Kyla Kazuschyk: UCF costume shop supervisor by day, roller derby diva by night. Roller derby is a sport for the strong. These girls skate around the track at lightning-fast speeds and take massive hits, all while looking impossibly fierce. It’s a sport I’ve always admired, for both the endurance and the aesthetic, but mostly for its role in urging women to kick ass and take names. This terror on wheels was hiding out where I spend most of my time, the costume shop.
I sat down with UCF theatre’s own Kyla Kazuschyk to talk fishnets and bruises.
Q: How did you first hear about roller derby?
A: While I was working at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, my boss let us off work early because she wanted to go see a roller derby match. I had never seen a roller derby game before, and the rest of us had nothing else to do that day, so we all ended up going together to Denver for the game. It was amazing! It was in a coliseum, the half-time show was puppies, they were playing cool music, and the host was a drag queen. I wanted to be a part of it!
Q: Can you explain the basics of how derby is played?
A: Basically, it’s an aggressive race. Each game is divided into two periods and each period is divided into jams, which last about two minutes each. There are four blockers and one jammer for each team. Each jam starts when the referee blows his whistle. Once all the blockers pass start, the jammers take off. The jammers’ objective is to get through the pack faster than the other team’s jammers. The blockers help their team’s jammers get through while simultaneously trying to stop the other team’s jammers from getting through. Offense and defense at the same time! Every member of the opposing team you pass as a jammer gains your team points.
Q: How long have you been playing roller derby?
A: This is my fourth season.
Q: What’s your roller derby name?
A: Satin Burnout.
Q: What’s your relationship with your teammates like?
A: It’s interesting because I would never have met them if I didn’t play derby, but I’d go to bat for them any day of the week. Some I share the same taste in music and tattoos, and some I have less in common with. On the track I know we’re all there for each other. Roller derby brings a lot of strong women together, and we all have lots of opinions.
Q: When and how did you learn to skate?
A: I remember loving to skate in middle school. I lived in Miami for a year and skated there.
Q: What’s the name of the league you play for?
A: The Sintral Florida Derby Demons
Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
A: Not really, a couple of the girls have “lucky” things they can’t play without. I’m a big advocate of properly stretching before a game.
Q: Any big wins or awards?
A: Last season we won all of our games except for two. This season we won our first home game, and hopefully will win our next on the 20th!
Q: Any gnarly injury stories?
A: Yes! The legal hitting zone in derby is from the shoulder to the top of the knee, but smaller skaters like to dive while playing. This happened to me during a match and I ended up with swollen, bruised and bumpy shins. In fact, I got a tattoo there to cover it up, it’s still a little bumpy to me. My worst injury though was when we were playing the South Florida Roller Girls, I got my gear on and stood up and fell right on the carpet. I wish I had a better story, but sometimes your feet just go out from under you! I wanted to skate through it, but I couldn’t and had to lay down in the locker room with my foot up for the first away game of the season. When I got home, my mom made me go to the hospital. The area from my knee to my ankle was huge, and the whole side of my leg was black and purple. I was on crutches for a while…
Q: Roller derby is notorious for its crazy outfits; tell me about what you wear!
A: My team has jerseys, which I love because it makes us look official and like a force to be reckoned with. My team’s colors are black and teal, so I usually wear some combo of those. As for bottoms, girls skate in skirts and shorts, but eventually they figure out it’s easiest to move in just underwear. So, I mainly wear underwear that says stuff on the back – I have a pair I sewed teal sparkly ruffles on. Also, tights with fishnets on top! If you don’t wear tights, you get rink rash, and if you just wear fishnets, you get fishnet-patterned rink rash, which no one wants. Also, you want your makeup to look like a superhero or otherwise ridiculous – lots of bright colors! I even wear temporary tattoos on my neck! Also, there are themed games on occasion where we get to dress up: We’ve had T-Birds vs. Pink Ladies and Gryffindor vs. Slytherin, those are always super fun!
Q: Anything else you want us to know?
A: Anyone can play roller derby, and it’s really rewarding! If you can hit, great. If you can skate, great. But, if you can’t, we’ll teach you everything! We have a Facebook fan page, and practice is on Mondays and Thursdays in Daytona. Our games are every third Saturday of the month at Skate City. We’re always looking for new players, dudes for referees, volunteers and fans!
Not only is Kyla super sweet, but she also kicks some major butt. Roller derby, aside from being one of the most exciting sports ever, takes strong women and makes them even stronger. It fosters new friendships, and prepares you for bumps and bruises, both on and off the rink. Just like Kyla said, anyone can play, just take a chance and get out there. Forget the fishnets, there’s nothing sexier than that roller girl confidence.