar at about the same time Seattle’s NBA team, the Sonics, picked up and moved to Oklahoma, leaving lots of empty dates at KeyArena. So now these women are skating in the premiere athletic venue in the region, where they recently set the national derby sales record of 5,700 tickets for one match.
“I thought when I started that this would just be a fad. I didn’t expect it to be picked up and become mainstream, but it has. We’ve been lucky and we’ve worked really hard. But without the people loving roller derby here we wouldn’t be successful.”
If you haven’t yet checked out Rat City, you’ve got one more chance this season. The championship bout is being held at KeyArena Saturday June 5 at 5:30. You can buy your $14 general admission seats in person at Fast Girls Skates in Wallingford and Bird on a Wire Espresso in West Seattle, or get them on-line at Ticketmaster. Find more information at ratcityrollergirls.com
What should you expect if you go?
“As long as you’re open to anything, you’ll have a great time,” said Carmen. “We are PG 13. Some of the leagues I’ve played against are ‘R’ rated, with girls wearing racier clothing. But I appreciate that we are so family friendly. And everybody’s really friendly.” In the audience Lacey sees an eclectic group that includes “lots of die-hard sports fans that stumbled into roller derby and they love it. My parents are always there. We get a lot of support from the Gay/Lesbian world; people go on a date to watch roller derby. We’ve got biker chicks, moms with their families – it’s just awesome”!
From what I saw, she’s got the eclectic label nailed. When I went last month, my friend Leslie and I sat behind a row of silver haired fans dressed in Ralph Lauren country club. Next to us were two moms with their 13 year-old daughters, (who spent as much time cruising the merchandise table as watching the bout, and who could blame them with cool items for sale such as these) and across the aisle was a group of army fatigues and brightly died Mohawks. We made for one big happy family.
I think some of the crowd could actually follow the rink action, but Leslie and I had a blast just taking in the audience and the half-time show, which featured three cheerleaders dancing expertly to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’. The overhead center court scoreboard showed repeated close-ups of the long hairy legs on the center dancer, a 6’3” mustached man in a pleated skirt. Much hooting and hollering accompanied the music. (right: Derby cheerleaders in the Sockit Wenches team colors orange and blue)
Like all the ladies, Lacey brings her skater name and alter ego to the track. When she first started skating, her Carmen Getsome personality provided a toughness she didn’t yet have on wheels. “I just focused on being Carmen, a bad-ass girl who thinks she’s tough and can do anything she puts her mind to. Now, I’m pretty outgoing, but at the time I was kind of quiet and a little bit on the nerdy side of life. So I created this Carmen character who was stronger and able to overcome everything and never let anything bother her. I mean, it’s hard to be the slowest person on the track, but that doesn’t bother Carmen.”
Make no mistake, skate names are a major part of the show. Names like
- Georgia O’Grief
- Ida Slapter
- And Lacey’s and my favorite, Sara Problem?
Skate names are so important, in fact, that they must be entered on a national registry. Before you can create your own, you’re responsible to make sure there is no one else by that name or anything close. “If there is, you have to get the permission of that skater. Like, there is a skater named Drew Blood and another woman wanted the name Nancy Drew Blood, so the two came to an agreement they could each use those names, but if anyone else asked to be anything close they would both have to say no.”
Lacey will be adding a new name to her persona on August 21 when she gets married, though she won’t know until the kickball game that day what her new last name will be. Lacey and her fiancé, who is “incredibly supportive, probably the most supportive derby widower there is” are each mounting a team of wedding guests to spar for the right to choose the couple’s new last name. If he wins the two hour kickball match, she’ll be Lacey Ramon. If she wins, her name will be Lacey Roxx.
Whatever the outcome, they’ll take their vows later that day after a shower and a change of clothes.
Best wishes from us all, Lacey Whatever-Your-Last-Name-Becomes. May your marriage be as successful as your career on the flat track.
Carmen Getsome blocking a jammer from Derby Liberation Front(photo credit, Joe Schwartz)
- Janet Pelz
Lacey’s not-so secrets for How She Does It:
- A lot of time management. If I’m scheduled to take a rest, I’m going to take a rest. If I don’t plan on taking a rest I won’t do it.
- I have to use every minute and be committed. It always boils down to commitment. What are you more committed to, going out and having a margarita or going to practice? My team always comes first over those other activities. If I ever feel like I wanted to do XYZ and then I get to practice, within minutes I know yeah, this is where I need to be.
- Measuring and balancing the important things in life.
What books has Lacey read recently?
I’m a multi-book reader, one book that makes my mind work and one that’s completely relaxing. I have to keep one of each to stay interested.
- Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence, by Gary Mack and David Casstevens – a mental training/emotional mastery book (order by clicking the Amazon ad to the right and support this blog when you do!)
- Anything by Harlan Coben, mystery writer. They’re my comfort read.
Whom does Lacey want me to interview next?
- Val Tron 3000 (Valerie Morris), we call her Dr Tron. While skating she finished her doctorate. She’s a research person at Fred Hutch. She’s really smart and one of the most caring people I know.
- My mom is wonderful – she’s changing the world one child at a time at the elementary school where she works.
After the bout
- If you go to the bout June 5, or anytime you’re at Seattle Center, don’t forget you can support Melissa Erickson’s foundation (read her story here ) by buying a drink in her name at Jabu’s Pub, 174 Roy Street (between 2nd Ave N & N Warren Ave). Jabu’s is also a sponsor of Derby Liberation Front, one of four teams which make up Rat City Roller Girls