People who know Ashley Rammeloo, P.Eng., for her work with the City of London as its sewer operations engineer or her involvement with the Centre for Advancement of Trenchless Technologies (CATT) might also be surprised to know that outside of work she is known as the “Sewer Princess” in the world of roller derby.
“I have a friend from high school who played and I would see her posts about it on Facebook. One night she was looking for volunteers for their bout. I went and was hooked,” says Rammeloo. “I was at practice the next week and never looked back. That was almost four years ago.”
So how did she come up with her alter ego? It really was quite simple. Rammeloo would often joke with her male co-workers that since she is the only female in the department and outranks them, that makes her the “princess” of the department. When it came time to choose a derby name, Sewer Princess worked well.
“My staff has been some great supporters, buying tickets to games and putting up with all my fundraising things. It’s a bit of a fun nod to them too,” she says.
Playing roller derby is something one cannot hide especially when you sport a winged roller skate necklace that is sure to spark conversation. Some people know right off the bat, while others inquire about what the skate represents. Either way, many people flashback to roller derby of the 1970s and 1980s.
Today’s derby is much different than what many grew accustomed to on television. The latter was heavily scripted like professional wrestling and many of the moves you saw would not be allowed today. The skaters don’t throw punches and the rules keep people as safe as can be expected in a contact sport played on wheels. The leagues follow the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) rules.
For the uninitiated, here is a quick breakdown of how roller derby is scored. The jammer (designated as the person with the star on the side of their helmet) has to skate by her opponents (both blockers and the jammer) and is scored for every person she passes in the allotted period of time. There are no more than five people from each team on the track at a time and a referee keeps track of points, as well as assesses penalties for fouls.
“It’s a real sport now with rules, scoring and rankings,” Rammeloo says. “You can play in recreational right up to the very competitive travel leagues.”
And that brings the conversation to her current role in the world of roller derby: A move further away from the team she was playing with, coupled with a knee injury had Rammeloo sitting out the season and considering new options. Seasons typically run from early spring to late fall.
Prior to sitting out, she skated with the Woodstock Warriors, a standalone team, and prior to that the Violet Femmes a team affiliated with the London-Middlesex Roller Derby league. For both teams she skated under the Sewer Princess alter ego and often served as a jammer.
“I am usually a jammer, I do some blocking, as well but I am usually most effective as a jammer. Being small and fast is an asset there,” she says. “Your blockers are often a bit bigger, although there are some incredible tiny blockers out there that you would not think could take you off your feet but they do.”
Heading to your first roller derby bout? The Sewer Princess’s suggestion is keep your eye on the jammers as they are skating toward the pack because that is where all the action is. Typically teams have 14 members to make sure the players are well rested for their five-player rotation.
“It is a very fast, physical game and getting hit constantly takes a lot of energy out of you as well,” Rammeloo says. “It’s one of those sports that people just watch it and it will just hook people and that’s something you typically hear from people. They saw it once and they just had to play.”
It’s also a very welcoming sport with teams comprised of professionals like Rammeloo, to those in retail and stay-at-home moms and the bouts are family-friendly. A testament to this is Rammeloo’s own daughter, now 6, who has watched her mom play and practice rink-side since she was 3.
“She thinks it’s fun. She thinks it’s awesome,” Rammeloo says, adding that if she has an interest when she’s older, she could join on of the junior leagues.
As for Rammeloo, after a season off due to the injury she is weighing the options between a return to the recreation leagues or perhaps a move to a WFTDA league that travels throughout Canada and even into the United States.
Of course this is a trenchless magazine and we needed to tie her two lives together, to which Rammeloo succinctly says, “I would say they are very different feelings and certainly both satisfying. I enjoy my work and I take a great deal of pride in it and bringing new things to the City of London and seeing the new technologies and progression of the trenchless industry. On my off time, I certainly like to get out there and hit hard and be a little more physical.”
With that she jokes that it would also be frowned upon to check a contractor when a project isn’t going as planned.
Mike Kezdi is an assistant editor for Trenchless Technology.