Away from the pack with Parker Paxa Punch of the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls

(photo: Ruth Rohrer)

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Away from the Pack, a regular feature that will be appearing on the Corner Seat and examiner.com featuring interviews with your favorite rollergirls, fresh meat, refs and NSOs.

I recently sat down for a few pre-bout questions with Lehigh Valley Rollergirl #25 Parker Paxa Punch and here is what she had to say to me.

If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you? 28

What is your position on the team?

 I typically play blocker 1 or blocker 3 which are the two back blockers.

Tell me about your alter ego.

 I think my derby name kind of sums it up. I am not a huge girl, but I’m built pretty big and I like to knock a girl down once in awhile. I try to get the job done with a big hit but at the same time if positional is going to do the job, I’ll play with strategy and not always the biggest hit.

How did you first become involved with roller derby?

 I was at the Skindustry tattoo expo in Fogelsville about three years ago and the derby girls had a table set up there. (We’ve been there every year for quite a few years). A friend of mine had tickets for their next game, I went and I was like, “I’ve got to get on the team.” I’ve been roller skating my whole life, and I knew that there was a reason why.

Why did roller derby intrigue you so much?

 Well, when I was younger I used to roller skate, I had a lot of fun doing it. I used to weave in and out of all the older teenagers when I was real little and growing up I played a lot of sports. I played rugby in college, played soccer all through high school. I was really into sports, especially contact sports. This is ideal, like going back to childhood with roller skating but also a really aggressive sport.

How do you think rollergirls are stereotyped?

Mean, angry girls with tattoos who are out there to hit a bitch and wear hot pants and show off their booty.

Do you like being portrayed that way or not?

Some people in the sport are that way but some are not. I have tattoos, I’m not covered in them, I like to hit a bitch, but that’s not my only job out there. I wear booty shorts but I don’t like my butt hanging out [laughs].

What is your favorite part of the sport?

I used to play on a women’s soccer league in the area and every night it was hit or miss whether people were going to show up or not. I’d go every night expecting that my team would follow me and that my team would be there to support me.

The derby girls are a family, we’re out here every night, we have dedication to each other, to the sport, to the team and we are here to support each other. On game day you know who’s going to be there because I need them to win the game. We practice three times a week; you know people are going to be there, because without them, we can’t play. Dedication to the team is definitely a plus.

Is that one of your favorite things about the people you play with?

Absolutely. I joined the team not knowing a single person and now they’re my best friends. I hang out with them three days a week at practice but also outside of practice. All those days in between we’re getting together, we do events for derby, but go out afterwards, things like that, you know we take care of each other. It’s like a second family.

Do you still see yourself playing derby 10 years from now?

I’m not sure. Currently I’m working on my Master’s degree and I am going to have to take a leave of absence. I know taking a leave; it’s going to be hard coming back, but even during that time I know I want to still be involved with the league and see where LVRG can go. I want to be part of the team for 10 years, I don’t know if I’ll still be playing but maybe helping out NSOing or something like that.

Were you nervous when you first started in derby, going to your first practice and all?

It’s always nerve wracking when you come into a place where everyone knows each other so much. The girls on the team know everything about each other and you come into the team, you don’t know anyone. I mean people talk to you but it’s just “getting to know you” kind of stuff, and you have to work your way in. It’s very nerve wracking but I think my personality is one to be outgoing and meet people and have fun conversation without knowing someone. After a couple days you start to relax a little bit.

It doesn’t take long before you start to get to know people and people’s faces start to look familiar and you know, you’re excited to see them again at the next practice.

Have you ever been hurt or seriously injured while playing roller derby?

Yeah actually just at the end of this past July [2010], so about a year ago, we were playing up in Central New York and they had a polished concrete floor, which is very slippery and I fell and I just kept on going, rolled right over my knee and I had a sprained MCL which is kind of like the opposite of an ACL, so the outside of the knee, not across the top.

So when I hurt my knee I was out only for about two months, luckily it was a just sprain and not a tear so no surgery necessary, but physical therapy.

Did your injury scare you from getting back on skates?

Oh it absolutely scares you, absolutely! You get hurt once and for the months when you come back to practice, you’re like, you know favoring that knee, protecting it, you’re not working as hard as you know you can until you build your strength up. Even now if I get hit down real hard, I get scared that, “oh no, I hurt that knee again.”

Once you have an injury, you’ll always feel it. People always talk about the weather making old breaks hurt and things like that, I can feel it at practice still sometimes.

Did you ever think after that injury; “maybe I should stop?”

I’ve been playing sports for a long time and I’ve had a lot of injuries, you get back out there, you do it until you can’t anymore.

Do you find the girls get along most of the time?

Absolutely. Any organization that has this many women, there’s going to be, you know, problems, little arguments and hurt feelings and things like that, but in the end we all know we care about each other and we always work it out and we do what’s best for the team.

What is your favorite derby moment/memory?

(photo: LVRG)

There’s so many, my partner Daisy and I have a great time every night at practice, she is always dancing at games and having dance parties. We request songs for her. So anything that involves Daisy dancing to a requested song; I think is up there on the list. But there’s too many to choose from.

How do you balance your ‘real life’ with derby life?

It’s very difficult. As I mentioned before I’m working on my Master’s degree, I’m a full time teacher and play derby. I’m also the treasurer for the team and I have other friends and family outside of derby, so everyone knows Monday, Thursday and Sunday, I can’t hang out.

What part do you think that Lehigh Valley Rollergirls play in the community and Lehigh Valley area?

We’re still trying to get our name out there and be a team maybe as well known as the Iron Pigs. Every one of our games supports a local charity, all of our events that we go to we talk about upcoming charities that we’re donating to or we are at an event that is a charity. We are doing our best to support the community, get the word out about the team. We’re involved with a lot of local women’s organizations. We’re doing anything we can to get our name out in the community and beyond the Lehigh Valley.

Where do you see roller derby in 10-20 years? Expanding? Gone? A Fad?

Well, a long time ago it wasn’t as much of a sport as it is now. Before it was kind of like professional wrestling where the games were kind of set up, they were throwing big hits, but it was set up and you knew what was going to happen. Now it’s a real sport and WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) is making it a legitimate sport for athletes to play, not just for a show.

What’s happening is we’re slowly rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding and every year, every game the game gets more legitimate, the derby as a whole gets bigger and more well known. It can only get bigger. It’s not a fad. It’s not going away. More teams are popping up all over the country; and all over the world.

Do you have any advice for newbie’s?

Practice outside of scheduled practices. Go to open skates, meet the girls, invite them to open skates,  just hang out and train a lot. You can’t just come in, if you’ve never skated before, you can’t expect to learn how to roller skate and learn how to play derby at the same time. So learn how to roller skate first, then learn how to play derby; skate on your own time.

Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?

I think I’m a pretty open person, I throw it out there.

Perhaps a unique talent?

I don’t really have a unique talent, I am very diverse in my talents. I really like to sing the National Anthem at our opening games. At today’s [6/4/11] I’m singing the National Anthem with Vanilla CreamHer’s daughter, so that will be fun. Hopefully it works out, we need to practice still.

I teach high school math and most people cringe when you say the words, “math teacher,” but I do it every day and I love it.

Keep checking back for more interviews with your favorite LVRG skaters and staff. Follow me on twitter @thecornerseat

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