Bobcats doing flat track roller derby

Bandidas Roller Derby
Nina Kizzia and Monica Rincones

Bobcats doing flat track roller derby

By TJ Garcia

Slamming. Jamming. Blocking.

Knocking opponents to the floor with the force of a football player is fun.

Welcome to flat track roller derby and say hello to some Bobcats who are spearheading Texas’ newest team.  Whipping, hip-checking, and tripping, Texas State University alumnae Nina Kizzia, Monica Rincones, and Nicole Garcia are fronting the rough-and-tumble RGV Bandidas.

These women are about as different as they come, but they all agree that roller derby gives them creative and physical outlets. The game allows them to immerse themselves and get lost in a world so completely different from their standard professional careers.

“It (roller derby) is very exhilarating,” says Kizzia, an Edinburg HEB manager and a 2011 communication studies graduate. “It makes me feel like the strongest person in the world when I get onto the track. It teaches you that you can fall and get right back up.” 

Otherwise strangers, these Bobcats were brought together by rollerderby. The fast-paced, contact sport is played with two teams of  five players each circling a flat floor on quad skates. Each team designates a jammer, who then must break through the opponents’ four blockers to score points.

Blockers are typically bigger and stronger, and a jammer is fast and athletic. Blockers attempt to stop the opponents’ jammer while trying to set their own jammer free through the line. There are several roller derby teams in Texas whose rosters include professional women such as Kizzia, Gonzalez, and Garcia. The RGV Bandidas practice in Harlingen but include players from McAllen, Edinburg, Brownsville, and other cities.

On the track, the action is fast and furious. The expletives and elbows fly as fast as the jammers. When on the floor, these women are focused and serious even though this is a hobby. Roller derby is something they do a few nights a week with “bouts,” or matches, a couple of weekends a month.

Rincones, the RGV Bandidas’ team manager, says camaraderie is strong. She was recruited by a friend of a friend who knew she was a good skater. She decided to join because roller derby was unexpected, yet familiar.

“It was something different to do and it kind of incorporated a pasttime — I used to skate when I was younger — and so it was a fun thing to do to get back on skates,” Rincones says.  “It’s really nice to come together with a group of women from a lot of different backgrounds and just come out and skate and forget about the day.” Rincones, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in clinical laboratory science, works for United Plasma Services in McAllen. She has been skating in roller derby for seven years.

Garcia says she moved back to the Valley soon after graduating from Texas State in 2013 with a degree in psychology. After moving to Edinburg, she says she was looking for something to do to break out of a rut. As she makes plans to attend graduate school, Garcia is working as a caregiver and personal assistant.

“Literally, the first time I went to an — and I’m getting chills just talking about this — information session, I was literally sucked in. After that I was in. I’m in,” recalls Garcia, who is considered a novice while she works to become a full-fledged player.

Garcia adds that she first heard of the Bandidas (established in 2015 when two Valley derby teams joined up to become one) when she saw a Facebook ad and then acted on it because she had always wanted to try roller derby.

Upon joining the team, Garcia was introduced to Kizzia and Rincones. But she didn’t know the two were Texas State alumnae until Kizzia sent out a message asking for any Texas State grads on the team to speak up. Garcia and Kizzia say they love being on a roller derby team, but having Bobcats to bond with is icing on the cake.