Story and photos by William Geier.
Abigail Garratt, a loving wife, daughter and mother of two also happens to play one of the toughest sports out there: roller derby.
When Garratt is playing in roller derby games, she sheds her everyday demeanour and becomes Preacher’s Slaughter, one of the newest members of Canada’s national roller derby team.
“It has been amazing because it’s really showing Canada we can do this; we can be on the world stage of roller derby,” exclaims Garratt proudly.
Garratt started years ago while still living in Lethbridge.
“I had a neighbour who was interested in skating see me skating and said, ‘How do you know how to do this?’ I said, ‘I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,’” explains Garratt.
“She said, ‘Well I play roller derby. You should come join us.’ And that’s when I started.”
Roller derby has recently started to gain popularity, and Garratt has noticed a definite change in the sport.
“Roller derby is kind of still evolving.”
“Everywhere seems to have their own league now, which is awesome.”
Garratt recently won a bronze medal in championships and gold in divisional playoffs, which got her noticed by Team Canada.
“The national teams are very competitive, and playing for them means a big commitment from the skaters. Not only do you have to be the best, you also have to be really committed to this,” admits Garratt.
Each team is made up of 34 skaters, with 20 skaters travelling to the different competitions and 14 skaters active for each game. The goal of the game is to get the jammer, which is the player with a helmet covering, past the opposing team’s blockers, resulting in points being awarded for each blocker passed.
The game has grown in response to many supportive communities launching their own teams and leagues.
“That’s a big part of the growth of roller derby too . . . showing new people starting in these little towns [that] you can go all the way,” reveals Garratt.
Garratt has loved roller derby ever since she first put on her skates, and enjoys the camaraderie of the sport—as well as kicking ass on the track.
“I think [what I like the most is] a toss up between the community and the friends you make which is just amazing, [they’ve become] life long friends, and the fact that I still get to play a contact sport at 31,” laughs Garratt.
Roller derby has a definite rough-and-tough attitude attached, which is embraced by fans and players alike.
“When I put on my helmet, gear, and a uniform, [it’s as if] I take on an alter-ego of being tougher than I am in regular life, and a little rougher around the edges – Not so sweet [and] not so nice,” explains Garratt.
“If you hit somebody that is considered levels better than you and you knock them down or take their position, they will cheer for you. They will say nice hit and get up off the floor.”
This sentiment just isn’t as common in other sports nowadays.
“And that toughness attitude, I really think it comes from that ‘I can do this, you can do this, so together let’s be awesome and badass [mentality].”
“I think that tough attitude really does prepares you to take and deliver a hit.”
However, one thing Garratt believes that roller derby needs . . . is more roller derby.
“I would like to see more leagues pushing to have an ‘A-team’ and a ‘B-team’, so that there’s competition at more than one level. I think everybody should have the opportunity to play the sport they want.”
Without their league’s support, many roller derby players wouldn’t be able to afford the expensive travel fees that are required to play competitively.
“Support from a community makes or breaks it,” muses Garratt.
“Without our league, we couldn’t be where we are.”
Garratt’s alter ego, Preacher’s Slaughter, originated from actually being the daughter of a preacher—luckily, her father has no problem with this.
“My parents love it. They understand my personality. I’ve always been a tomboy,” laughs Garratt.
“They see that I need the outlet of sports, and [you can’t get that at] a gym. I’m not [interested in] Zumba. That kind of thing doesn’t keep me intrigued or entertained.”
“I really do need that drive to compete and be better than who I was the day before.”