Name: Alyx Bloom Age: 20 Location: Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas. Occupation: Full Time Student Athlete
Shooting hoops in hot socks, such is the life of student athlete Alyx Bloom. This maven on the court has a message for all young athletes out there: keep at it and you’ll succeed!
As a child growing up in the small town of Clay Center, Kansas (“Home of the Tasty Pastry Bakery and the Piotique Parade!”) Alyx dreamed of becoming the next WNBA All-Star.
“If that didn’t work out then I planned on becoming the first female President,” she adds. But measuring only 5’4” in a game that holds height as one of the strongest assets, she was quick to realize that in order to win she’d have to hone her fundamentals, and she devoted herself to improving in ways beyond strength and power. “I’ve learned to out-work, out-run, out-wit, and flat out-play my competition. I strive to be the best I can potentially be,” she says.
By always working to improve her game, Alyx secured a spot on several squads over the years, but it certainly wasn’t easy.
“I’ve spent countless hours on my own time outside of team practices: in the backyard shooting jump shots, in my basement dribbling, or studying game film of other great players. Self-discipline has really helped me improve my game and reach the next level,” she explains.
Behind her was her family, Kansas State University ball fans. After begging her parents to send her to the school’s summer camp, she finally got her wish, and got to meet many female basketball stars that she idolized, including her mentor, Nicole Ohlde. Not only did her parents’ summer solution stoke her fire, but her grandfather Steve was the one who supported her outdoor game, providing her an outdoor hoop and even lovingly nagging that she shoot 100 shots per day.
Those basketball summers eventually gave way to the life of a student athlete. Today Alyx balances basketball with books and competition with cramming. Three hour practices along with morning study sessions are the regular routine for her, along with the requisite strong pot of morning coffee! Life beyond the swish of the net is what Alyx knows she needs to focus on just as much as her game.
“Playing ball has opened up so many opportunities for me including a free education. I hope to finish my degree and apply to medical school. With a degree in Medicine, I see myself specializing in Sports Medicine. I just can’t stay away from the game, and therefore I also see myself coaching someday,” she says.
So what does future Coach Bloom have to say to young girls who are trying their hand at an athletic endeavor?
“I think too many young athletes are discouraged when they don’t succeed at first. My message to them is to never give up! Keep working hard and the game you love will soon love you back.”
Spoken like a true All-Star! For hitting the books with as much aplomb as she hits the boards, we think Alyx Bloom is one Cool Girl!
Name: Roxanne Modafferi Age: 32 Location: Las Vegas Occupation: Professional Fighter / Writer/ Teacher
Superheroes aren’t just for comic books if you look at Roxanne Modafferi! This Vegas-based pro fighting lady can kick butt in a variety of martial arts, and has even made it onto The Ultimate Fighter 18!
Initially intrigued by cartoon TV tussles, Roxanne found herself practicing Tae Kwon Do in grade school after watching Power Rangers.
“I was greatly influenced by TV superheros who always did the right thing no matter how troublesome, and saved people,” she says. She cites Dragon Ball Z fighters, Naruto, and those famous Power Rangers as some of her favorites.
While Tae Kwon Do was her first foray into fistacuffs, she wasn’t satisfied to stay within one realm.
“I got into Kempo karate, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and then my jiu-jitsu friends showed me Mixed Martial Arts and I started practicing it with them,” she explains.
But unlike most kids who just have fun fighting, Roxanne took it a bit further. She took up MMA and became a bit of a superstar as well as a superheroine. She even got on television as a real-life warrior, no cartoon fireballs or animation required.
But it hasn’t all been easy. After fighting for so many years, her body sometimes lets her know that she is, in fact, mortal.
“My biggest challenge is up-keeping my body,” she admits. “I’ve been fighting for eleven years and I have a lot of nagging injuries. Some days I feel great, some days I’m in too much pain to train.”
And there have been many KOs delivered by circumstance interspersed with her victories. A nasty bout of food poisoning in Japan led to her having to pull out of a fight. Also, a super-scary knee injury that she feared would lead her to permanently buckle. Fortunately, she’s triumphed over all of these adversaries and continued to fight to success.
“The best experience was winning the elimination fight to get me onto The Ultimate Fighter season 18 cast. It opened up such major opportunities and allowed me to become better known by the public. People were recognizing me in Walmart,” she smiles.
Outside of the ring, Roxanne writes and teaches, even publishing a book called “Memoirs of a Happy Warrior” that has sold out in hard copies, but is still available in digital format on Amazon.
As she continues to muscle up without backing down, we here at Sock It to Me salute Roxanne Modafferi for being a very Cool Girl!
Name: Payton “P-Nut!” Ridenour Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Occupation: Being a kid!
Payton “P-Nut” Ridenour has wheels on fire! This elementary school student is a top-notch BMX rider who has only been on the planet for a decade but has already blazed a trail. She’s competed in BMX at a high-level since she was seven and even qualified for the World Championships this year!
A Phoenix, Arizona transplant, P-Nut started riding in Pennsylvania when she was five. Her father, who had also done BMX as a child, took her to a local track near their house. Immediately she knew she’d found her passion, and practiced by racing local kids who were also into BMX bikes.
“There weren’t many girls,” she recalls. “Sometimes I had to race the boys. Nothing upsets parents — especially fathers — more than when a little girl beats up on their boys! To advance in the sport and to get to race more fast girls, I started competing in the New Jersey state series, and then in northeast regional and national events.” Her efforts have paid off. By now she’s traveled all over the United States making a name for herself.
“Racing is like: BOOM! Gate drop, lots of jumps, and rubbing elbows,” she says. Sounds intense! So does she have any advice for other girls who are looking to get into BMX racing?
Name: Carly Bogen, aka Straight Razor of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby Age: 25 Location: New York City Occupation: Language Services Quality Manager/Vice President, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Even though Carly Bogen played guitar in her bedroom for years, she never got the guts to join a band. You’d think that someone who was too shy to rock out on stage wouldn’t become a trash-talking, bruise-giving, point-snatching roller derby icon, but that’s exactly what happened.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Carly’s daytime persona is the quality services manager of a language services company in Manhattan. She spends her working hours typing at lightening speed and relaying the latest tales of her other life at the roller derby as Straight Razor, which is Carly’s nickname on skates. Growing up, she wasn’t the athletic type, though she dabbled in various sports, she never got involved on any deep level. “I ended up as a pretty sedentary teenager. It wasn’t until my college years that I became physically active and discovered how awesome it feels to be athletic and competitive,” she says. These days, one of her biggest challenges is making up for that lost time. Many women in roller derby grew up playing sports and being physically active, so Carly struggles to attain the same level of athleticism and endurance.
“I have two main challenges these days,” she says. “Finding enough time in my life to run a non-profit business, practice three times a week, hold a full-time job and still manage not to lose my mind. My other main challenge is to continue to improve at the sport despite the injuries and the constant physical and mental challenges it presents.”
Carly didn’t grow up on skates, or have a starry-eyed relationship with the sport before competing. In fact, she didn’t know a thing about roller derby before she saw it with her own eyes. “I met Lemony Kickit, a now retired Gotham Girl, at a party about a month before her first bout in early 2007. She suggested I come check it out. I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about, but it sounded cool, so I went. I feel immediately in love, bought skates, and started training my ass off!”
She isn’t the only one to have been in the dark about the sport. In fact, most people only have only heard about it through pop-culture, or their older relatives’ memories of its earlier notoriety. [Note: The author of this profile only had heard about it because her late aunt had competed in a league back in the ’70s, much to her family’s chagrin.] Even though Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page recently brought attention to roller derby with their film Whip It, the sport has been around for years. Back in 1922, the Chicago Tribune coined the term roller derby in an article about multi-day, flat-track roller skating competitions. The thing is, this article was citing the banked-track roller skating marathons written about in The New York Times back in 1885 an 1914. The roots of the derby run deep.
Over the years, promoters began to highlight the physical contact that came with the sport, as well as the element of teamwork. Although they were known as being endurance competitions, the sport of roller derby went through cycles of popularity throughout the twentieth century, even being broadcast on the radio and television during the 1960s. Towards the end of the last century, the attention and enthusiasm for roller derby waned, until a bunch of women came together to start a grassroots, non-profit league in California around the year 2000. Suddenly the sport began to catch on, its emphasis on campy humor, brutal physicality, and a do-it-yourself spirit it attracted a host of new players and veterans alike. All across the country non-profit leagues started, practicing together and competing against one another. The bouts had rules and refs, the players had outfits and protective gear, and the teams and personalities had names that combined some wicked wordplay. When Carly Bogen began skating, a transformation took place.
“I was at Nationals in Austin in 2007, asking everyone around me what I should be called,” she remembers. “I wanted something that wasn’t your standard pun. Someone suggested Straight Razor and I went with it. Robin Drugstores from the Philly Roller girls has one of my favorite names. In fact, the entire Liberty Belles team has some pretty incredible derby names.”
Although the names are hilarious and the outfits (at times) scandalous, there’s much more to roller derby than simply girl-power and ferocity. Many people don’t realize that it is a non-profit, which means that scraping together pennies for practice areas, transportation, and, yes, those very outfits, requires ingenuity and hard work. Straight Razor knows about this all too well.
“We practice at a warehouse which we pay a huge amount of rent for,” she says. “There are no roller rinks in New York City, so it’s a fight for us to find a place to skate. We practice four times a week, from February through November.” That’s nine months of rent to find a way to afford.
The Gotham Girls league was founded back in 2003 and consists of four teams: the Bronx Gridlock, Brooklyn Bombshells, Manhattan Mayhem, and Queens of Pain. The league is part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and not only do they play one another, but they play out of state WFTDA teams as well. The Gotham Girls also consist of two inter-league teams, the Wall Street Traitors and the Gotham Girls All-Stars. The Gotham Girls All-Stars compete in the sanctioned WFTDA inter-league matches, and points from those bouts count towards national rankings. The Gotham Girls league even has a team of rookies, known as the Meatpacking District.
As a 501c3 non-profit organization, the Girls rely on ticket sales, donations, merchandise, and sponsorship to keep the machine of their league running. The players are unpaid when it comes to money, but get rich with their rough-n-tumble reputations and near rock-star status among roller derby groupies. In fact, the Gotham Girls are one of the country’s top-ranked teams.
Of course, roller derby is known for being a contact sport, and contact can easily lead to injuries. “I broke my front tooth at my very first scrimmage,” Straight Razor recalls. “With my mouth-guard in! I also had to sit about four months early last year due to tendonitis in my hip flexor. There was also a minor separated shoulder last November, but that healed up quick. Injuries are part of the game, but I consider myself lucky – I still have two good knees…knock on wood!”
Her passion for roller derby is what helps the bruises to hurt less, and running the Gotham Girls has helped every bump and scrape feel like a badge of honor. “I don’t keep it a secret,” Carly says about her roller derby fervor. “I’m proud of it. I love it. I spend more time playing roller derby and running the non-profit beast that is Gotham Girls more than I do anything else.”
For reviving the sport of roller derby, and helping the Wall Street Traitors and Manhattan Mayhem skate to victory in 2010, Straight Razor is one Cool Girl!
If you’d like to witness some derby madness in your area, look online and see who your local teams are, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association site (http://wftda.com/) is a great resource. For those of you in the New York metropolitan area, the Gotham Girls Roller Derby website (www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com) is the place to find out where the next match up is taking place, and to donate. Remember if you go, to cheer on Straight Razor!
Name: Talia Fromm Age: 25 Location: New York, New York Occupation: Physical Education Teacher & Coach/President, Brooklyn Women’s Rugby
As a little girl in Bayside, Queens, Talia Fromm wanted to be a police officer. Her older brother, Daniel, was able to persuade her to pursue a different career path, but even the her mother’s disapproval couldn’t keep her away from the rough-and-tumble game of rugby. As an adult, Talia is a rugby player and team president, heading the Brooklyn Women’s Rugby Team.
At 16, Talia was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy, which plagued her with tiny jerks in her extremities and shoulders. This variety of epilepsy occasionally leads to a seizure, but Talia was lucky enough to only have two seizures prior to being medicated. Fortunately medication has allowed her to manage the symptoms as an adult, but she remembers that the uncontrollable twitches and shakes that she experienced as a teenager in school were scary and humiliating. “The fact that the doctor told me I had to be on medication for the rest of my life didn’t sit very well either,” she remembers. “My mind and body had to get used to it all; going to the hospital regularly, taking medicine twice a day, accepting what was happening, and finding how to balance my love for sports with this new challenge I was facing.” After more than eight years, Talia has proven that Epilepsy has no control over her athletic ability or career.
Handling her Epilepsy has caused Talia to have a different perspective than most people. She cites her biggest influences as athletes who have triumphed in spite of physical disabilities, those who have become active and competitive despite whatever struggles their bodies may endure. “We are all guilty of having lazy days and not wanting to move a muscle, but many of us take advantage of the fact that we are healthy and have a working body to do whatever we would like,” she says. “When I find myself mentally defeated or falling into lazy tendencies, I think about those who aren’t as lucky and don’t get to walk or run whenever they would like. When I see an athlete who has to overcome an obstacle like a physical disability, whether it is temporary or permanent, it pushes me to go harder and not take advantage of what I’ve got.”
Further proof of Talia’s success was her Division I softball career in college. Following graduation, she didn’t want to simply settle into a sedentary lifestyle. Having athletic friends allowed her to be connected to other options, including women’s pro football, which she played for a year. Around the same time, Talia’s friend Emily had started to play for Brooklyn Women’s Rugby. The team was short several players one weekend, and Talia was called upon to help out. It was from that short stint volunteering that Talia became one of the most involved players in the league. “I was hooked,” she says. These days Talia and the team practice two times a week and once every weekend.
The game itself is as rough as you’d imagine, but that isn’t necessarily the most invigorating part of playing. “At first I thought the best experiences on the field would be hitting someone really hard and tackling them to the ground,” Talia says. “As good as it feels to get a great tackle, I’ve come to realize that the most amazing feeling on the rugby pitch [Note: The term pitch in rugby refers to the field] for me is being able to avoid one. When you receive the ball and an opponent is coming straight toward you, the rush you get is indescribable. On top of that, when you are able to give them a stiff arm, avoid the tackle, and run the whole field to score, that’s the ultimate rush.”
All of that pushing and shoving does occasionally have the kind of consequences you’d expect, however. Talia has even experienced the pain of a concussion. “I didn’t think it was that bad at first, but I had to be hospitalized for the remainder of the day until I regained my memory and self-awareness. As frightening as that might sound, it only made me appreciate the sport more. I’m well aware that serious injuries are inherent with rugby, but with proper technique and strategy, a lot of it can — and should — be avoided. I definitely learned that and a lot more in the time that I have been playing and practicing since then.” It’s that kind of courageous and sensible approach that has helped to make her not only a player in the league, but the president of a team.
Women’s rugby has been gaining in popularity, in part because of Talia and other players, coaches, and team leaders like her. Although public opinion may be improving, the same can’t be said about everyone. “To be completely honest, the only person I get flack from is my mother. She didn’t like me playing pro football because of the contact and roughness, so rugby makes her even more concerned and upset.” At least Talia’s mother can rest assured, knowing that her daughter is a capable player, who also lends her mind and body to passing on the legacy of sportsmanship as a P.E. teacher and coach.
After majoring in Sports Management at Townson University in Maryland, Talia spent a year behind a desk in New York, working a corporate gig. The job drained her energy for all the wrong reasons. “I was really unhappy because I was losing touch with my passion for sports and I had to sit behind a desk and in front of a computer all day, every day. It wasn’t for me.” It was then that she was inspired to pursue her graduate degree in Physical Education at Brooklyn College. She researched private schools in the city that were in need of Phys Ed teachers, and after months of searching and studying, Talia was both enrolled in school and starting her new job as a teacher and coach. Reflecting on how her career path had turned, she says, “I am so lucky and happy with the degree I’m pursuing and the job that I have. The kids make me laugh, and I get to run around and be active all day.”
Every morning she gets up and works out before heading into school. She teaches until mid-afternoon, and then coaches until the evening. After that, she either goes to rugby practice, graduate school, or she shoots hoops competitively for the recreational basketball team that she’s on. Talk about an active schedule!
She’s not stopping there, either. Talia’s love of administration united with athleticism has led her to set her sights on becoming the athletic director of a competitive high-school or college athletics program. “I like the idea of managing everything that encompasses an athletics program to make sure it is in order and growing, all while being able to surround myself in the physical and sporty environment that I love.” Combined with her love of children, and her inquisitive nature that regards everyone as capable of achieving their athletic goals, Talia’s on the fast track to a victorious future.
“The children I teach love that I play rugby. It’s unfamiliar to them, so the fact that they’re learning about a new, exciting, physically tough sport AND that I’m a female playing it is cool,” she says.
If you’re interested in women’s rugby, and happen to be in the New York metro area, here’s a little more information on Brooklyn Women’s Rugby:
As an independent women’s team, they’re trailblazers, as most women’s teams are born from an existing men’s team or club. Brooklyn Women’s Rugby welcomes any women who want to learn or compete on the pitch, all while being a part of an energetic, fun, and dynamic team. A Division II member of the Metropolitan New York Rugby Football Union, Brooklyn Women’s Rugby play have a fall season that starts at the beginning of September and goes until the end of November. The division is made up of six teams, and they play each team once. In the spring there is a season where matches are set up between teams within the division as well as local teams. There are also summer tournaments that they’re a part of.
If you’d rather spectate, all of their home matches are held at the Red Hook Playground in Red Hook, Brooklyn, at the corner of Hicks Street and Bay Street. They practice two days a week: Mondays in Prospect Park at 6:30PM , that practice is held between the baseball diamonds on the right hand side of the path at 9th Street and Prospect Park West. On Thursdays the team is at the Red Hook Playround at 6:30, and their pitch is in the center of the track, the one with bleachers for all the fans. If you’re thinking of waiting until it warms up, pre-season spring practices start in February at their indoor facility at PS 282 (for more information on the location, visit www.ps282.org.)
For more information on player dues, officers, captains, and a full schedule, visit the team website, www.brooklynwomensrugby.org. Any women interested in joining or who would like to contact Talia and her other team members with questions or concerns can email them at [email protected]