When Conewago Township, Adams County, grandma Tracey Farrow laces up her crimson-and-black roller skates, she feels like a different person. The easy-going mom is gone — replaced with ThoroughBled, a Charm City Roller Girl player known for skating after other roller derby players like a shark hunting its prey.
Farrow has been skating with the Charm City Roller Girls for four years. Teammates and fans affectionately call her the Queen of the Penalty Box (after a league award she actually won). Farrow travels an hour each way to get to skating practice in Baltimore three times a week. The Baltimore team is currently ranked No. 3 (out of 34 teams) in the East Coast Region by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. While Farrow said her time commitment to the Charm City Roller Girls can be difficult with a family, Farrow loves that when her kids see her play, they see her as a strong and independent woman. Find out more about this local, hard-hitting roller derby woman.
How did you discover roller derby?
When I was younger I was into speed skating. I was looking online one day and something came up about roller derby and that’s when I found out about the Dutchland Rollers in Lancaster. I skated with that team for two seasons. I lived in Maryland at the time, so I transferred to the Baltimore team, Charm City Roller Girls. It all came from just being nosy online. That was around five years ago.
What specific teams in the Charm City league do you play for?
Mobtown Mods is my home team and then the Charm City All-Stars. The home team is more for the girls who don’t want to travel and just want to play for fun. There are so many different types of skaters on the teams. The All-Stars is for skaters that are at higher-end skill levels. It’s more professional. It’s the best of the best of the league. We travel. We’ve been to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Championships twice.
What’s it like going to WFTDA Championships?
It’s pretty amazing. We get to fly. We get to have a mini-vacation after all of the sweat and tears and all of that good stuff. We spent a week in Denver last time and it was really nice. After elimination, we watched the rest of the games. It was all derby, all weekend. I also won a free pair of skates during a raffle.
How would you describe your skating style?
I love being aggressive. Being an old speed skater, I’m pretty quick. When I come out of the penalty box, I fly back and try to hit someone. I try to make my arms out like a shark and come out to get a jammer. It’s cool to hear the announcers say that I’m the only grandma in CCRG and that “I bet your grandma isn’t that cool.”
Did you skate a lot growing up?
As a child, I skated with my brother. I grew up at the Magic Elm (in Hanover). I was there a good five or six days a week. It kept me out of trouble. Kept me off the streets. I definitely believe that.
What kind of skates do you wear?
I got the Vanilla Revenge boots. It’s like putting your feet inside of a pillow. Roller skates are so soft. I didn’t have to break them in. They’re more comfortable than my regular shoes.
Have you been injured? Where and how?
We were scrimmaging Baltimore’s men’s team, Harm City Homicide. I was between two men and they were each about 240 pounds. They both decided to hit me together. My left shoulder had Acromioclavicular joint separation and a tear in my bone. It took about two months to heal. I’ve had a concussion during a bout. A referee hit me on the back of the head by accident.
Roller Derby is a tough sport. Do you ever feel worried about being injured?
I feel that if you avoid a hit that you’re more unstable and likely to get hurt. Sometimes I get butterflies. At the start of the whistle it all goes away. I’ve injured people. I’ve hurt a girl. She broke something in her knee. I always feel bad about that.
How do you balance being a roller derby super star and having a family?
My life is hectic. The kids are getting home from school when I’m going to practice. Sometimes it gets hard to leave the family to do derby. Somehow things fall into place. So far, so good. My kids are proud of me.
Is there a certain kind of person that roller derby is aimed at?
No. It’s for everyone, all shapes and sizes. We train from the get go how to skate and fall. It’s for everyone. I’ve seen infants and 70 year olds at the games. It brings back memories for them.
Why do you think so many different people are drawn to the sport of roller derby?
People like to see women doing something athletic and fun. We make a lot of friends and derby sisters. It’s a lot of family. Fans like to see women being strong and powerful.
What area teams have you been involved in coaching and helping with? Why do you try to help the competition?
I’ve done a lot with the Black Rose Rollers in Hanover. I like to pass along what I’ve learned like the others who helped me. (Farrow also gives skating lessons to aspiring roller derby players.)
Do any of your daughters play roller derby? Would you like them to get involved?
I would love to have a little roller derby team. I would love to find a junior roller derby league for them. If we get a team for juniors, I think my girls will get involved. Maybe Tripp can be a little referee.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from roller derby?
How to be confident and be a leader. To be able to put on a show and entertain people.
Who inspires you?
I’ve always been a big fan of Pink. She has so much strength. She’s a powerful professional.
If you could play any other sport what would it be?
I’d want to be a barrel racer again. I can’t see leaving roller derby though. It’s a big part of my life. I’d be extremely bored.
Who is your favorite non-roller derby athlete?
I love Ray Rice from the Ravens. He’s a pretty amazing little guy. He runs all the touchdowns. When you see him standing next to the other guys, it’s kind of funny. He’s an amazing player.
What is your proudest roller derby moment?
There is a video of me on YouTube taking out two skaters. But my proudest moment is coming out of the (penalty) box and doing what I do. Doing what people love to see me do. But I don’t purposefully go in there (the penalty box)!
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
The skater you see is on the track is not the person at home. I’m just really intimidating to them, but I don’t really see why. I’m a sweetheart outside of derby.
What’s your favorite thing to do in York County?
About Tracey Farrow
Age: 37 (38 in August)
Lives in: Conewago Township in Adams County
Family: Husband, Kevin; children, Sarah, 19; Lainie, 13; Heaven, 10; Savanna, 8; and grandsons, Tripp, 2; Paisley, 1; and granddaughter Ilyana, born in March; as well as a pitbull boxer, Rebel; pitbull puppy, Tucker and a horse, Spirit.
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom and Vanilla Skates’ Vanilla Derby representative
Favorite hobby (besides roller derby): Tracey has been involved in rodeo since she was a kid. She was a barrel racer for 15 years and won ribbons for competing.
Awards won: The Charm City Roller Girls All-Stars won third place in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s East Coast Regionals in 2011; they also won third place in 2010. Tracey has also been named the Most Intimidating Player and Hardest Hitter for three years by the Charm City Roller Girls League. She also won the title of Queen of the Penalty Box 2008 in Dutchland and in Charm City for the past three years. She was recently named Most Likely to be First Great Grandma in the Charm City Roller Girls League.
See her play
Cheer for ThoroughBled and the women of Charm City Roller Girls live. The Baltimore league takes on other roller derby teams from all around the world at the Du Burns Arena, 1301 South Ellwood Avenue, Baltimore. More information can be found at charmcityrollergirls.com. Here are some upcoming home games:
There will be a roller derby double header at the Du Burns Arena 5:30 to 10 p.m. May 12 at Du Burns Arena. Salisbury Rollergirls will play the Charm City Roller Girls league team Female Trouble in the first game of the night. In the second game, Charm City Roller Girls’ All Stars will take on Nashville Rollergirls.
Catch a roller derby header from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on July 7 at Du Burns Arena. Philly Independence Dolls will compete against the Charm City Roller Girls’ team Female Trouble. The second game of the evening is a match between Charm City Roller Girls’ All Stars versus Philly Liberty Belles (the Philly team is currently ranked by WFTDA as No. 2 in the East Coast Region).
More about area roller derby
Find a list of local roller derby teams and leagues, learn how the game is played, see ThoroughBled’s skating strategy and more here.