In a sport as eclectic as roller derby, every now and again a character shows up at your doorstep and decides to join the team.
However, if you’re the RGV Bandidas, that’s nothing out of the customary. Every month at least five girls try out for the team. Some find a place on team and continue while others come to the realization that it’s not for them and move on.
Leslie Uriegas, a “normal” mother of three that wanted to do something “not so normal,” is one of those that found her place. In fact, she’s a three-year Bandidas veteran and is still having the time of her life.
Tonight she will be bouting in a roller derby game match at Hot Skating Roller Rink in Harlingen as part of a benefit for the local autism awareness group Team Mario.
The Valley Morning Star sat down with Uriegas, AKA WRECKLESLIE, to see what makes a this “normal” mother of three tick.
Q: How did you first get into the roller derby scene?
A: My cousin Christina, “Cris Gnarly,” invited me to a Wonder Woman vs. Catwoman bout almost three years ago and I got hooked right away. I went to try it out at the next practice they had. When I was done with it I knew that it was for me and I haven’t left since.
Q: What’s the toughest aspect of competing in roller derby?
A: I would say competing with yourself. Roller derby is not only about a strong body, but also about a strong mind, and we put our bodies into so much stress that sometimes our minds are not in synch with it. We have to push our mind in order to keep going, especially when we are tired or frustrated for not getting a drill right. We compete with ourselves to get better as individual skaters and to work better as a team.
Q: Where would you like to see the sport in 5 years as well as the team?
A: Growing as it has been, not only here in the Valley but worldwide, if you say roller derby a lot of people don’t know what it is or consists of. I would love for people to have a better understanding of the sport and for everyone to see past the cute outfits and tights, and see athletic strong women. As for my team, well, we are the only roller derby team in the whole Valley and yet there’s a lot of people who don’t even know we exist. We want to get our name out there, get sponsors and make it to the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) apprentice program, so hopefully 5 years down the road we are already there.
Q: In your opinion, what is the best thing about roller derby?
A: There are a lot of good things about roller derby, but sisterhood and empowerment are the best part. You get to meet a lot of people and it opens up this different world where it doesn’t matter how you look, your profession or religion; we are all one and work as one to get where we want to get. We are like a big family, a family full of strong individuals who push you to do better and to want more.
Q: How does everybody come up with nicknames and are they symbolic?
A: I honestly don’t know how everybody picked their derby name, but when you think of a derby name you think of an alter ego, what you like or something that’s important to you. The same goes for the numbers. For example, in my case I wanted something with my name or mom in it so there’s “WRECKLESLIE” and my number symbolizes each one of my kids, “783” 7 (July) 8 (August) 3 (March), those are the months when my kids were born.
Q: Who are the skaters that have been there for you throughout your derby career? Is there anything you’d like to say to them now?
A: I have been in this sport for almost three years and I have met lots of skaters; all of them have played a big part and helped me grow as a skater and teammate, but I do have a few who I would like to give a special thank you to. First of all to my cousin “Cris Gnarly” for introducing me to derby and for always lending a helping hand when I need it. I love you cous. Second, to my “derby wife” Valerie A. Mena for making my first derby years fun and enjoyable, and for staying with me at my lowest and pushing me back up. I love you and I miss you. Last but not least, to “Beat-E-Smalls” who when I first started took time at practice to break down foot work for me so I could get it right. “Hooligan” who always calmed me down at every bout when I was getting to anxious and always assured me that I got this. “Syn”and “Krush” for telling me what I’m doing wrong or right and giving me advice to get better or how to fix what I’m doing wrong, “Metallica Breath” and “KI-tastrophe” for being my inseparable friends since we merged. Thank you for believing in me. I love you and I cherish each one of you.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
A: Definitely my grandmother on my father’s side. I didn’t have the honor of meeting her, but I’ve been told that I’m a lot like her, not only physically but my personality as well, so I would love to spend dinner with her if she was with us.
Q: What’s the best advice you would give to someone who is looking to get into the sport?
A: Do NOT let your mind trick you into thinking that you can’t do it. The mind is so powerful, so stay positive. If you can’t one way, try another one. We all have different styles of skating so what works for me might not work for you, so just keep trying. Don’t give up, you will get there and never compare yourself to other skaters. We all learn at different paces so just do your best and practice as much as you can. Keep in mind, you don’t need to have experience or know how to skate, we will teach you.
Q: If you couldn’t play roller derby what other sport would you play?
A: I would say soccer. I used to love it until roller derby came along, but to be honest if I couldn’t play, I would probably be a roller derby referee or NSO (volunteer) just to stay involved with roller derby.