Kendeleia Rothaus-Payne, a 1999 Gardner Edgerton High School graduate, spends her days working for the U.S. Census Bureau, but by night – the married mother of one is a roller derby queen.
“I actually got into roller derby by going to my son’s school skate parties and recreationally skating. I soon realized how much fun skating was and the great exercise you get from it, so I continued to go two to three times a week skating with my family. “
The underground world of roller derby is a spectacle. The all-girl, gritty sport features athletes in neon shorts, fishnet stockings, punk rock style, large arm tattoos, and black eyeliner. The sports athletes swirl around an oval track on skates cursing, pushing, and elbowing their way past one another and the crowd. The tension in the rink can be cut with a knife and the crowd can be as intense as the players.
Roller derby queens are not the girls next door. They run each other over, chew each other up, and spit one another out in the rink, but outside of Roller Derby, they are loving mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and they walk unnoticed in their everyday jobs.
Kendeleia and her husband, Morgan Payne, live in Kansas City, Kan. and have a son, James.
As she skated with her family, Payne noticed the derby girls at the rink.
“Many Kansas City Roller Warrior girls would show up and I was so impressed with their skating ability that I started Googling ‘Roller Derby,’” Kendeleia explained.
She found the Kansas City Roller Warriors online, but saw that she missed try outs.
“But I found another league in town, the Dead Girl Derby of Kansas City who were accepting crew and skaters,” she said. “I joined immediately as a ref and then by April I was practicing with them. My first actual game was in June 2010.”
Kendeleia’s parents, John and Juanita Rothaus, Gardner, were not entirely thrilled that their only daughter was entering such an unusual sport.
“My parents were a little hesitant, mostly not really knowing what roller derby was, but knowing I could get injured,” Kendeleia said. “They thought I was a little nuts for wanting to do it. Yet now, they are full supporters and are really starting to get into it. I think my mom is my biggest fan.”
Her son James likes roller derby, “to an extent,” Kendeleia said.
“(He) does yell for me, but he really goes for the bands (at the events) so he can dance,” she said.
Local rock bands play a couple of songs as a half-time show in the rink.
“Morgan, my husband, thinks it’s hot to see his wife out there as a complete different person, and in an outfit you normally wouldn’t catch me in. He likes the fact that I’m getting into shape and staying active,” Kendeleia said. “I love the game and he loves to watch it. Skating is also something we share, because we both are avid skaters, so it works.”
She says what she really loves about the sport is the other athletes are like a second family.
“We all get along, even though we don’t act like it out on the rink, but we are a pretty close knit group,” Kendeleia said. “I also like that roller derby does keep me in shape, and I get to be someone completely different than who I normally am. Anyone from high school could tell you I was not a hard core punk, but now I am and I love the empowerment it gives when I do something right out there. I like the confidence it gives me as well.”
The names of the women in roller derby are as gnarly as their personas. Some of the names in Kendeleia Payne’s league are, Punky BruzHer, Kancer Stiik, Judy Jackknife. Kendeleia’s name is Haute Fuzz, pronounced, “Hot Fuzz.”
She plays “blocker” in the rink. Blockers make up the majority of a roller derby pack. They play offense and defense simultaneously by assisting the “jammer” through the pack while preventing the opposing team’s “jammer” from making it through the pack. Points are scored by the “Jammer” passing the opposing team’s players. This can be brutal as girls are shoving each other, crashing into the floor, the wall, and each other.
Kendeleia has witnessed a variety of injuries in the rink including knee injuries, broken collarbones, cracked ribs, cracked tailbones, bulging lumbar discs, and shoulder injuries. Although she hasn’t experienced any serious injuries, she’s had her share of bruises and rink rash.
“This is why falling small and being tucked in is so important, however, it is very hard to remember to remain in such a stance when you are hit from the side or back in a game where tensions are flaring,” she said.
The team practices twice a week for two hours. Kendeleia said squad members do a lot of endurance drills, pack drills, and scrimmages against each other for teamwork.
They play one bout per month, usually the last Sunday of the month at Northland Rolladium in Liberty, Mo.
On July 18, Kendeleia’s team – Black Plague – played Gang Green. Tied at 80-80, the bout went into sudden death – roller derby’s version of overtime – twice. After the second sudden death, Black Plague was victorious.
Kendeleia’s mother, Juanita, waved a homemade sign and yelled from her front seat, “Haute Fuzz, get ‘em!”
James, Kendeleia’s son, sported a t-shirt that said, “My Mom Rocks” as he sat beside his grandparents. Her husband, Morgan, stood on the sidelines cheering for his wife and accompanied her to the afterparty to celebrate her big win.
Black Plague’s last bout of the season is Aug. 22. Doors open to pre-sale ticketholders at 6:15 p.m and to the general public at 6:30. The bout will start at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at Northland Rolladium in Liberty, Mo.
The half-time show bands also play at after parties, which are held immediately following the game at The Landing, at 1189 W. Kansas St., in Liberty. At the after parties, fans can visit and have drinks with the teams and get autographs from individual players. The next season will start in February 2011.