Roller Derby

They’re not quite ready to strap up and take on established outfits like Birmingham’s Tragic City Rollers or the teams of Huntsville’s Dixie Derby Girls roller league, but a core group of roller derby enthusiasts right here in Cullman is hoping that’ll soon change.

Joe Conkle, the organizational mind behind the still-forming Cullman County Mud Angels, says the group is hoping to drum up interest in the sport as word gets out that there’s a local movement to get women (and, eventually men, too) of all ages out on the rink.

“Right now, I’m kind of the promoter, and also the interim coach until we can get somebody who knows the sport who can take the team where it needs to really go — which is something I’m definitely not qualified for,” he laughed. “A couple of the girls we have in our group now; when they found out this was getting started in Cullman, they told me: ‘We’ve been wanting to do this since they we were in the ninth grade! You’re helping us realize a high school dream of ours!’

“But what’s also interesting is, a lot of the interest that we’ve had so far has come from older people who remember when roller derby was a really big thing back in the 1970s and 1980s. We’re also seeing a lot of interest on Facebook from women who are in the 35-44 age range, followed by the 25-34 age group.”

To field a qualifying team, the Mud Angels will need at least 15 people who can attend scheduled practices and competitive events, in addition to a backing B-team roster. So far, the half-dozen regulars who form the team’s starting membership are practicing on Saturdays at the old Nesmith Park tennis courts, thanks to an arrangement with Cullman Parks and Recreation, said Conkle.

Aside from having a small but passionate built-in following, the idea behind fielding a local roller derby group is to take Cullman County, for the first time, into the world of regional competitive sports.

“This is the first sports team to represent the Cullman area,” Conkle said. “In all of this area’s history, there’s not been a minor league team of any kind, or really anything sports-related to represent Cullman as a whole. We really want to get people behind it in whatever regard they can, whether it be participating, becoming a fan — anything.”

In keeping with the format of established roller derby teams, the Mud Angels plan to operate as a nonprofit organization of unpaid athletes, raising money locally for a charitable cause — in this case, the Hurricane Creek chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse. While Conkle said he’s still working on getting the logo just right, the team’s colors (at least tentatively) will be black trimmed by burnt orange — the hue of good old Cullman County dirt.

“Our logo is going to be a mashup of an image of a roller skate and a big, lifted mud truck,” he said. “Looking around at all the other roller derby teams, the one thing I haven’t really seen anybody corner is that ‘down-south’ country girl image. There’s a lot of typical stuff: punk imagery; brawler girls and skulls and things like that…but nothing that’s got the camo-wearing, hunting, just ‘southern’ country-girl feel to it. I think that’ll be a good niche for us to fill.”

The Mud Angels are actively seeking participants of all ages (seriously, everyone from their teens all the way up to their 60s and beyond) who are interested not just in joining a competitive team, but even those who simply want to learn how to skate better, or who just want to tap into the unique roller derby fan culture.

To find out more about how you can get involved, either as a fan or — if you’re up for it — a skater, check out and reach out via the team’s “Cullman Roller Derby” Facebook page, as well as the “We Support Cullman Roller Derby” Facebook group.

Benjamin Bullard can be reached by pone at 256-734-2131 ext. 145.

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