Roller Derby Inspires Essay Publication
Lessons learned on the roller derby track have led to nearly a year of research— and an essay publication in a national journal—for SUNY Oneonta student Kajee Kodrich-Quick of Unadilla, N.Y.
Titled “Hitting up the ladder: Leadership Lessons from a Derby Girl,” Kodrich-Quick’s piece appears in the March issue of Women in Higher Education, a nationally recognized, monthly journal for women in the field of higher education.
Kodrich-Quick, a physics education major with a minor in women’s and gender studies and a graduate of Unatego Junior-Senior High School, is a member of the Derailing Darlings derby team, part of the Hill City Rollers league. She went to her first roller derby practice in spring 2012 at the urging of a friend. “After trying the first practice, I fell in love,” she said. “Derby doesn’t discriminate based on size or money, like many of my high school sports did. Everyone has the chance to grow as players and try either position (blocker or pivot). I personally like to play both.”
Last summer, Kodrich-Quick approached Dr. Susan Bernardin, professor of English and chair of SUNY Oneonta’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department, with the idea for an independent study in which she would examine how roller derby participants are challenging ideas of beauty, strength and sexuality. “Roller derby’s explosive growth across the country among women from diverse backgrounds offers us interesting opportunities to address the sport’s relationship between athleticism and performance, femininity and masculinity,” said Bernardin. “A hallmark of roller derby is its embrace of all body types and its tongue-in-cheek, often startling uniforms of fishnet stockings and short shorts. We have been reading articles by sociologists and other social scientists, and Kajee is interviewing players on her team about how roller derby has shaped their perception of feminism, of themselves and their bodies.”
Kodrich-Quick will present her findings at the spring 2014 Women’s and Gender Studies Student Symposium on campus.
The journal publication opportunity came about after the college’s departments of Women’s and Gender Studies and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences partnered to host Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, geologist and president of Southern Polytechnic State University, for a daylong visit in November. Rossbacher spoke with students and faculty, and gave a lecture on women and leadership. After hearing Kodrich-Quick’s description of roller derby as a community for empowering women, Rossbacher encouraged her to write a piece on “leadership lessons I have learned from roller derby,” and submit it to the journal for consideration.
Kodrich-Quick said the self-confidence and leadership skills she’s developed, both in the classroom and on the roller derby track, will help her to become a better teacher. “The lessons I’ve learned in roller derby and as a women’s studies minor have made me more confident within myself,” she said. “This is an important characteristic to have as a teacher. Students constantly judge teachers, on their looks, how they talk … almost anything. Students also look up to teachers. As a woman entering the physics teaching field, I am giving other young women role models and showing them that women can, and do, succeed in the scientific world.”