Spaztik Pepper #23
“It’s not how many times you fall but how many times you get back up that’s important!”
As she tears around the last turn, wheels screeching like a wraith and eyes blazing behind skeletor face paint, Spaztik Pepper is a creature from nightmares and horror movies—but only if you’re on the opposing team. Otherwise, Co-Captain Pepper is a dream. And lucky for us, when we wake up, she’s still here!
Pepper, with unwavering optimism, sees only the best in everybody and every situation. With absolute faith and belief in her teammates and our organization as a whole, she leads, challenges, and advances us continually to new levels of success. It’s a delicate balance, pushing a group of people to consistently do better while simultaneously buoying up spirits and attitudes. But Pepper, with grace and poise, executes that balance the same way she skates. And if you’ve ever seen her evade hits and blocks, staying in bounds on two wheels, and sneaking by the defense with a spin jump and a nailed backwards landing, you’ll know that balance is an impressive thing indeed.
There are so many impressive things about Pepper, from her fancy footwork to her compassionate leadership to her boundless enthusiasm, energy, and devotion to the league. We can’t wait to see what else she’ll bring in the upcoming season. Keep on impressing us, Pepper.
Read on to learn more about Pepper!
How did you come up with your name?
I wanted a name that wouldn’t go out of style as pop culture changed, and I also wanted a clean name I wouldn’t be ashamed to have my young nephew yelling from the sidelines. Spaztik comes from the fact that I have epilepsy. I figure I may as well have fun with all the spasms, right? (It’s also why I go a little crazy when I do my lap when I’m announced at home games!) Pepper comes simply from my absolute obsession with Diet Cherry Dr Pepper!
What position(s) do you like to play and why?
I began my journey as a jammer. I loved juking around blockers, being too bouncy for them to catch, and being able to tap into super speed as I lap back to the pack. I have since grown to love blocking and taking on the pivot position. I like helping my jammer get through walls by playing a bit of offense. It feels really good to hold the opposing jammer for a long time, but to be honest, I don’t think anything will beat the feeling of being the jammer who sneaks by the opposition with some fun footwork!
How did you get involved with derby?
A friend pointed me to a craigslist ad when the league was just forming. I was looking for another sport to play in that took a lot of physical effort. I liked that it was just starting, and I would be able to help the league grow! My cousin played in Wisconsin, so I was able to get a taste before I full on committed!
What is your athletic background? Did you skate before derby?
I played basketball and volleyball when I was younger. In high school, I ran the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. I spent summers with my friends playing sand volleyball and basketball five to seven days a week.
I began skating when I was very young! I grew up going to the roller rink quite often as a family outing. It was an inexpensive way for my parents to hang out with their friends while still keeping an eye on us kids! A favorite picture that comes to mind is of me wearing my little tyke orange and blue skates sitting on my dad’s black skate as he skated at the roller rink. I went to inlines when they became popular, but going roller skating always meant quads. Having the basic skills definitely helped when I joined MedCity Mafia!
What sort of training do you do off the track?
I’ll admit I have a hard time having a scheduled time to do off-skates training. However, my girlfriend and I often do month-long work out challenges that increase reps or weight over the course of the month. We also keep a set of dumbbells near the couch and a chin-up bar in the kitchen doorframe so even when we are watching TV, it’s easy to reach over and do some working out. I prefer to do items that make me forget I’m working out. I love going for bike rides, hiking with our dogs, playing tennis. Functional, recreational fitness!
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Before we get going to the venue, I make sure to have some sort of protein. Something that will last, but not sit in my gut too hard. Just before the game, I eat some chocolate—usually a Lindt truffle or Reese’s peanut butter cup—and have a Diet Dr Pepper. I also tend to tune out people around me and focus on my goals for the game while listening to “angry” music. I tend to be too nice and have a hard time harnessing my aggressive side that is required in derby! The most obvious ritual most people probably notice is my face makeup. As I paint on my eyes, white out my lips, and draw on stitches, I think about what I want to see happen in the game. Also, let’s face it, my smaller stature isn’t too intimidating, but imagine me staring you down on the jam line with my face done up. It helps!
What do you eat after practice?
After every third practice or so, I treat myself to a Whopper Jr. with cheese. Otherwise, I tend to snack on whatever is in the fridge. Veggies and dip, maybe a bowl of cereal, a chocolate bar…it really varies!
What’s your favorite part about derby?
I love putting everything else in life aside for a two-hour practice. I love the community of people. I love pushing myself to my limit and trying for more. I love the confidence it has instilled in me. I love that derby is cheaper than talk therapy. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that I met my girlfriend in roller derby…so there’s that, too! I don’t think I can pick just one thing!
Describe your greatest derby success.
My greatest derby success was finishing last season with our first tournament, Uff Da Palooza. There was a lot of work that went into it, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We exceeded our expectations and met our goals. We also had a ton of fun doing it!
Describe your biggest derby obstacle/disappointment and how did you overcome it?
My first injury was a big hit to me. I sprained my ankle, and it took a long time to recover enough to be able to get back on skates and have the confidence my ankle would do all I needed it to do. Due to the timing of my injury, I wasn’t able to skate in a double header our team was a part of. It was a big disappointment. Rather than staying down about it, I simply worked harder and participated off skates as a question girl! I was able to interact with fans in a different way, and I ended up having a lot of fun hanging out with our fans and teaching people about roller derby and our team!
Besides skating, what other roles do you take on for the team (committees, volunteering, etc.)?
I am currently in my third season being one of the co-captains for the team. I also am on the board of directors as the interleague coordinator for my second season. I enjoy volunteering at the different events we are involved with in the community.
What do you do outside of derby (career, family, hobbies, etc.)?
I work as a residential supervisor at Cardinal of Minnesota. We provide group home services for those with developmental disabilities. In my home, I have five women, all of whom get super excited to cheer on their supervisor with signs at the games! My girlfriend and I also do volunteer work through dog rescues by providing transportation and fostering dogs. We love traveling and try to go somewhere fun as often as we can! I’m currently working on learning how to have fun on wheels besides derby, trying out jam skating, and hitting the skate park, speeding down the ramps, and getting over fear of the halfpipe!
How has derby changed you (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.)?
I believe the main way roller derby has changed me is how I view my abilities, both mentally and physically. I push myself to learn new skills and believe that I am capable. I won’t let myself think, “I can’t do that.” I believe more in my leadership abilities. I have become a more confident person and look to instill that drive and confidence in others, as well.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would want the superpower of multiplication! I could multiply water to make more clean water for people. I could multiply food so everyone can eat. I could multiply other resources so people and animals wouldn’t have to go without proper nutrition and care!