Photo by James Nicolas.
Sandra Brooks Tragic City Roller
Hoover resident Sandra Brooks, also known as “Vanilla Rice,” discovered Birmingham’s roller derby team, the Tragic City Rollers, in 2009 after friends convinced her to attend a practice.
One evening in 2009, Hoover resident Sandra Brooks made a promise to friends she would stop by their roller derby practice.
Several years later, that promise has become a full-fledged commitment.
“Like many girls I couldn’t skate, but it was challenging so I kept coming back,” Brooks said.
Birmingham’s roller derby league, the Tragic City Rollers, is one of 400 all-women derby leagues worldwide. Roller derby is a contact sport played around a skating track. Founded in December 2005, the Tragic City Rollers pride themselves on character building, community service and social activism.
For Brooks, the experience has been a rewarding challenge.
“It’s definitely been a positive experience,” Brooks said. “It’s challenged me physically as well as mentally. And through all of that I have met some amazing people and had some amazing experiences.”
The team consists of 28 members, each with a derby nickname. Brook’s derby name is “Vanilla Rice.” Members are mothers, teachers, policewomen, career technocrats, librarians, baristas, nurses, engineers, students and everything in between. The team helps promote local charities such as Rape Response, Race for the Cure and Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Local businesses are invited to sponsor the team.
Brooks said her favorite part is the newfound friendships.
“My favorite part of being on the team is really just the game itself and being able to play it with these ladies,” Brooks said. “My most memorable and favorite experiences are being on the track with my teammates and everyone working together for a common goal.”
The group practices at Funtime Skate Center in Fultondale. Starting this month, and continuing through August, the Tragic City Rollers will travel across the Southeast to compete in games and tournaments.
Outside of roller derby, Brooks works as a web programmer. She has lived in Alabama all her life but moved to Birmingham six years ago. Roller derby now holds an important spot in her life.
“Even just to sit back and watch it, that’s what keeps me excited about my team and keeps me excited about skating,” Brooks said. “When I’m 60, I know I’ll look back on it all with fond memories.”
The team is continually looking for more skaters, referees and volunteers. For more information, visit tragiccityrollers.com.