Back on Track – Part 2
December 2023, Island Voices

Back on Track – Part 2

By Jane Valencia

This article continues the story of Islander Alice Watkins, who plays on two teams with Rat City Roller Derby, Seattle’s flat track roller derby league. Read part 1 here.

Alice isn’t alone in engaging in hefty travel to attend practices and bouts. Players come from all over the greater Seattle area, from as far north as Arlington, to as far east as Ellensburg. Home teams practice once a week. All Stars meets twice a week. In addition, there are meetings, and, as Rat City is a non-profit member-owned league, everyone participates in the logistics of running of the organization. Alice is on the merch committee.

“People always say it’s like another full-time job,” Alice mentions.

As a member of the All Stars team, Alice sometimes travels. In October, the team traveled to Portland, Oregon for some bouts. Early November saw the All Stars in a tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they played against teams from Canada and California, as well as Utah.

And just for fun, Alice and a few league mates traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, for RollerCon, a convention where roller derby, park, and roller skaters of all disciplines and skill levels get together to share their love of skating.

Alice described some of the action at RollerCon. “There are themed bouts, such as heroes vs villains, pink flamingos vs garden gnomes, rainbow vs goth, as well as borderless teams like Fuego Latino, Jewish roller derby, black diaspora, and indigenous rising. There are also park skating competitions and jam skating (dance).”

Alice and I discussed derby names and the roller derby subculture. In the past, players dressed up and had special names. When Alice started, she went by Malice In Wonderland. “Then, there was a stage where all that changed,” Alice explains. “We’re a real sport, and we wanted to be taken seriously.” At that time, the players switched to being referred to by their last names. And where they once wore fishnets, tutus, and face paint, they switched to strict matching uniforms.

Recently the situation has shifted. “I think people have circled back around to where it’s, yes, we’re a sport and we have a lot of strict rules. It’s not a free-for-all happening, and it’s not a theatrical event. It’s a real sport. At the same time, we’ve taken back the names and some of those fun aspects of derby. Now we have uniforms, but also people do bout makeup.

“You can be fun and silly, and wear a silly outfit and have a silly name,” Alice notes. “And you can also be really good and play a really hard sport. Those those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

These days, Alice’s derby name is Malice.

Making it work

Some nights, Alice brings her son Sorrel to her mom’s in Snohomish County, north of Seattle, then heads to practice. Later, her mom drives Sorrel to meet up with Alice. Alice leaves practice early, so they can make the 9:15 pm ferry; 10:35 is too late for Sorrel.

He is always asleep in the car when Alice’s mom arrives. Having stayed as long as she could at practice, Alice removes her gear as quickly as possible, and books it to the parking lot. Moving her sleeping son into the car seat, she rushes off to catch the ferry. They need to be up early morning the next day.

Mom of a three-year-old, in a committed relationship, working part-time, and in roller derby, which in terms of involvement is like a full-time job. Why did Alice decide to join last fall, and how is she able to continue?

Alice explains. “During the years away, I had derby dreams all the time. I missed it so much, the feeling of it. I reached out to teams, and was encouraged to try out, but I just didn’t see a way to make it work. When we moved to Vashon last year, I was craving community and something for myself, and physicality. I felt, I’ve got to go back – there isn’t going to be a perfect time.”

She hadn’t been on skates in six years, but last October, she tried out.

“It felt so good to be back on skates. And I decided, I’m just going to see what happens. And getting back into it was the best thing I possibly could have done. And when I joined the All Stars, I just did that again. I thought to myself, I don’t know how it’s going to work, but it’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager, to be on the Rat City All Stars.”

“So, you make that ferry and you make it work. And every time I think, oh gosh, it’s so much to make it work. But you never know when, especially in derby, you could get a concussion, you could get an injury and it could be your last season. Or other things in life can come up. So, if you can make it work, then you just got to do it. You have to make it happen if it’s what you want.”

Listening to Alice, it’s clear that roller derby fuels and feeds her, body and spirit, and that her family supports her in making it work. We wish Alice many happy years skating with Rat City Roller Derby, or wherever her path takes her.

Find out more!


Attend a bout: See the event schedule

Join the sport: Rat City has three training programs, offering opportunities for complete beginners through experienced skaters seeking to be drafted on one of the four home teams.

Support: Opportunities abound to support the league as a fan or a business.


Photo by Thomas Mitchell – TH-Mitchell Photo

December 8, 2023

About Author

jane Jane writes about what it means to be an Islander, and how we can nourish healthy community. A harper, storyteller, and herbalist, she also shares tales and art that she is sure the Island told her. Having lived with her family on Vashon for 20+ years, she is convinced of the Island's magic.