During the day, Colleen Zachman taps into her creative side by teaching art class at Guilford Elementary School. At night, she feeds her competitive spirit by strapping on a pair of tight, leather roller skates with bright red wheels and laces, and circling around a glossy track.
When a couple of Zachman’s friends told her about a league they joined in Philadelphia, she wanted to learn more so she tuned into A&E’s Rollergirls, a reality television show about a roller derby league in Austin, Texas.
"I thought it is a really nice blend of fierceness and femininity," Zachman said. "And you don’t have to apologize for either."
When the DC Rollergirls formed in 2006, the 25-year-old jumped on board.
The DC Rollergirls, a flat-track roller derby league, is made up of four teams, the DC Democats, the Cherry Blossom Bombshells, Scare Force One and Secretaries of Hate. Zachman is a Cherry Blossom Bombshell who goes by the name "X-abitchinest."
"We all have derby names," she said. "She’s my alter ego."
ZACHMAN’S No.1 fan is her husband, Charlie Zachman. Charlie Zachman, now a teacher in Maryland, was a competitive speed skater in high school.
When Colleen Zachman asked him for roller skating lessons, he was happy to lend a hand.
"I was looking for an excuse to skate again," he said. "It had been years since I skated, probably a decade."
Soon, the Rollergirls recruited Charlie Zachman to referee their bouts, or matches.
"I didn’t know much about roller derby, but I knew plenty about skating," he said.
Charlie Zachman, who goes by the derby name "Deutsch Bag," said it is difficult to ref such an intense game in such a loud arena.
During a bout, two teams engage in a series of plays called "jams." Four skaters from each team are known as "blockers" and comprise "the pack." Two "jammers," one from each team, must break through the pack and then score a point for each opposing blocker they lap. Walloping body checks, flinging "whips," and lightning-fast maneuvering are just some of the skills on display during a typical bout.
"It’s hard to see everything and the atmosphere is intense," Charlie Zachman said. "But the players do a good job of leaving it on the track."
At the end of Colleen Zachman’s first bout, she said she noticed something pretty special.
"This is the only sport I’ve ever played where we hug the other team after we just pummeled them," she said.
AT THE BEGINNING of the season, the elementary-school teacher kept her professional life separate from her derby-filled night. But when she broke her ankle in three places during practice, she was forced to come clean.
"When I came in with my cast, I had to tell [my students] what was up," Zachman said. "I told them about the game and the rules. They ate up. They’re really excited about it."
Even though Zachman’s injury will keep her out of competition, she still attends practices three to four times a week and plans to attend future bouts.
The next bout, "Red, White and Bruised," will be held Saturday, June 30, at the Dulles Sportsplex.
The league will provide a bus from Asylum bar in Washington, D.C., to the Dulles Sportsplex in Sterling, and back to the bar for an after party, for $25.
"It’s a lot of fun. And it’s a great way to get people from Washington, D.C., into Virginia," Charlie Zachman said.
The Zachmans also plan on attending Rollercon, a national roller derby convention in Las Vegas, Nev.
"I can’t wait to skate again," Colleen Zachman said. "I will definitely be there next season."