Roller derby far more than sport

Roller derby far more than sport

Reba Richardson (alias “Roto Tilda”)


Roller derby blocker


Reba Richardson admittedly leads a bit of a double life. By day, she sows fields, harvests greens and tends to livestock at her midcoast farm.

And by night? She laces up her skates, secures her helmet, puts on a (playful) scowl, and transforms into “Roto Tilda,” a menace on the roller derby track.

The 35-year-old mother of two (6-year-old Eli and 3-year-old Cecilia) has only been a derby girl since November, but she quickly became “intrigued” by the sport, and then “hooked.”

“I had no idea I would get engaged so quickly in something that is so totally unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” said Richardson, who runs Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren with her husband, Bill Pluecker.

Richardson – a self-described occasional gym-goer before she got involved with derby – serves as a “blocker” in the midcoast’s Rock Coast Rollers league, which was formed in early 2011, and competes with teams from all over New England and even southern Canada.

Given her title, her role is pretty self-explanatory. As two teams steam around a track in packs, she and her teammates bump opposing team members out of the way, while at the same time protect their own “jammer,” or point-scorer. Generally skating at the middle of the pack, the “jammer” scores points by lapping opposing team members. Typically, the sport is played in 2-minute periods, with five members to a team.

“You’re playing offense and defense at the same time,” Richardson explained of her role. “It’s really fast-paced and really fun.”

And she quite literally stumbled upon the league’s tryouts last fall: It was the last harvest day of her farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program, and she was in town in her soil-covered farming clothes.

“I had not been on skates since I was 8 years old at a birthday party,” she said, adding with a laugh, “thank God for helmets.”

She admitted that she thought she’d be walking into a group of “really intense, scary women.”

But instead? She found them to be “welcoming,” even “psyched” that she and others were there trying out, and representing “every decade from teens until late 40s, and from every single walk of life – teachers, landscapers, bakers, sailors, moms.”

And ultimately, there are at least a couple of similarities between her bucolic daytime existence and her more frenetic nighttime one.

Rock Coast Rollers, for instance – which is based in Rockland and aims to be a skater-owned nonprofit, according to its website – is dedicated to charity work and community involvement, not unlike Richardson’s farm, which has a CSA of roughly 210 families, accepts food stamps, welcomes apprentices from around the country, and was recently recognized as a “forever farm” by the Maine Farmland Trust, meaning it’s protected in perpetuity. (And, if you happen to visit Richardson there, she’ll most likely talk up derby – and might even get you to join the team.)

Ultimately, derby is “empowering and exciting,” she said, and practiced by “remarkable women.”

“It’s not purely a sport. It’s much more than that.”

Reba Richardson

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