Name: Kerri Nelson, MS, CCC-SLP
Title: Speech-Language Pathologist, Nevada Early Intervention Services
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Kerri Nelson (center) and her Tommy Gun Terrors teammates train for the 2013 season.
With helmets, knee pads and roller skates, Kerri Nelson (a.k.a. "Amazon Grace" in the rink) is literally putting her game face on. As she applies makeup, the newest member of the Tommy Gun Terrors can't wait to skate in her first bout against the Hoover Damned in the Las Vegas Sin City Roller Girls' 2013 season. Nelson is one of the newest recruits in a league that welcomes all ages—from college graduates to grandmothers—and enthralls crowds with some full-contact Roller Derby. Cheering her on rink side will be her coworkers from Nevada Early Intervention Services, where she works by day as a speech-language pathologist in early intervention.
"They are very excited to cheer me on," she says, laughing. "It will be so fun having my own cheer section!"
So what turned this SLP who spends her days working on language with infants and toddlers into a menace on roller skates at night? It all happened last spring at the birthday party for a friend's 11-year-old daughter. The party was at a skating rink and Nelson started looking around. Who knows, maybe it was the lights, maybe it was the music—whatever it was, it reminded her that she used to love roller skating. A lot. And, at age 31, she needed to find a way to do it more.
"I used to live on roller skates when I was a kid and I was looking for a good workout hobby," she says. "It's kind of weird to just go roller skate now, so I decided to check out Roller Derby."
Although entering the rink for a full-contact Roller Derby bout isn't what many people would do on a whim (Gee, couldn't she just join a gym?) Nelson went to try-outs with a "que sera sera" attitude and figured, "If I didn't like it, I didn't have to do it, but I had to try because what if it is something I'm really going to love?" Not only did she like it (OK, she loved it) but it also became evident that she had retained some of her childhood roller skating skills. Each potential derby girl who wants to play for one of the league's six teams must endure a three-month "Roller Derby boot camp" and pass a skills test. Although Nelson admitted that boot camp was tough, she passed the skills test with flying colors.
Skating with teammates with names like Despicable Mia and Diva Destruction, Nelson admits that her Roller Derby hobby is the polar opposite of what she does by day. But that's fine with her. Working with families with infants and toddlers takes a completely different kind of mindset, she says, and she gets satisfaction from both sides of her life.
"Early intervention is what I love. It's been so great," she says. "I like seeing the progress you can make with children that young. It changes their life, their interactions with their parents—it changes everything for them. Roller Derby is just a bunch of women coming together to skate, get a good workout and play well."
Such is the double life of Kerri Nelson. Although her coworkers will be there cheering her on, that's where the mix ends. She admits that she has come to really enjoy her teammates and making friends, but everyone in the rink comes from such different backgrounds that it's hard to think about them all having day jobs.
"It's all very separate. Even though we all come together for this sport that we love and get to know each other really well, sometimes someone will say to me, 'Wait, what do you do again?'"