Professionals by Day, Derby Skaters at Night

 

Avon resident Jessica O’Hanlon (fourth from right) is a member of the Red Bank Roller Vixens. Photo by John Keoni for the Red Bank Roller Vixens.

Avon resident Jessica O’Hanlon (fourth from right) is a member of the Red Bank Roller Vixens. Photo by John Keoni for the Red Bank Roller Vixens.

By JOSEPH SAPIA

Kim Predham does not think of herself as an athlete.

When she was growing up in Neptune City, she was the last one picked when teams were chosen. She considered herself “very bookish.”

“(But) I always liked roller-skating as a kid,” Predham said. “I would skate for hours in my basement.”

Those hours of roller-skating were put to good use. Now, at 32, the Asbury Park resident is a local version of a roller derby queen, as is her teammate, Jessica O’Hanlon, 37, of Avon.

O’Hanlon, skating under the name Anna Stesia because she is a registered nurse, and Predham, who goes by Infra Red because of her red hair, are two of about a dozen skaters for the Red Bank Roller Vixens. They are part of a 21st Century resurgence in roller derby, a popular mid-20th Century sport.

“Roller derby is a pretty big deal,” said Predham, a newspaper reporter who now works for the Record of Bergen County and previously worked for the Asbury Park Press. “It seems teams are sprouting up every week.”

Basically, skaters go around a track in a counter-clockwise direction during jams. Jammers, such as Predham, score by lapping members of the opposing team, while blockers, such as O’Hanlon, block out opposing team members while helping along their jammer.

The Roller Vixens skate flat-track at their home at the Tab Ramos Sports Center in Aberdeen. The Roller Vixens season began in March and runs to November.

The Roller Vixens’ next game is against the Atlantic Coast Roller Girls on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m. at Tab Ramos.

“You build relationships with other teams and you play,” Predham said. “You kind of reach out to teams with similar levels as you and invite them (to play).”

About two years ago, O’Hanlon saw a notice about roller derby and checked into it.

“I roller-skated as a kid and I just loved it,” O’Hanlon said. “I needed an outlet. I just fell in love. It was something that took me away from reality, gave me a great physical workout.”

O’Hanlon has been a Roller Vixen since June 2013. O’Hanlon said the team is “friendly, family-oriented, flexible on scheduling.”

“A lot of us are career people with kids,” said O’Hanlon, who is single and has a son, Gavin, 14.

Gavin attends games and, according to O’Hanlon, players’ children are quite involved, doing things such as selling tickets and setting up.

Adrienne Didik, a friend of Predham’s who came up with the Infra Red name, said she has been to several bouts in which Predham has skated.

“She is amazing and very tough,” Didik said. “It’s so awesome to watch her do what she does. She gives it 100 percent and is a valuable member of her team.”

Predham has been involved with roller derby “on and off for eight years,” she said.

“I had read about it in a magazine,” said Predham, explaining she was unaware of the sport as she was growing up. “It’s considered a feminist, punk sport. It sounded cool, but it was also about women’s strength.”

Predham eventually began skating with the Hub City Hellrazors, based in the New Brunswick area.

Predham finds a variety of things attractive with the sport.

“I like the camaraderie,” Predham said. “I really love my team. They’re a really good group of women. It seems everybody is just there for one another.

“I like the rough-and-tumbleness of it,” said Predham, who is 5 feet 2 inches and weighs 125 pounds. “I like yoga, but it does not give me the satisfaction of going out there, knocking somebody down.

“I love the crowd going nuts, shouting for us.”

And there is the charitable aspect.

“As a league, we strive to contribute to the local community in two ways,” said Veronica Warman, the Roller Vixens president. “One, by providing family-friendly entertainment at home bouts and, two, by devoting time and resources raising funds for and awareness of local charitable organizations.”

“It appeals to me that we are able to give back,” said O’Hanlon, saying the team has contributed such causes as children-victims of domestic violence, junenile diabetes and the humane treatment of animals.

“I meet great people and raise money for charitable events,” O’Hanlon said.

Some of the proceeds from the Oct. 4 game will go to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fund-raising walk.

As personnel changes on the Roller Vixens, the ages of skaters range from the mid-20s to the early 50s, according to Predham and O’Hanlon. As for the skaters’ careers, Predham said “they’re all over the map”: hairstylist, telecommunications manager, special education teacher, newspaper advertising salesperson.

“I think we’re all professionals looking for an outlet,” said O’Hanlon, who is 5 feet 5 inches and weighs 125 pounds. “I fractured a rib last year, but it was no big deal.”

O’Hanlon said roller derby has a diverse group of women.

“All walks of life,” O’Hanlon said. “We range in size, ethnicity, find this common ground. We have this overall acceptance for everybody.”

“It’s a huge time commitment for everyone involved, so it’s great to see all the hard work and practice come together at each bout,” Didik said.

The Roller Vixens are recruiting “very heavily for next year,” Predham said. “No experience necessary, we’ll train you.”

“Any stigma put to roller derby is easily put to rest,” O’Hanlon said.

“I can’t imagine my life without derby,” Predham said.

Information on the Red Bank Roller Vixens women’s roller derby team is available from Kim Predham at telephone 908-309-9228 or e-mail rbrvmarketing@gmail.com.

Women 18 and older can join the Roller Vixens. A special email for recruiting is vixensrecruiting@yahoo.com.

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