Ryleigh Boone was a 12-year-old dancer when she realized she just wasn’t that into it.
Her mom and aunt introduced her to roller derby. Now her name is Killer Styx.
“I wasn’t really a ‘dancer’ and all the other girls were going to competitions and all that,” she said.
“Kind of like a left-out thing. But in roller derby, you’re not left out.”
That was nearly three years ago. Today the Grade 10 student at Great Lakes Secondary is one of about 20 girls ranging in age from seven to 17 who are learning the gritty art of roller derby as members of the Sarnia Mini Massacre.
Speaking to Boone, you’d never take her for a Killer anything.
“Everyday Ryleigh is shy and doesn’t talk to a whole bunch of people,” she explained. “But when I put on my skates and I go onto the track, it changes.”
Often set up at ice-less hockey arenas and gymnasiums, roller derby is a game in which five skaters on opposing teams bump, jostle and fight their way around an oval track.
Points are scored when a certain player – a “jammer” – laps skaters on the other team; with a possible top score of five points a round.
Jammers must be fast and able to jump – skills Boone loves to put into practice.
“It was harder at first learning how to jump and then I figured it out and was able to pick it up pretty quickly,” she said.
The junior version of the game is confidence-builder for many girls, participants say.
Killer Styx says her name is a nod to her long, thin legs. She completes the look by wearing skeleton bone tights, and has been known to apply white face makeup to resemble a skull.
Part of roller derby culture is the costume. The look is customizable and allows skaters to create their own personas.
“There’s T-Bird, Pipsqueak, Honey Wheeler, Red Riots, Sally Hip-wrecker,” said Boone, naming some fellow skaters. Her sister Maggie, (Ivana Hitcha) also laces up.
Their father, Steven Boone, says he relishes being a “derby dad” because he finds the teamwork and camaraderie of the sport encouraging.
“It doesn’t matter your skating level, it doesn’t matter what you look like, who you are, you’re all accepted – which is cool,” he said.
“It’s nice to see.”
Ryleigh Boone said roller derby is gaining momentum and now has provincial and national teams. She plans to join the Chinstraps – Sarnia’s senior roller derby squad – when she turns 18.
“I like that it’s different,” she said. “And a lot of people don’t really know about it.”