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Jessica Lider is a roller derby dame

David Andrew Morris


Jessica Lider


Lider (at left in photo), 31, is a teacher by day at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester. By night, she’s a roller derby dame nicknamed “Lil’ Paine.” She leads her team in the Boston Derby Dames league of the 2012 Women’s Flat Track Derby season.


Home games will again be played at Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington. The league’s schedule can be found at


Q. There are a few different female roller derby teams in Boston, correct?

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A. Yeah. There’s the team I coach and play on, the Boston Massacre, which is the travel A-team. There’s also the Cosmonaughties, the Nutcrackers, and the Wicked Pissahs, and a B-level team called the Boston B Party. They all belong to the Boston Derby Dames, which is the name of the league for the area.

Q. How did you get into roller derby?

A. I moved to Boston for graduate school and in the process of looking for apartments, I met a few girls living in a house in Jamaica Plain. While I was touring their apartment, one of them said she had to leave for roller derby practice. I was like, “Wait, what? Can I come?” It just sounded awesome. I didn’t wind up living there, or trying out immediately, but the idea kind of stuck with me and I tried out about a year later.

Q. And you’re a teacher now?


A. Yes, I’ve been teaching in Boston for about six years now.

Q. How do you balance a full-time job and playing a competitive sport?

A. I just have to be really organized about my time. I work at a private school and work about eight or nine hours a day. Basically, I’m doing work right up until I go to practice. I try really hard to eat healthy throughout the day so I don’t run out of steam, that way, when I go to practice for three hours, I can give it my all.

Q. How old are your students?

A. They’re in sixth grade, so roughly 11 years old.


Q. And do you tell them that this is what you do in addition to teaching?

‘I know that roller derby and my job overlap, but being an athlete and a professional, I have to be really careful about how much I expose.’

A. Well, in the first month or so of school, I don’t really want to divert the conversation away from academics. But once October rolls around, I tell them a little bit more about it.

Q. Are they curious about it, or familiar with the sport?

A. I mean, the Internet takes care of so much wondering these days. I have had students say, “Hey, I saw your picture on the Internet.” But I’m really conscious about that, especially when I play. I know that roller derby and my job overlap, but being an athlete and a professional, I have to be really careful about how much I expose. Of course [my teammates and I] get really passionate about it, but I try and keep that in check, you know? There’s a next generation of roller girls, and we should make them proud.

Q. Have any of your students ever come to a game?

A. Last year one of my students came to watch, and she brought her whole family. It was really sweet.

Q. What’s a typical practice like?

A. They run for about three hours. So, the first 45 minutes, we focus on skating techniques, foot work, and movement; it’s basically trying to get your feet moving faster, and getting used to being in awkward positions. Then we do endurance skating, which is trying to push our aerobic levels and train at maximum speed the entire time. But it’s not just about speed — it’s about going at full tilt and people trying to knock you down. We also break down the thousands of things that could happen on the rink, into pieces. Communication is also a huge part of it.

Q. Any crazy injuries?

A. I’ve actually been really lucky with that. I work out at a cross-fit gym, so we do a ton of muscle conditioning.

Q. What is it about roller derby that keeps you coming back every year?

A. It’s just something that has endless possibility for growth. There’s no ceiling. I grew up playing sports and watching sports, and there’s just something about experiencing that glory that’s intrinsic to being part of a competitive human experience. We’re all in pursuit of this international championship that other teams have won and that’s what we’re aiming for. It’s the hunger that keeps you pushing through the pain. It’s also pretty amazing to be a part of an organization that’s so young; we get to shape the future. It’s not corporate at all, unlike so many other sports.

Q. What are your goals for yourself and your team for the season?

A. We would really like to compete at nationals. I think it’s so important though to note that this is about team pursuit and an opportunity to play with incredibly talented athletes. These people just make my life richer, and their willingness to put their own body on the line to protect their teammates is incredible. Erica Thompson

Interview was condensed and edited. Erica Thompson can be reached at erica.thompson