“ They really want to push you to be your best."
Skates thunder across the floor and cheers echo through the arena. A group of women move in a pack, working together to achieve a common goal. They are learning. Their skill levels vary but they share the same heart, the same drive to push themselves and discover abilities they never knew they had. They are The Appalachian Hell Betties roller derby team.
The mechanics of teamwork can bring forth inner strength in the most timid personality.
Pages rustle and glasses slide down a nose. This is Emma Holman-Smith. She is a student: a math major who loves books, movies, and time to herself. Now she is pushing the boundaries of her own reality in a headlong race to crash through the edges of her comfort zone.
The desire for a unified group of women created a family full of acceptance, release, and transition. For the women of the team, roller derby is their best friend, their counselor, and a gateway into the best times of their lives.
The Hell Betties
Each woman brings her own personality to the team, but they get to rediscover themselves together. “They really want to push you to be your best and definitely, like, tell you when you do a good job and that you are improving but aren’t afraid to push you to get there,” says Emma.
“Alright, ladies! Let’s bring it in!”
This loud, yet motherly voice projects over a megaphone. That voice comes from one of the smallest women there, often found shuffling around the rink in fuzzy house slippers to avoid damaging the slick floors permanently glossed from more than fifty years of relationships created by wheels sliding over blue-painted wood.
Across the rink, a small girl in an oversized blue Holman t-shirt who just wiped out is helped back onto her skates while a teammate yells, “Good fall!” Emma, lover of books and silence, laughs at her own mistake and revels in the new relationship she is forming with her body. She is covered in bruises and rink burns as her muscles protest at every unfamiliar motion, but it is her vehicle to discovery and change.