Around The Way Girl: Noelle Smythe AKA Anny SMACKquiao

“How did I lay her out, man?!” Those are the thoughts of 24-year-old roller derby bad ass, Noelle Smythe. Not one to take the traditional route in life, she left Chicago’s University of Illinois after three months and decided to play life by ear. It wasn’t until 2012 that the universe lead her to a sport that she did not expect to fall in love with as fast as she did. She currently plays for the roller derby team Chicago Outfit and within her rookie year has become the lead score girl. Still not knowing where life will take her, the Chicago native knows one thing: that she’s taking roller derby along for the ride. If you didn’t know before, you’re about to learn now that Chicago girl’s ain’t something to mess with.

Explain what roller derby is for those that don’t know.

Noelle is known as “the tornado” because of how quick and small she is compared to other players.

So basically you have five girls on each team. Each team has a jammer. She’s the only girl that has a star on her helmet and the only one that can score the points. It’s almost like a race because every time the jammer passes a girl on the opposing team, which means she has four players to pass, that’s four points, and if you pass the opposing jammer then that’s another point, so five. So you just go around the track and collect points. Each session is called a jam and lasts two minutes. But whichever jammer gets out of the pack of all of the girls first is the lead jammer and can call off the jam whenever she wants by putting her hands on her hips. So if I were lead jammer and the other jammer gets out right behind me, I’ll probably call the jam off right away so that way neither of us can collect points, as opposed to maybe she’s faster than me and gets back to the pack before I do. I’d rather us get no points at all than risk it. So there’s a whole strategy behind it.

How did you even get into this? Not going to lie this is kind of random.

I know. Honestly I just started to go to a couple of games. My friend invited me to go see the Windy City Rollers at UIC (University of Illinois in Chicago), and I was like Meh, whatever. Then I actually went one day and was like, Damn…umm..that was raw (Chicago slang for cool). Then I went to see the Chicago Outfit play and was like, Damn they’re even MORE raw! And that’s when I thought, When are tryouts though?

So it was November of 2012 where I went to boot camp. It’s only one day of boot camp for the whole month but with five classes. Then in December we had tryouts and I was like, Damn… did I make the team? Because in boot camp you don’t need to know everything, every practice they teach you. They teach you how to fall, they teach you how to skate, how to hit–every day was something different.

I bet you were bruised up!

DUDE. I WAS DYING! I didn’t know that having a new pair of skates was like breaking in a new pair of heels. So by the second practice my feet were dead. It was ridiculous.noellederby2

Can you see yourself doing this for a long time? Can you make a career out of this?

A lot of the girls on my team that started the league have been playing for eight years or something like that. For most, this next season will be their eighth season, but they’ve all done things before this. One of them was a figure skater at one point, I did soccer, another girl played hockey; so everyone has done a little something before. I know there are girls from other teams across the U.S. that get together and form team U.S.A. I don’t know about the politics behind roller derby, if they get paid, but they definitely have big sponsors and have to put in as much as we do. Roller derby is a do it yourself sport. Everything we do, we do ourselves. We host our own events, find our own places, and make our own money. So I’ll be like, Yay, spaghetti wrestling! Everyone come because we don’t have any money and we want you to give us some money. Basically.

But yes, I can see myself doing this for…life… or until I lose a leg, or however long athletes last.

Your parents are immigrants, correct?

Yea. My dad is from Panama, his mom is from Colombia. And my mom and her family are from the Philippines.

As a first generation kid I know how immigrant parents usually only expect their kids to be either doctors, lawyers, or in finance. Are they supportive of this dream?

Yea, I mean it’s mainly because I haven’t really figured what I want to do or if I want to be a doctor–but ain’t nobody got time for that now. But honestly, they’re really supportive of it. Like my dad, my whole first season he was all, “No I’m not coming to any of that stuff! None of that!” But then this [past] season I was like, “Dad, come on! It’s my first game of the season! You gotta come see it!” I thought he didn’t come but then I went to hang out with him two days later and he asks, “So are you number 22?” And I’m like, [gasps] “Were you at my game Dad?! How come you didn’t say anything?!” And he’s like, “Yea I was there…Ohh you were busy playing…” [laughs] I was only playing for like an hour!  There were three other hours he could have said something [laughing]. But my mom is like how she was when I was in high school. She takes me to all of my practices. She’s my biggest fan. She’s at all of my games unless it’s in the middle of nowhere, Illinois.

Why this and not the traditional go to college then 9-5 route?

Well I’ve never been like that because I’ve played soccer a lot from grade school to high school. After high school I didn’t stick around for college to do another sport in school, but when I heard about roller derby I was like, Oh my God, here’s my chance! And I don’t like to be active but if I were to be active, this is what I would be doing. Like, roller skating? Dude. Not only are you roller skating, but you get to knock people out too? I was like, done.

Do you enjoy knocking people out?

Oh yea dude. You’ll see videos of yourself and you’ll be like, [gasps] how did I lay her out man?! How did I do that?! And you’ll hear the crowd cheer and you think to yourself, Oh, did I do that? But you don’t really think about it when you’re playing. You’ll see the videos and notice how much you’re in the zone.noellederby

What’s your derby name?

My roller derby name is Anny SMACKquiao (i.e Manny Pacquiao), number Catch 22. It’s funny because no one ever pronounces it right. They’re always like [imitates announcer] “Number 22, Anny Sma-kay-oh,” and I’m like, Nahh, that’s not it. You ruined it. I was gonna hyphenate it or add the pronunciation, but my name barely fits on the back [of the jersey] now. That’s the only thing about the names, no one ever pronounces them right.  noelleyebelyelle

Earlier you mentioned spaghetti wrestling. Is that a fundraiser you guys always do? What exactly is that?

I’m not sure how long the Chicago Outfit has been doing it for, but definitely for as long as I have been on the team. It’s usually our first fundraiser and the biggest one of the season. It’s always at Double Door Bar, and we basically get this big kiddie pool, fill it with spaghetti noodles, and create teams. There’s no standing in the pool and you have to wear knee pads, which is real because you get slammed and are slipping all over. It’s really cute though because each year your team can have different themes. Last year we did a batman theme, and this year we did The Warriors. It’s the best time.

Is this what imagined yourself doing in life?

Dude, literally like I said, as soon as I saw them play live, my eyes immediately turned into big ol’ hearts. I always knew about roller derby, like Yeah it’s that stuff on TV and from the 70’s..blah, blah blah. But it’s an actual sport. People think we get to wear fishnets and tutus all day, but we actually are very athletic and wear a lot of athletic gear. You have to think about sweating… and rink rash… Some girls have these athletic shorts that have padding in them, almost like football padding. And people think Damn she’s got a bubble butt, and I’m like, No, that’s protective padding and if anything, I wish I had them–they’re expensive so I don’t. We don’t just go out there in underwear and tights, we’re actually going out there and doing risky shit. It’s funny because people think it’s this fru-la-la sport but it has some similarities to football. I remember at one practice a girl dislocated her elbow, another girl had a concussion, another broke her ankle…in ONE practice, not even a game. I remember leaving that night thinking, I love this sport. noelle4

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

[sighs] Advice…well…my advice would be to go back to school, before it’s too late. Not that it’s too late now, but while it’s still early. Just because you have to pay for this sport, and not that I’m not handling it, it’s just I wish I had more leeway to pay for it and not have to worry about it as much.

Where do you see the future for Anny SMACKquiao?

[laughs] My roller derby career is going to the moon.  I mean I KNOW it’s going to take years and years and years. I’m still a baby and I’m going into my third year. But just hearing stories from other vets telling me how they remember being where I am is reassuring.  I wanna be where they are soon, and I don’t know…maybe team U.S.A, hmmm…?noelle6

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?

Oh God, Chicago. EVERYTHING. I honestly can’t see myself living anywhere else. I mean yeah, I’ll go visit or stay somewhere for a couple of months, but I can’t leave Chicago. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it. The only time I don’t like the winters is when I’m waiting on the bus, but I can’t hate on Chicago.noelle9

If you are interested in joining the Chicago Outfit roller derby team boot camp starts in November. You can check out for more info. Be sure to follow Noelle on Instagram @NoelleRebelYelle and her team @chicagooutfit. Thanks to photographer Steve Jurkovic for the derby action shots!



{Know an Around The Way Girl we need to to get in touch with? Let us know in the comment section below!}

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