Holly Stevens is tougher than you.
In June, Stevens broke her hand during the second of four roller derby games at the Midwest Derby Fest. She played through the pain, completing the tournament and propelling her team to first place. She was named defensive MVP.
“The hand is pretty decimated,” she said the following week, a few hours before seeing a hand surgeon to have metal pins placed in her hand.
“It got a little gnarly in there.”
Stevens goes by Greta X in the roller rink. She took the name from an Adam Ant song about a cross dresser. “I got ‘sir’ a lot when I moved to Texas,” she says.
She’s been a roller girl for six years, which is a pretty long roller derby career, especially for a woman in her 40s.
Stevens says the game gets pretty physical, which can lead to shorter careers.
“I’ve had broken and separated ribs and broken fingers,” she says while rattling off a list of injuries. This is the third time she’s injured her left hand, the second time she’s broken bones in her hand, and she’s also broken her wrist.
Injuries aren’t the only thing that will cut a derby career short. “There are also people leaving with what we call ‘nine-month injuries.’ “
But, once you’re addicted to the derby, you have a hard time leaving.
Stevens got hooked when she was just a child growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. Her father was a police officer, and on the weekends his shift would end in the early morning when most children already had been asleep for hours.
Stevens, then 8, would stay up and wait for her father to come home so they could watch one of the only things broadcast at the time.
“We’d always watch roller derby,” she says. “No joke. I’m talking 1 a.m. I would be screaming at the roller derby on television with my dad.”
As an adult Stevens’ husband encouraged her to try out for a roller derby team while they were living in Detroit, but she never did until the couple made the move to Texas and her friend said she was joining a team.
Stevens joined Assassination City Roller Derby, and she fell in love with the game and her teammates.
“I am so supported by the tribe that’s there. I love the people who are part of derby.”
Today Stevens is co-captain of Assassination’s all-star team, Conspiracy, where she’s a blocker.
It’s her job, she explains, to stop the other team from scoring points. In roller derby, points are scored when the jammer passes opposing team members. Stevens forms walls with the other blockers to jam up the other team’s jammer.
Forming a wall isn’t as easy as it sounds. The team practices regularly and Stevens does cross training individually for five to 10 hours a week. She’s also a trainer for the derby.
It’s hard to imagine having time for much else, but Stevens also teaches art history and welding and is an archivist.
“I’m pretty busy,” she jokes.
Despite all that, Stevens remains dedicated to the derby. She’s even found something to be excited about when it comes to her injury.
“This is the first time I’ll be bionic,” she says. Bionic is the term used for players with metal holding them together.
There is even a team at RollerCon — a worldwide roller derby convention held every year in Las Vegas — made up of only bionic players.
“I’ve seen team bionic play the non-brokens,” which is a team without bionic players, Stevens says. “I think the non-brokens have a lot harder time filling their team.”
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