Chasing her dream: Central Vermonter learns life through roller derby
By STEVEN M. Pappas
Staff Writer | March 23,2013
Sprouta Control #160 mph, as is her name in the central Vermont roller derby world. Outside of that realm, she is Kate Dwyer-Frattalone, 20, of Montpelier.
Kate Dwyer-Frattalone sort of broke the mold.
She could’ve done it with her writing, dancing, singing, art, modeling, or as a young businesswoman. Chances are, though, it was the roller derby.
“My favorite thing to do is skate. Regardless of what type,” the 20-year-old Montpelier resident said. “Each kind has its merits.”
So, that means we need to change gears. Now we need to talk about Kate through a different lens.
Kate Sprout definitely broke the mold. “Sprouta Control #160mph” is her roller derby name.
Sprout is 5-foot, 4-inches tall. She’s 115 pounds. She’s slight. She’s petite but that’s probably irrelevant; she’s skilled.
“It’s still that but now it’s this deep concentration that comes over me whether I’m working on a skill or on my speed. I think that’s what draws so many people in and why we get obsessed. I have to breathe and remind myself I love doing other things, too, sometimes,” she said. “I skate because there’s a kind of meditation that comes with it. There’s nothing happening except the here and now. When I started it was because I was so focused on not falling down. ... Burnout is pretty common and the only way to avoid it is to change things up.”
Many of the women skating with Sprout are much larger, and far more experienced. And while the premise of the game is easy, it’s rough.
Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members on quad skates, skating around a track. Game play consists of a series of two-minute “jams” in which both teams designate a scoring player (the jammer) wearing a star on their helmet scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to assist their own jammer whilst blocking the opposing jammer, playing offense and defense at the same time.
Across central Vermont, roller derby has gained attention because of Twin City Riot’s ongoing success.
Sprout (as most people know her today), found roller derby in July 2012, when she attended a Twin City Riot bout at the BOR in Barre with her father.
“Neither of us understood any more than the basic rules, but we loved it. I liked how fast-paced it was, and the palpable excitement.”
After that, she went to her first Wrecking Dolls session at the Recreation Center in Montpelier (5 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, bring your own mouth guard), which is the non-contact learning aspect of the Central Vermont Roller Derby (CVRD) league.
“Now I still skate at Wrecking Dolls to keep my basic skills up, but I skate with the Twin City Riot who are the ‘bouting aspect’ of CVRD,” Sprout said. “Hopefully you’ll see me bouting with the Riot this season. Our first home bout is at the BOR on June 8 against the Green Mountain Derby Dames’ Black Ice Brawlers.”
Other than a few bruises here and there, Sprout has had no serious injuries.
Is Sprout intimidated by derby and the risks involved?
“Well, I never really thought much about being intimidated. Along those lines, I’ve had a couple people refer to me as fearless as of late because I just sort of threw myself into the world of derby, especially reffing which demands a lot of you mentally, but I’m not sure I identify that way because there isn’t any real reason to be scared of something like that. You get out what you put into it and I might not know every rule by heart yet or be the best skater on my team but I’m sure going to try to do a better job at each practice,” she said.
“I guess I’ve just seen skaters my size and smaller who knock girls twice their size down simply with skill and in many ways as far as jamming goes, being tiny means you can fit through smaller holes. ... And as far as speed goes, size might make a difference when you’re starting out but as you get better it’s simply about form, how hard you train and strength.”
“Being a skater asks something different from me,” she said. “As a jammer it’s, ‘get through the opposing blockers, score points, stop the other jammer from scoring points.’ As a blocker it’s, ‘get my jammer through, stop the other jammer from getting through, use strategy to control the pace of the game.’”
The team-building has also generated connections and personal relationships.
“What I love about roller derby is that it brings together so many different kinds of people. I have friends I never would have never gotten to know had it not been for derby. And there’s a web of people all over the world who love it as much as I do. So when I go to Oregon, I’ll go see what the Rose City Rollers have going on. Or to Ireland or Australia. It’s all over the place and spreading like wildfire. It’s a worldwide community. We call it ‘derby love.’”
Sprout has taken such an interest in the sport itself, she now is one of the derby’s referees.
“I got interested in reffing because at the time CVRD had a 21-plus rule, and I’m 20, but I wanted to be involved in derby. So I started to study under the Vermont Men’s roller derby head ref Gritty Purl. Since then CVRD has changed our age minimum to 18-plus so now I’m lucky enough to continue to learn how to both skate and ref.”
As a ref, her derby name is Bossyboots.
“Whether I’m reffing or skating with my team it’s the same, even though they’re two totally different jobs that ask a mix of things from me. Reffing forces me to see the big picture, literally. There’s no focusing on just one skater. I never know what the score is or what’s happening off the track because I get so zeroed in on what’s happening there. I’m always running things I see through my head because there are so many rules, though the concept of derby is fairly basic, and so many different things you have to always be watching for in a bout.”
Sprout acknowledges this is only her first year in the derby, and she has plenty to learn from her teammates and mentors.
She grew up in Woodbury, and is known locally as a musician, photographer and artist. She also runs Four Paws Inn, which offers doggy daycare, boarding and grooming, with her mother.
“For most of my life, I’ve considered myself more of an artist than an athlete. Taking dance classes, writing and performing in the Hungry Rat Revue. I’ve had art and photography shows hung around Montpelier and collaborated for a long time with (former Montpelier artist) Rachael Rice, with whom I played in multiple bands as well as shared art shows.”
The derby has only emphasized that creative side.
“Roller derby was never expected or planned to take over so much of my life. I was in the middle of trying to get my writing published when the derby bug bit. I’m still a writer and a creative, I’m just not as active at the moment. To be frank, derby careers are stopped short by injury more often than anything else and while I hope to still be able to ref once I can’t play anymore, I know my artistic skills will always be there for me when my body starts to give out.”
In fact, this April, she will have a photography show coming up at Coffee Corner in Montpelier that is made up of portraits of the people in Vermont that help make central Vermont’s roller derby.