Skater name: Premo Donna
Teams: Hard Knockers, Burning River All-Stars
1. How did you get into derby?
I remember hearing something about roller derby a few years back and wondering if it was still around. Then I saw “Whip It” (like so many others) and wondered if Cleveland had a roller derby league. I looked online and found BRRG. My husband and I went to some games in 2010 and I was hooked after the first one. I bought a BRRG t-shirt and a deck of trading cards. The funny thing was, my cousin (Veruca Salty) was a rookie that year, but I had no idea. I even had her trading card and thought it was such a cool name (I’m a huge “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” fan), but didn’t recognize her in the photo on her card because of derby names. I saw her mention something on Facebook about an upcoming bout, looked into it and found out she was a Hard Knocker! She encouraged me to go to Fresh Meat sign ups that year and from then on I was hooked.
2. What has surprised you about derby?
How physically demanding it is. I mean, you know from watching it that it’s a physical sport, but you don’t realize how much endurance and stamina it takes to actually be able to play this sport for an hour straight. I’ve always been in decent shape but have never worked out so hard in my life before I started playing derby!
3. What has been the biggest challenge to you in derby?
My biggest challenge so far has been trying to get over being so hard on myself when I make a mistake or don’t get something right away. I’m my own worst enemy, and I tend to get really down about the things I don’t do right. I don’t give myself any credit for the things I do well either. It’s a work-in-progress.
4. You came in as a rookie and tore the track up as a jammer. To who/what do you attribute your jamming skills to?
When I first started, all I had was being fast. I could skate fast so I thought that would make me a good jammer. Then, during practices, I found out that you have to be really agile and be in really good shape so you can have the stamina to race around that track for two minutes straight. I would watch all these awesome jammers — Sparkles, Mommy’s Little Monster, Take-Out, Rainbow Fright, CupQuake, the Killustrator — and try to do what they do. Then, when I was drafted to the Knockers, Take-Out would teach me a lot about agility, using my levels, being a smart jammer — all these skills necessary to be a good jammer. She really encouraged me and taught me a lot. Everyone on my team has been so encouraging and they really helped me out. I try to put everything I learn into practice whenever possible. Even when I’m walking through a crowd, I try to practice my agility to step around people. I try to make myself really small and see if I can get through the crowded room without touching anyone. People may look at me funny but I’ve noticed a difference!
5. How does it feel to be a rookie on the Burning River All-Stars?
I was really excited to be accepted to All-Stars! I almost couldn’t believe it when they told me I was on the team. I was also really intimidated, playing with all these awesome girls, and playing WITH players I usually play AGAINST. It’s a different dynamic, but I’m so excited about the opportunity! I haven’t played a game with All-Stars yet, but the chance to play against leagues from other cities and other states is exciting! I’ve also been able to start developing my blocking skills practicing with All-Stars, which is really helping me in my goal to be a good Renaissance skater!
6. What are your goals for the upcoming season?
I’d really like to focus on being a good all-around player. I love jamming, but it is essential to be a good blocker in this game. I don’t always jam, and I want to be a good asset to my teams no matter what position I play.
7. What is your day job?
I’m a registered veterinary technician. I’m able to do everything a veterinarian does except diagnose, perform surgery and prescribe medications (all of which take about six more years of education to be able to do — just like a human doctor). A lot of people think it’s like a nurse for animals, but it’s so much more. I do nursing care, but I also draw blood, take x-rays, administer and monitor anesthesia, do dental cleanings, assist in surgery, perform laboratory tests, IV catheters and IV fluid maintenance, client education, and on and on. So many people think it’s playing with puppies and kittens all day, but it can be really stressful. It’s also highly rewarding, especially when the puppy you’ve been nursing through parvo for the last week gets to go home, happy and healthy, to the little boy who got him for his birthday.
8. Tell us about your horseback-riding hobby.
I guess I never grew out of my “I love horses” phase. As far back as I can remember I have loved horses, so when I had a steady income and was able to pay for lessons myself, I started taking them. I’ve been at the same awesome stable for about four years now, taking lessons two days a week. I absolutely love it. I get to be around the horses, and I’m learning something new all the time. I don’t ride one particular discipline all the time. One day it could be saddleseat, and the next it could be dressage. I haven’t been able to show yet, but I’d like to get into that at some point. I’m also learning how to drive a cart, which is really fun!
9. Who is your derby crush?
Wow, I have been star struck from day one with BRRG! We have so many awesome players, it’s hard to pick just one now that I’m playing for the league! When I was just a spectator though, the skaters I liked to watch most were Monster and Rainbow. They both just look so happy to be on skates!
10. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I have a trifecta of interesting hobbies — all of which require helmets. Before horseback riding and before derby, there was riding my quad (four-wheeler, to most people). My dad and his best friend would take us kids to Pennsylvania on weekends to go riding on the trails. This started when I was about 6 years old. I’ve been riding quads ever since. My dad and brothers have stopped riding, but my best friend Heather and I still do. I have two quads of my own, and it’s taken me across the country. I’ve met some lifelong friends because of it. We ride all over the place: trails in Pennsylvania, sand dunes in Michigan, Idaho and Utah. There was a time I actually wanted to get into racing, but it’s expensive, and now I work on weekends, which makes it hard. I don’t get to ride as much as I used to, but it’s in my blood, and it’s something I’ll never stop doing.