Back in 1973, Jim Croce sang about a roller derby queen named “Spike.” The subject matter was familiar to most people at the time because roller derby had been a favorite TV show for most kids during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since that time, the sport never really died out but just became a little more refined. It’s participants have been interested in making it more legitimate as a sport, although those participants still get their share of bruises and the occasional broken bone. The entertainment value, which drew TV and live spectators decades ago, is still there. These days the sport is less brutal and more competitive.
HTM, unbeknownst to many, is proudly represented in the roller derby world by a character known as “Fleetwood Smack.”
Fleetwood’s real name is Rhiannon Thurmond, a biomedical operations manager with Ultimate Biomedical Solutions. She is a member of the Brazos Valley Roller Derby (BVRD) team in Bryan, Texas.
How did a biomed professional enter the unique sport of roller derby?
“I got recruited into roller derby back in March of 2010, while attending a punk rock concert. A member of the band was doing it and another musician in town, who I totally fangirled over, came up to me and asked if I would be interested in joining. I jumped at the opportunity to be part of a new-aged era of roller derby. Why not?” Thurmond says.
She showed up at the local venue, an outdoor hockey rink at a park, and watched it a few times.
“Days later, I bought some gear and stated practicing. When I started there were about 13 girls; the league was in its prime and not yet competitive. We researched the rules, skills and requirements to play roller derby and practiced three times a week. I remember racing home from working 8-10 hours at the hospital to grab my gear and hit the track. It was hot out there, but I enjoyed the athleticism and comradery,” Thurmond remembers.
Her only previous experience on skates was some ice skating. She had no roller skating experience.
“It was very exciting to join a roller derby team; it was something new; something extraordinary. We taught ourselves the rules by researching and reaching out to other established roller derby leagues around Texas. We sat down as a group and collaborated on official bylaws, rules and created waivers to give to new recruits, and before too long, we had a league,” Thurmond adds.
She skated three days a week, toting her daughter along to every practice until she got pregnant with her second daughter.
“There is a saying in the roller derby world; ‘It’s better to get knocked down than knocked up,’ ” Thurmond jokes.
Getting Back up on Skates
After her second daughter was born, Thurmond decided to return to action.
“While on my nine-month injury, Brazos Valley Roller Derby never stopped. The league became competitive and then found a venue that was indoors with AC. You never know how hot it really is until you skate outside on hot pavement and take a good fall,” she says.
“I took my daughters to a game and knew I had to come back. I came to my first practice two-weeks post-partum and never looked back. I have been skating with BVRD since early 2010. The thing about roller derby is it is a woman-dominated sport, a lot of us have children, so it is a big happy family,” she says.
“I have worn many hats in this league and play many roles on the track. I have been president, game committee head, sponsorship committee chair and now serve as interleague liaison. I play all the positions — Jammer (the only skater who can score points), Pivot (controls the pack and is the only skater who can take the Jammers spot in the event of a Star Pass), and Blocker (offense and defense to either help or prevent jammers from getting through),” Thurmond says.
She says she is a dual-rostered skater now, skating in two different leagues.
“I am now in my fourth season with the Missfits Roller Derby out of Humble, Texas and my eighth season with Brazos Valley. I really wanted the opportunity to skate bank track so I got affiliated with a bank track league,” she says.
She points out that this is a track surrounded by a padded rail that was made famous in the early days of televised roller derby.
“It was really intimidating my first time on the banked track — the adrenaline rush for getting the high speed and really working the track is like no other. Missfits Roller Derby recruited me about four years ago. I did a boot camp to get accustomed to the track – I took to it pretty well so they threw me into my first game as soon as my boot camp was over,” Thurmond adds.
If it didn’t already occur to fans of classic rock, Thurmond’s “stage name” makes perfect sense.
“Yes, I was named after the Fleetwood Mac song ‘Rhiannon,’ hence the name Fleetwood Smack,” Thurmond says.
“I wasn’t always Fleetwood Smack. When I first started derby, prior to my 9-month injury, I was Fleetwood, but later found out there was another Fleetwood Smack playing for a league in California, so I changed my name,” she says.
“I went by Direct Current (DC) for my first four and a half years. My number was 200mA. I chose DC due to my career working around DC electronics. While I really enjoyed DC, I always wanted to go by Fleetwood but didn’t make it official until my team got new uniforms. I figured why not; I will never play against the other Fleetwood,” Thurmond adds.
Thurmond says that roller derby has impacted her life.
“It takes a lot of commitment. I work full time as a biomed (with an hour and a half commute back and forth every day). I am a mother of two, and commit to this sport two to three times a week. Still, somehow managing time to go to the park, do birthday parties, and play a little disc golf. I travel all over the state of Texas year-round to compete,” Thurmond says.
Her family is supportive of her action-packed hobby.
When not mixing it up on a derby track, Thurmond can be found doing her biomed work for Ultimate Biomedical Solutions.
“I work with a lot of brilliant technicians with many talents and have a pretty awesome team of biomeds. I am the primary anesthesia technician for the Houston area. I have been spending most of my days in a bunny suit working in the ORs,” she says.
She says she travels to different locations — hospitals, standalone ERs, surgical centers — performing PMs, corrective maintenance and inventory.
“I also pull reports to ensure my team reaches our PM goals every month so our customers can rest assured that their equipment is running at peak performance,” Thurmond says.
When not making the rounds in the OR maintaining equipment, this biomed makes the rounds battling it out with other roller derby pros, earning her bruises and representing biomed proudly.
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