Betty Bounces Back
The first lesson during a roller derby “fresh meat clinic” is how to fall.
“As a kid I remember thinking that if you fell, you were a dork,” says Amy Meeks, BSJ ’13, MA ’16. “In derby, everybody falls—it’s part of the game. How fast you get back up is what matters.”
Meeks grew up mastering roller skating in Hocking County, Ohio. The skill came in handy when she joined the region’s Appalachian Hell Betties Roller Derby Team more than 30 years later.
As a blocker, Meeks helps the scorer get past the opposition’s defense. “You need to be willing to risk going down if it means your teammate gets through,” says Meeks.
When her sister Connie showed symptoms of Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)—a disorder that took the lives of her mother and grandmother at young ages—it wasn’t a question of if Connie would need a kidney transplant, but when.
Without hesitation, Meeks was ready to “take the fall.” “Test me,” she said. And she was a match. “I didn’t ever really stop to think about it.”
Meeks had to make peace with the risks: the donation surgery could end her career as a Hell Betty. Yet, in the end, the sport was Meeks’ saving grace. Her “derby-fit” body provided a healthy kidney to her ailing sister and made for a productive and motivated recovery.
Meeks was back on the track just 12 weeks post-op, with a few cool scars to add to the team’s collection.
My greatest challenge with this assignment was getting Amy to come out of her shell. It was fascinating to watch her have more nerves about an interview than she had before a roller derby match – and I must admit I could not relate to that at all.
Derby was a sport I knew nothing about aside from an impression that it was quite brutal. It did not disappoint in that department, but during this project I also learned about the high bar for athleticism and grace required to be a savvy competitor. Developing an understanding of the rules was critical to my team’s ability to shoot good video, and trim it together with cohesion.
All things considered, this is a sport unlike any other when it comes to capturing quality video. It moves really quickly, there is no perfect vantage point, and try as you might to line up a pretty shot, wipe outs are frequent and you need to be able to get out of the way fast. It was a fun challenge to take on.
Role call: Written story by Hailee Tavoian. Written story edited by Kelee Riesbeck. Video storyboard, production and editing by Evann Figueroa and Hailee Tavoian. Photography by Ellee Achten.