She looks like the stereotypical mother. Her hands look aged from washing too many dishes. She is small in size, but what she lacks in height she makes up for in speed on the track.
Maggie Follis, 28, has wanted to play roller derby since she was 16, but had to wait till she was 21 to join a league. When she finally turned 21, she had children and had to wait some more.
By day, Follis is a stay-at-home mother who looks after her 3- and 4-year-olds. By night, she whizzes around the track, jabbing players and knocking fellow females to the ground. Follis has been on Chicago’s Windy City Rollers team for three years and two seasons.
Roller Derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating in the same direction around a track. The bout, or game play, consists of a series of short matchups (“jams”) in which both teams designate a scoring player (the “jammer”) who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to assist their own jammer whilst hindering the opposing jammer—in effect, playing both offense and defense simultaneously.
“I always wanted to be in a full-contact sport,” Follis said. “This had everything in one spot.”
The Windy City Rollers has been a member of the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) since its inception in 2004. The first season started in 2005 at Chicago’s historic Congress Theater, where they attracted the largest derby audience any flat-track team had seen at the time.
Video by Katherine Iorio
Follis’ track name is Janicide Joplin, which is also commonly known as a stage name. Derby names are unique; all kept in a registry that’s updated regularly and is scanned to make sure names are never duplicated or too similar. Upwards of 20,000 roller derby nicknames have been registered, according to reports.
“I explain to [the kids] that daddy gets to go to work, you guys get to go to school and mommy gets to go play roller derby,” laughed Follis.
The Windy City Rollers’ next bout is this Friday, March 1 at the UIC Pavilion from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.