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Women of roller derby forge lasting bonds on the track

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Published:   |   Updated: July 22, 2013 at 09:44 AM

TAMPA - Don't call Lisa Ponssa a soccer mom.

She's a roller derby mom. She even has a roller derby name - Rojo Grande. In fact, her husband, Diego, has taken up the sport as has her 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, AKA Hot Wheels.

Ponssa, who took part in the Franky Panky 2013 roller derby invitational this weekend inside Downtown Skate, said all who participate in Tampa Roller Derby, a Women's Flat Track Derby Association member, are a part of her family, which also includes her 14-year-old son, Evan.

"I've been skating for about 7 years now and it is immediately addictive," Ponssa said. "Everybody is extremely supportive of each other. It's definitely an extension of your family. We have girls from all walks of life: students, teachers, lawyers, physician assistants. All ages. Out here on this track, we all work together."

The two-day event, dubbed Franky Panky after the league's mascot, a Flamingo named Frank T. Flamingo, featured teams from New York, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Tallahassee, Tampa, and Tennessee.

Ponssa, 39, who plays the scoring position of jammer, said things may seem odd from the outside looking in - tattoos, roller skates, and collisions - but the sport needs to be given a chance.

"It's really an experience like no other," Ponssa said. "We get girls who have played sports before, so they know that camaraderie and then we get women who have never played a sport before and they don't understand the passion of the sport and camaraderie of teamwork, and (that camaraderie is) an awesome thing at any age."

In addition to her role as a mother and jammer, Ponssa is the league's president, coaches a junior league team and the executive vice president of Healthcare Business Media, based in Lexington, Ky.

Tucked away in a corner partially hidden by bleachers, Dee Bauchery struck away at the keys on her laptop as it rested on a folding table.

Bauchery, whose actual name is Angela Kroslak, was busy tallying score sheets handed to her by officials during the invitational.

Despite the mountain of paperwork, her enthusiasm couldn't be buried.

"Watching it and having this event, I'm very proud that, as a group of women, that we can do this. That we can do something like this," said Kroslak, who started the Tampa Roller Derby, the tournament's host, in 2005. It was originally named the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins. "I'm proud when I see the travel team go to this year's divisionals or they make it that far and they're playing against other top-seeded teams in the country. The only thing that could be better is if they made it to the championship."

Kroslak was introduced to roller derby when she moved to Tennessee briefly. After returning to Tampa, she figured if it could be done in that tiny Tennessee town, it could be done here.

Although she retired from serious roller derby action 2009, Kroslak, 32, recently started back up in a recreation league that is much gentler.

Kimberly Chaffin, better known as Flirtin' With Disaster, began her love affair with skating growing up as a child in Ft. Lauderdale. From figure skating to the stuff people do along the sidewalks, she was rarely without her skates, she said.

Although she has a day job as a veterinarian technician, it's the sense of community that keeps coming back to the rink.

"Derby is totally about community," said Chaffin, 38, also the Tampa Roller Derby's public relations director. "There's something that drives derby girls and it's not always apparent what it is. But it's just something about the sport and the community and the family."

edaniels@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1860

Twitter: @EDanielsTBO

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