FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Diana Dawa has lived something of a double life for several years now.

The Army Materiel Command public affairs specialist spent three seasons with the DC DemonCats, one of five roller derby teams that make up the DC Rollergirls league. She describes roller derby as a "second full-time job, and nearly a second life."

This year, Dawa decided to hang up her skates, though she is still involved with the sport. She promotes the league by attending events and passing out flyers. "I still lead training sessions for the league and ... the DC DemonCats," she wrote in an e-mail. "I'm also bench coaching the DemonCats on bout days - so it's not like I'm stepping away from it entirely."

An unlikely derby girl

Dawa's road to the DemonCats was an unexpected one.

Years ago, the former roller figure skater was asked by a co-worker if she knew how to skate and mentioned a show on A&E called "Rollergirls."

"While I did not really like the drama surrounding the sport, I fell in love with the actual sport," Dawa wrote. "I watched roller derby as a little girl and just loved the physical aspects of the sport.

"Once I discovered it had started up again, I knew I had to do it."

After some initial research, Dawa learned a local league was developing, and after attending an informational meeting, she said she was hooked.

"I love how the league has such a diverse group of women who enjoy the physical contact sport that roller derby is," she explained. "I wanted to do something where I would be able to give it my all, mentally and physically. I can do that with roller derby."

While Dawa was learning the ropes of the sport, she also contributed to establishing the start-up league.

Dawa served as one of the league's original board members and helped set up initial business procedures, and she drafted the league's original bylaws and codes of conduct.

"I feel a huge sense of accomplishment knowing that I helped the league attain those goals," she wrote.

"In the initial stages of forming what is now the DC Rollergirls, I realized it was an uphill climb," Dawa wrote. "But I also had a big picture of what this league could be and I knew we had to reach a few goals to get there: firmly establish a roller derby league in the D.C. area, become a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, compete at the national level, be it regional or national competitions and become a local and federal non-profit agency. We attained all those goals and more."

The work paid off. Though the league was formed in January 2006, the Rollergirls did not participate in derby action that year to ensure all practices and rules were in place. "Our patience paid off and we have a great venue, a great fan base and our experience level has certainly gone up with each season we put behind us."

A world away

Roller derby gave Dawa a chance to put aside the rigors of daily life and dedicate herself fully to the sport. "I come into the [DC] Armory, focused and ready to give it my all in practice and in training."

"It is such a physical sport," she continued. "You really need to prepare yourself physically for this. Sure, a lot of it is mental, but you certainly have to prepare your body for the hits you will take and the hits you will give, as well as footwork, jumping and agility on skates."

Bout night is no exception

"Personally, I lace up my skates to play hard, to put it all on the line when I get to the track," she wrote, adding that players pay to play and receive no salary to participate. "We are extremely dedicated to the sport. We practice hard, we play hard. For me, on bout day, it is an extreme adrenaline release and complete rush."

Transition to trainer

Dawa retired from the DemonCats this season due to circumstances off the track, and she said the decision wasn't an easy one. "My first couple of days of skater retirement were extremely hard for me," she said.

Still, she realized there were plenty of other ways to stay involved with the league, which is how she became involved in the training aspects for the league and her team.

An added bonus: since Dawa conducts training sessions, she has a chance to spin the wheels again by scrimmaging with the league. "While the intensity level is not quite the same as bout day, I still get to keep my scrimmage [and] derby skills up," she said.

Dawa's goal is to help the DemonCats defend their championship title this season. "I expect the DemonCats to come away with the championship trophy again. I think that would make for a successful season for the team. I'm sure each captain or coach would think the same way."

Beyond that, Dawa believes the team's success also depends on reaching the goals set from the beginning of the season.

Dawa said she feels she will always be involved in the sport one way or another and doesn't rule out a comeback to the rink. "Never say never - who knows if I'll come back in season five, ready to take it to the track, or stay on as a coach or trainer," she wrote. "There are so many possibilities to be involved with the D.C. Rollergirls and one of the reasons why I truly enjoy the sport of roller derby."

Page last updated Thu October 15th, 2009 at 13:37