Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider Man and Tina Bradley all have double identities to help them carry out their superhero lives. But one big difference between Tina and the fictitious heroes listed is that Tina is a hero both by day - at Rockdale Medical Center where she’s a physical therapist who assists people every day in getting back on their feet and conquering physical and psychological barriers - and by night, when she moonlights as "Canna Whoopass," her alter ego on the roller derby circuit as a member of the Atlanta Roller Girls team.
This is Tina’s first season as a roller derby "queen"; prior to that she was a roller derby referee. She has skated for over three years, and admits that when she first told her family of her aspirations of joining the derby, "they thought I was crazy, they were very worried about my safety, but after I played a few times and they saw I was not severely injured and that I really enjoyed playing the game, they weren’t so fearful."
Double identities have their advantages. As Canna, Tina gets a chance to be someone else when she’s out on the track. "Where Tina is seemingly quiet, meek, and mild, Canna is decidedly more aggressive," she said with a slight smile in her voice. She also is quick to point out that even though roller derby does have its share of "drama," it is nothing like its 70s grandmother.
Gone is the day of the roller derby queens, who played roller derby as a stepping stone to stardom; today’s roller derby is more sport than drama. What people may not realize about today’s roller derby is that it is a real sport, that is ranked nationally and these days, requires more strategy than "stage" presence. The Atlanta Roller Girls is pretty substantial in its own right. For instance, the ARG has five teams, four hometowns, and one all star. Tina/Canna plays on one of the hometown teams, and the All Star Team. Roller derby is governed by a national organization, Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The Atlanta Roller Girls is ranked 24 out of 80 nationally.
Roller derby, according to WFTDA rules, takes place on a circuit track where two teams send out five players each – three blockers for defense, one pivot for last line defense and one jammer or scorer. During the 2-minute "jam," the jammers score points by passing the pack and going around the track as many times as they can. Players can block opposing jammers with their body parts above the thigh, excluding their elbows. Each game consists of two 30-minute or three 20-minute periods. At the end of each jam, players re-form the pack and continue play.
When asked what does she like most about the sport, she said," Whatever body shape you have or shape you are in, there is a place for you in the roller derby. In the WNBA, you have to be a certain size, not with roller derby. This sport is the most embracing, and that’s good, because I see women who come to play with us increase their confidence and self-esteem."
Just as her counterparts in other sports, she practices at least four times a week, during the season, and six times a week, off season. During off season, she has some of the same commitments other athletes have. She has to make special appearances and trains new recruits. During the season, they play at the Yarab Shriner Temple Auditorium in downtown Atlanta. The ARG is creating a junior league for younger girls, who might be interested I playing the sport; they also recruit for next season.
For more information related to the Atlanta Roller Girls, visit Web site, www.atlantarollergirls.com