Derby jammer rams past competitors

Sophomore Mabel Gatsche aims to compete along side international roller derby team


Photo Courtesy of Mabel Gatsche

SPEEDING BY: Sophomore Mabel Gatsche joined her first roller derby team in middle school. Since then she has become a member of two derby teams, and travels to out of state tournaments with them.

Sophia Sanchez, Feature Editor

The sound of roller skates travels through the floor, in a flash, a helmet with a big white star bashes through the groups of girls. Sophomore Mabel Gatsche is wearing the helmet, and she makes no move to slow down.

Gatsche has been involved in roller derby for nearly four years. Her interest began in middle school when she started to experiment with roller-blading.

“Mabel aka Mr. G, her derby name, became interested in roller derby after watching a Texas Roller Derby bank track game in 7th grade,” Gatsche mom, Nicole Gatsche, said. ”After the game she came home and watched the movie Whip It and within a week she signed up to be a member of the Texas Junior Roller Derby. Then in 2022 she joined a second Roller Derby Team Rockin City Rebels in Round Rock.”

Mabel is now a member of two separate derby teams, Texas Junior Roller Derby and Rockin City Rebels.

“I saw an adult Derby game and I thought it looked cool,” Mabel said. “After it, I was like, I want to try that. I roller bladed it a little bit, but I wasn’t very good. It was really scary when I signed up because I thought it was just normal practice, but it ended up being a scrimmage. So, I saw a relatively good one with a bunch of kids. I don’t remember it too well, but I just remember falling a bunch and not understanding how people were able to skate.”

Roller derby is an all-woman sport with multiple positions in the ring. The high-contact games main purpose is for the jammer, who wears the white star helmet, to pass the opposing teams members and jammer. Each player they pass counts as a point and the team’s main goal is to try and block the opposing jammer.

“I’m usually a jammer,” Mabel said. “That’s what I prefer to do. My favorite part is probably the contact and the fact that you like to get to like, roll in, hit people as hard as you want.”

Roller Derby has had a positive impact in Mabel’s life. It has taught her if she works hard at something she will succeed.

— Nicole Gatsche, Mabel’s Mom

Mabel’s talent in roller derby does not go by unnoticed. According to sophomore Jayden Malone, Mabel’s confidence during games is one of her most admirable features as a jammer.

“She is super strong and can get through anybody and isn’t afraid of getting hurt or getting a penalty,” Malone said. “I’m not on her team or have really been around her team, but as her friend my favorite memory of her sport is seeing all the action photos caught by the team’s photographer friend. Mabel always looks super cool while playing.”

Over the years, Mabel has formed a special bond with other athletes and continues to form relationships within the roller derby community.

“I think derby gave me an outlet for energy and stuff,” Mabel said. “It’s giving me a lot of opportunities. I’m going to Denver in a bid for finals and I think it’s at the end of May, possibly, or next month. And there’s a whole underground Derby world that I’m meeting and it’s just like everywhere and everyone in the derby world is connected somehow. It’s a tight community and it’s all over the world. So like everyone’s connected it’s so weird, but it’s so fun.”

Cedar Park Middle School student Bunny Toft, and Taylor Middle School student Myla Martinez are members of Mabel’s derby team. According to Toft their team bond is strong and this positive energy rubs off during games.

“My favorite memory of the team was last weekend when we won the game against the Sugar Skulls,” Toft said. “I got emotional and Mabel was right beside me the whole time. She is an amazing team leader figure and an even better derby player.”

The strength Mabel adds to her teams is undeniable as she brings a positive energy to the group and never slows during games.

MR. G: Mabel Gatsche, wearing the black helmet with white stars, pushes through the opposing team. According to Mabel, aka Mr. G, playing jammer in games is what she prefers to do because of the speed and ability to push the opposing team members. Photo Courtesy of Mabel Gatsche.

“Mabel’s strong suit in roller derby is that she is a very well playing teammate,” Martinez said. “She is always wanting to achieve something she wants, she is a strong player and is a very great hitter and a hit taker.”

Despite the thrilling moments during and after a game, there are some aspects of derby that can wind up the players.

“Sometimes, since it’s such a fast sport, not everything gets called legally,” Mabel said. “It gets really frustrating when there are illegal actions and a bunch of stop rules are being broken. That gets really frustrating.”

According to Mabel, the hold on her derby team during the pandemic allowed her to explore different skating styles that have influenced her skills today.

“I love skate parks,” Mabel said. “Over COVID I did a lot of skate park skating and it built up a lot of stamina and muscle but it didn’t have the derby skills, but it’s like a little roller coaster. It’s so fun. I can drop in and do like quarter pipes and just like rocking back and forth and doing tricks like that, it’s a lot of fun.”

According to Gatsche the hard work that Mabel has put into her derby skills, and how she continues to push herself is, what she is most proud of.

You can hear people screaming your name from across the place. I’m not the best at encouraging myself but everyone supports each other.

— Mabel Gatsche, Sophomore

“Roller Derby has had a positive impact in Mabel’s life,” Gatsche said. “The group of skaters are a great support system for kids. We recently traveled to Taos, New Mexico for her first roller derby tournament. Her team had to play a bigger, more experienced team. They lost the game with smiles on their faces and made lots of new friends.”

The roller derby community spans across the world, and provides multiple opportunities to the teams. As Mabel proceeds down this path in her life, she hopes to continue to improve her skills and climb the ladder of derby teams.

“I want to hopefully try out for Team Texas,” Mabel said. “Then if I get into Texas, I want to try out for Team Junior USA. I’m just gonna try for next year because I’ve been reaching out to this one girl over TikTok, who’s on Team USA and asked about the tryouts and stuff. Team USA, they go to France to play like Junior France and it sounds so fun. It’s awesome.”