Kelly Timm lives a double life. In one, she’s a happily married wife and mother who resides in the suburbs and works as an accountant. In another, she’s Bo-Toxic of the San Diego Derby Dolls, the nation’s first all-female banked and flat track roller derby team. Timm, 34, is also the captain of the Dolls’ All Star Team, The Wildfires — currently ranked third best banked track team in the country — and plays pivot (lead blocker) for the Swarm, San Diego’s home team.
By now, many of us have heard of roller derby, which has gained popularity in the last few years. The success of the 2009 film “Whip It,” starring Ellen Page of “Juno” fame as the plucky teenaged misfit who finds a home in the edgy world of roller derby, did much to rocket the sport to the forefront of society’s collective consciousness.
But as Isabelle Ringer, captain of The Swarm, puts it, while “Whip It” is an extremely fun movie that’s helped a lot with popularizing derby, “[it’s] the story of a girl, and right now roller derby is a sport for women.”
We’d go so far as to add “… with moxie” to that statement. And when it comes tomoxie, Kelly — a.k.a. Bo Toxic — has it, and then some.
We strapped on our skates and caught up with Timm to ask how she balances marriage, motherhood and career with being a rollerskating badass.
Constant Chatter: How did you first get involved with roller derby?
Timm: My daughter was almost three at the time — this was five years ago — and I wanted something for me again. When you have kids, you kind of lose yourself being a parent for that first couple of years. I was about to join a soccer league, and then I heard that there was roller derby, so I looked it up. I found a link that took me to the L.A. Derby Dolls, and I found out there was a sister league in San Diego. So I asked a few friends if they wanted to try it with me, and none of them were quite into it, but they told me it was perfect for me, which I knew it would be, and I started going to the boot camp, where I fell in love. And I’ve been going ever since.
Did you have a background in sports already?
I’ve always been involved in sports. I used to dance and play soccer when I was in high school, and I actually played football when I was younger, until I was told I couldn’t play anymore. I have two brothers. I called it brother-itis — trying to keep up with the boys. And before I joined the Dolls, my husband and I used go to the desert and ride motorcycles.
What is your family/children situation?
I’ve been married for six years, and we have a daughter, Jordan, who’s seven years old, although we’re planning on maybe trying for one child at end of roller derby season. I keep buying [Jordan] a pet every time she asks for a new baby, but now I have a zoo, so … it’s time.
How do you balance roller derby with family, motherhood and your career?
It’s a struggle. I’ve learned to choose my battles with my family and my team. I’m not going to be at ever after-party — it’s a big social thing with derby, too. You become very good friends with your teammates. I’m actually the only mom on the All Stars, which is a travel team. It’s hard because they don’t always understand that I won’t go to the bar after the game or after practice or hang out every weekend, but I’m there when it counts.[Editor’s note: In the time between doing this interview and publishing the finished story, Constant Chatter has learned that two more moms have since joined the San Diego Derby Doll’s All-Star team.]
My husband and I take turns — he plays basketball. He supports me and I support him. There are days when my daughter doesn’t want me to go, but it’s a good lesson for her. I’ve learned, too. Because she knows if you want to be good at something, you just ask her, “What do you have to do?” and she’ll say, “Practice.” And I think it’s important for her to also see that your parents can be active and have things that they still enjoy doing. That you still go after what you’re passionate about, even when you’re an adult … she thinks I’m old.
Earlier, you mentioned that Jordan is also involved in roller derby.
Yeah, she started at six. She’s the youngest member of our junior league, The Juvenile Dollinquents. She’s not as competitive as I am, and I’m not pushing her. My niece, who’s 12, she absolutely loves it. She’s a little firecracker. It’s good for her, because she has a little bit of an attitude. It teaches her to not take things personally — how to to take a hit without getting mad. And I think it’s really empowering for girls.
Do you do anything else to keep yourself sane?
I think derby is it. I mean, it drives me nuts sometimes and it takes a lot of time, but I love it. And when I don’t play, I’m awfully grumpy. I always say, “It’s cheaper than therapy!” I messed up my knee this year, and two years ago I broke my ankle, and both times I went stir crazy. I don’t know what people do at night once their kids go to bed. I can’t just sit there.
Speaking of injuries, just how dangerous is roller derby?
It’s like any contact sport — like football or hockey. You get hurt — mostly shoulder, knee, ankle — but it’s not from fighting. A lot of people who are new to the sport, they’re like, “Oh, you elbow and punch each other,” but it’s like, “No, we check each other just like they do in hockey.” I have to use my shoulders or my booty to take someone out. I can’t just tackle or trip her. There’s no talent in that. Anyone can go out on skates and tackle somebody, but for me to take her down legally it’s harder. Mostly you just get bumps and bruises, but every once in a while you get a bad injury.
I think it’s time to talk about those sexy outfits.
We call them boutfits. Generally, you wear little bicycle or booty shorts. Back when I started, it was a little more underground. It was torn t-shirts and fishnets, and it’s still that to a certain degree, but it’s gotten more sports-minded. It’s definitely more athletic. Nike has taken notice, and bigger companies are making clothing for us that is still feminine but functional. A tank top, jersey and booty shorts are pretty standard — and pantyhose is a must. People always say it’s for the looks. Fishnets are part of the look — just for fun — but pantyhose are different. You get almost rug burn when you fall. We call it rink rash. You slide on the track and it tears your skin. Pantyhose prevents that from happening; it helps you slide a little more.
I’m hearing a definite emphasis on roller derby as a sport, as opposed to the sex kitten reputation that is often associated with it. Is that an issue women face in derby?
A little bit. With women’s sports, there’s always that stigmatism of sex appeal being emphasized more than talent. It goes with the territory. We realize that it’s girls in short shorts that bring people in, but it’s the skating that keeps them coming back. We believe you can be tough and feminine at the same time. If I hear one more time, “You should make a team of pretty girls…” Head shots don’t belong in sports.
How has roller derby changed you?
It’s made me more patient and able to listen. With all these alphas in one team, you can’t help but work on your conflict resolution skills. It’s improved my temper and my confidence. And I see that in others. A lot of women come in who don’t have a lot of self-confidence, but after a year you see a difference. They’re stronger and more comfortable in who they are. It’s the way you carry yourself.
Is there anything besides roller derby that you would recommend to other women looking to up their level of moxie?
It comes down to this: Do what you love. A lot of people think, “I’m a mom now, so that’s all over,” but you can still follow your dreams — don’t ever let people tell you otherwise.