Most Atlanta athletes work a few hours on game day.

It takes longer for Ana Cheng Jaramillo, 27, who packs sandwiches and snacks like bananas and energy chews to power her performance. She also stows roller skates, a helmet, knee pads and other safety gear to protect her from the occasional fall or roller skate to the shin.

Jaramillo is one of nearly 30 women who gear up for Atlanta Roller Derby when hitting the track at Yaarab Shrine Temple on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Midtown Atlanta.

The sports league, founded by Angela Ward in 2004, kicked off competition the next year as the sport enjoyed a national resurgence, said Carina Gerry, president of the league. The non-profit values competition, but one of its main goals is inclusivity.

“Everyone gets a voice, everyone has a say, we are all putting our blood, sweat and tears into the league,” Gerry said.

Currently, the equivalent of two teams are participating in the 2022 season, which, after a two-year pandemic layoff, kicked off in March.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talked to a few players who said they came to love their sport through different paths.

Anna Benbrook, aka “Gucci Maim,” 35, who has played with the league since 2016, became interested in the sport after attending a game in Tallahassee.

Others found roller derby through a popular movie starring Drew Barrymore.

Gerry, 43, a retired player, says more people became fascinated with the sport after seeing the 2009 film “Whip It.”

Jaramillo said she was 14 or 15 years old when the movie debuted, and also knew someone playing for a roller derby team in Tampa.

“Me and a few friends went and like, tried it out. And it was just really fun. And I just kind of have stuck with it since then,” said Jaramillo, now playing in her 13th season.

Atlanta Roller Derby fields teams of different skill levels, including those with skaters who just want to have fun.

“Our A team was internationally ranked before COVID. We’re ranked in the top 15 in the world,” Benbrook said.

Then the pandemic came along. To keep everyone safe, the league stopped playing for two years. After losing skaters, the league is now trying to rebuild. The league also took a financial hit.

“I mean, financially, it’s been very, very difficult. Because we lost all of our income,” Gerry said. The league fielded six teams before the pandemic.

Skaters are excited about the new season, and describe the games as being action-packed. To score points, teams have to have a player called a “jammer” get past “blockers” to score points.

The team works to create a sports experience similar to what could be at an Atlanta Hawks game, said Benbrook. There’s halftime entertainment from local bands and a variety of food trucks.

Between 500 to 600 people attend the monthly contests, Gerry said. Ticket prices are $18 for a single game and $30 for doubleheaders. The day before the game, the league members come together to set up and lay down the roller derby track, Benbrook said. The day of the game, they set up vendor booths, and the ticket counter, then, after the game, they also pick up the track, she added.

“So most of us, you know, get there at like, 2:00 in the afternoon and we don’t leave until like 10 p.m.” Benbrook said.

The league is looking for players and sponsors as they continue to build back a sport featuring strong women.

With other sports, people first think of the athletes as being male, Benbrook said.

“Roller derby is that avenue that is mainly for women, mainly understood as being like a woman’s sport (and that) is really important to me,” she said.

033022 Mableton: Atlanta Roller Derby jammer Anna Benbrook, aka "Gucci Maim", discusses the league and it's changes since the pandemic during team practice at their training facility on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in Mableton.    “Curtis Compton /”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@