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Bumps and Bruises 

You’ll find some of the most unlikely roller derby competitors at Spokarnage

click to enlarge Naomi \"Sweetart\" Weitz is a mother of two, a psychologist and also the coach of the Spokannibals. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Naomi \"Sweetart\" Weitz is a mother of two, a psychologist and also the coach of the Spokannibals.

Naomi “Sweetart” Weitz owns a painting of herself showing off a bruise so massive it almost entirely covers her left butt cheek. The edgy piece of art hung on the wall in her home for a while until her two sons told her it was a little weird to look up and see their mom’s ass.

This battle wound, now forever immortalized in oil paint by a friend and fellow derby participant, was the long-lasting effect of a hard-core fall after an opponent knocked Weitz down in a feisty flat track roller derby bout. The enormous, reddish-purple, black and brown mark — not unlike an ominous storm cloud backlit by an evening sunset — first appeared as a hot, swollen mass that looked “like another butt growing on your butt,” Weitz recalls.

The impact of the fall meant she couldn’t sit down for days, but that and a few other equally bad bruises are the worst injuries the 41-year-old mother, mental health therapist, sports psychologist, coach and member of the Spokannibals all-women roller derby league has sustained during her seven-year love affair with flat track roller derby.

While Weitz’s derriere may sometimes serve as a cushion to high-impact derby wipeouts, it’s also her secret weapon during competition, she says with a smirk.

“I really like using my butt as a weapon,” she says. “I like when the jammer (the opposing team’s offensive player) comes up behind me and I pop it out and get them in the gut and they go ‘Uhhh.’ It’s so satisfying.”

Weitz continues, “Sometimes girls will complain and say, ‘My butt’s too big,’ and I say, ‘That’s a good thing; that’s your weapon.’ ”

This weekend, the Spokannibals show off their fast moves, camaraderie, and endurance at Spokarnage, the biggest women’s flat track roller derby tournament Spokane has hosted. The three-day event, months in the making, will draw a total of 20 teams from as far away as Alberta.

“I’m hoping after this tournament people will stop saying, ‘There’s roller derby in Spokane?’” Weitz says. “After this, hopefully people are finally going to fall in love with this sport. There’s no game like it.”

While Weitz may be one of the oldest women on the team, her barely lined face, toned physique and youthful hairstyle with short, shaggy bangs grazing her forehead suggest a woman a decade younger. It’s her unyielding passion for the sport that’s kept her young on the inside and out, she says.

Growing up in San Francisco, Weitz competed in artistic roller skating. She says when she heard seven years ago about the blossoming roller derby scene in Spokane, she knew it was something she wanted to get involved in. She joined the Lilac City Roller Girls a few months after they formed in 2006.

Two and a half years ago, Weitz left Lilac City to pursue her vision of starting a small, limited-acceptance team focusing on the basic elements of the fast-paced full-contact sport, co-founding the Spokannibals.

“I have never been so addicted to something in my entire life,” she says.

Roller derby even inspired Weitz to make a career change, going back to school to become a certified sports and fitness psychologist, in addition to her job working as a mental health therapist with teens. She works in both fields part-time, along with homeschooling her two sons, Asher, 10, and Skyler, 15.

With two-hour team practices three nights a week, and cross-training workouts and weekend trips to regional tournaments in between practice, it’s a busy life.

Though Weitz — usually just called “Tart” by the team — and her 24 teammates come from varied backgrounds, all share an intense dedication to the highly athletic sport. Ranging in age from 19 to women in their early forties, the roster includes single college students, mothers, engineers, nurses and other professionals. Some of the women are openly “girly,” while others fit the quintessential tomboy profile some might expect from roller derby women.

Participating in roller derby provides much more than a physical outlet or a perceived badass personality for Weitz and Spokannibals team captain Heidi Muat, whose derby nickname is “Ida B. ChoAzz.”

The biggest takeaway, they say, is the risk taking and physical challenges roller derby has allowed them to overcome.

“It’s really dangerous,” Weitz says. “It’s a full-contact sport up on skates, and people are trying to knock you down and hurt you. But there’s something about being a part of a group willing to do that, and that sets you apart right there from most people.”

Muat, who says she struggled to deal with the attitudes of some of her less-hard-core teammates, adds, “I know we can all push deeper and go farther than any of us think about our own selves. I’ve experienced it myself and have seen it happen time and time again.” 

Spokarnage • April 26-28 • Fri, 3:30-9 pm; Sat, 8:30 am-8:30 pm; Sun 9:30 am-2 pm • One-day admission $8-$15, three-day $20-$25 • Spokane Convention Center • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • • 456-5812

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