Take roller skating, paramedics, cheering fans, an oval track and position names like jammers and you get the sport of roller derby.
For Staff Sgt. Hilary Middleton, 355th Operations Support Squadron air crew flight equipment technician, roller derby is more than a hobby of hers, it’s become a passion.
“I’ve been skating since I was two and always loved it,” Middleton said. “In February of 2011, roller derby tickets were being handed out by my first sergeant and it sounded like it would be a fun time. I went to a few games and decided that I wanted to do it.”
Standing in the way of crossing the threshold from spectator to team member was a skills test.
“You need to show moderate skill in all aspects of roller derby,” Middleton said. “These include falling, stopping, gliding, cross-overs and form. Everything you need to know to play a game.”
With Middleton skating since she was two, the test didn’t stand a chance. She was drafted onto a local Tucson team, The Copper Queens.
Middleton’s competitive nature and a drive to get back in shape were factors in her decision to get involved in roller derby in the first place.
“I just had two kids within two years and my physical training was a little lacking,” Middleton said. “I’m a competitive person, so if I’m going to get in shape, I’m going to do something fun and competitive.”
And get in shape she did. Her score didn’t just improve, it skyrocketed.
“I went from scoring around an 80 to a 95,” Middleton said.
Middleton didn’t last long on the Copper Queens.
“I was on the home team for about three months before I tried out and made it on the traveling all-stars team, the Tucson Saddletramps,” Middleton said. “You need to have a lot more refined skill for the team and a better understanding of the strategies involved with roller derby. It’s the best of the best people on the team. You compete for regional and national ranking, so it’s a big deal. On the team, I played all the positions, but mostly I was in the jamming position and offensive blocking.”
On the Saddletramps, Middleton’s derby name is Judo Gnomi and her number is 77. She says that there are similarities between a roller derby team and the Air Force.
“Like the Air Force, roller derby is like a large family,” Middleton said. “When you join a team, you have about 60 good friends who are all female. Right away you have camaraderie. A lot of people are from different places, but you all have roller derby in common.”
Although Middleton loves roller derby, she knows the Air Force always comes first. Because of that, she’s had to make sacrifices. With a deployment looming on the horizon for Middleton, she was forced to stop playing because she can’t risk injuring herself before deploying. It’s a temporary hiatus for Middleton. It’s evident she isn’t done with her beloved sport of roller derby.