Heather Tirado is a new sort of modern woman. She’s a roller derby tough girl, a stay-at-home mom and has a cop for a husband. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lived for a long time in Florida, where she first saw “Roller Girls,” a reality show about roller derby, and was immediately hooked by the sport. Though she went to college on a field hockey scholarship, she didn’t know how to roller skate when she moved to Norway eight years ago. She’s now on the Maine Roller Derby team R.I.P. Tides and on its all-star team, The Port Authorities.

Q: Where were you born?

A: Pennsylvania. But I lived in Miami for a really long time. Then we moved up here to Maine. My husband was in the Coast Guard in Miami then we moved up here. Now he’s a state trooper. We didn’t know about anything about any of the towns (when we moved here) ‘cause my husband, Greg, was in the process for the state police. He got sent to Oxford County, Troop B, so he had to live somewhere in Oxford County.

I have an 11-year-old and a 3-year-old who are out with their grandmother right now so that they’re not running around amuck. They both go to Rowe, well my (younger) son’s not in school yet.

Q: What do you think about living in Western Maine?

A: It’s beautiful. We like to snowboard in the winter, so that’s good. We really moved here for the boys so they could experience snow at Christmas and we (figuratively) live on the lake, so that’s good, in the summer. People are really friendly.

Q: How did you get into roller derby?

A: I took a Derby Lite class (in January 2011). They teach you how to roller skate. (Then I tried out and made the team).  We call tryouts every fall. This year, they’ll be in the summer.

Q: How many women typically try out?

A: We normally get 30 to 40 people and we have to narrow it down through a series of tryouts. And then we’re teaching you a set of skills … and most people usually pass them. We don’t cut too many people.

We practice three times a week with three-hour practices each time and you have to hold a league job as well (and do things for the community). Some people drop out because they can’t make that commitment.

Q: How tough do roller derby chicks have to be?

A: You have to be pretty tough, yeah. You really have to be tough, athletic. There’s a lot of cross training outside of it. I run and do weights and plyometerics. There’s room for everybody to play – every size, every shape. You can be small, you can be little (or big). Some blockers are big and some blockers are little. … We take all sizes, it’s great.

Q: I heard you have roller wives, what’s that about?

A: It’s sort of your best friend in derby, on your derby team. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like your best friend in derby that you share everything with. Mine is, we went through Derby Lite together, we went through the process together, we’ve been on every (team) together. So she’s like my best friend. She comes over to hang out. She’s coming over next week to watch a bout that’s streaming.

Q: How did you get your derby name, Kirsten Damned?

A: Nobody calls me that, they just call me KD, usually. It’s really just trial and error of trying to find a cool name that fits you. There used to be a national database where you had to check the names (to make sure someone didn’t have yours). I don’t think I’ve heard mine before. I don’t think anyone else has it. I think it’s just I would wear a lot of black and I like skulls and stuff.  … Most people don’t get (that it’s pronounced cursed and damned) unless they announce it correctly.

Q: What kind of player are you?

A: I’m jammers. That’s my position. Jammers are the point scorers. Roller derby is like a chess game. You have to be playing offense and defense at the same time. Every blocker I pass I get a point. (As) the jammer, I have to get through those blockers who are basically trying to kill me.

A: How does blocking work?

Q: They form walls together … so you have to get through that wall all the time they’re hitting you. A jam is two minutes long and there’s two halves of 30 minutes. So you might have 15 minutes of jam on a 30- minute half. You’ll send five players out for a jam and the jam will start. The first jammer to get out in front is lead jammer.

Q: Is a jammer like the quarter back in football?

A: Yes, it seems that way but I’m really just collecting points. The blockers are doing a lot of work. They’re protecting you and trying to kill the other person at the same time. There’s a lot of strategy in it once you start to know all the rules.

Q: Have you every gotten hurt?

A: I got hit and I got lifted up in the air and came down and landed on my left hip and I don’t know what it did inside but it turned the whole thing black. That’s the worst thing I’ve had. I haven’t had any concussions yet, thank god. It’s not even getting hit. Sometimes it’s the back. My (chiropractor) says it’s like getting in a car accident over and over. I say, that’s OK just fix it. You know what I’m doing, just fix it.

Q: Did anyone ever think you’d been beat up?

A: I went to the doctor the first time and I had bruises all the way down the back of my leg and she was like, “What’s going on?”

Q: What do you wear for protective gear?

A: You have to wear a helmet, elbow pads, knees pads, wrist guard and a mouth guard. It’s governed by (the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association). They make up the rules it’s almost like the NFL, but it’s run by the players. All the teams are player-owned.

Q: The Maine league has two teams, Calamity Janes and R.I.P. Tides. I understand that you used to be on CJ and now are on the other team.

A: Those two teams play each other. (The all-star team, Port Authorities is) going to Ohio in May to play Ohio Roller Girls. I’m not sure what they’re ranked but a lot higher than us. … So we’ve been really working in practice to take down some of their best players and make walls they can’t get around.

Q: What has roller derby taught you?

A: I really enjoy the athleticism of it. I enjoy the camaraderie with all the different women. I think we do a lot of good things for the community. We volunteer a lot. We hold a bout at Thanksgiving (and give the money to charity). I like that part of it too, it’s a good way to give back and it’s fun. It’s really fun.

Q: How do you balance your life with two children?

A: It’s difficult (but) it’s a little bit easier now. I have one son in school and one in preschool now. Noah is 11 and Sawyer, 3. I don’t want to give my age because nobody in derby knows it. They always try to bust my age and steal my license.

Q: Do you think roller derby helps women feel empowered?

A: Yes. I think it’s good because you can learn to do anything. You can be a mom, you can be a wife, you can hold a job, you can go to derby and play a sport that requires complete dedication but you’re still having fun. You’re still doing things for the community.

Q: But I mean about hitting other players. Is that satisfying?

A: It gets the aggression out. It’s good. It’s a good stress reliever. It’s also a good stress reliever because you have to think about what’s going on at that moment.

Q: What do you want for your future?

A: Hopefully, keep playing derby as long as I can. Yeah, that’s my immediate plan, I guess.


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