17 Dec Roller derby queen: Campus minister enjoys sport
Story and photos
by Dwain Hebda
To say Kasey Miller is a study in contrasts is something of an understatement.
Miller, 36, moved to Arkansas seven years ago to spend her days developing the spiritual life of students at the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College as a Catholic Campus Minister. But away from that gig, she gears up and rolls as KC/DC, a member of the Rock City Roller Derby team based in Little Rock.
“I started in September of 2015,” Miller said. “I’m still learning. There’s a certain amount of skills and safety things and endurance stuff we have to pass to prove that it’s safe to let us out there. I’m almost there.”
Physically, Miller looks the part of a roller derby blocker. Tall and strong, she’s perfect for clearing a path for teammates called jammers that do the scoring or to impede the progress of opponents. But she’s far from the glowering bruiser most people hold as their stereotype of roller derby skaters. In fact, the smile never leaves her face whether cruising around the track at practice or cheering for her club members during matches.
“Everyone is very supportive of each other,” she said. “That really exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be a team and great, we’d have a couple socials and that would be it. But it’s very much a family. We’re always talking and cheering each other on, professionally, personally and sport-wise.”
Miller’s athletic experience has been a story of searching for the right fit. Growing up in Virginia, she was a figure skater and cycled through the usual battery of youth sports, for each of which she remembered being “too” something — too short, too tall, too slow. When she found roller derby as a means to stay fit and make friends, it clicked with something she’d searched for for a very long time.
“I showed up (to a practice) and fell in love with it instantly,” she said. “There’s a place for everyone. We have people who have never done an athletic thing in their life, and they have turned into amazing athletes. Or people who have struggled with body issues, eating disorders, who’ve gained so much confidence.”
Miller’s early faith life also didn’t quite fit. Raised in an evangelical household, she was more active in church than many in her family. When she got to college, she explored the Catholic faith more deeply. She converted in 2009, and a change in career path followed.
“I was hoping to be an oral surgeon, but during the conversion process and everything, I began to realize that I wasn’t being called for that. That wasn’t what God had planned for me,” she said. “It became very obvious; I was skipping classes to do ministry work, I was taking calls at work from my fellow students who were going through things. I was more excited about papers in my religion class than I was about the lab I did in our daily chemistry classes.
“So, that was kind of a kick in the butt, and my teachers and mentors were like, you have to examine your life. Where are you being pulled versus where are you making yourself go?”
Today, Miller finds roller derby and campus ministry perfectly complement each other as the things in life she loves most.
“(Derby) allows me to stretch certain muscles that maybe don’t get stretched in the office,” she said. “Having a ministerial role is being more of a servant and supporting others. Here I have other people pushing me out front, empowering me. That’s helped me empower and encourage my students and vice versa.
“But I also lucked out in that (the club) is an awesome teaching moment for me and an awesome community because of the diversity. I meet people that would probably never cross a threshold of a campus ministry or a church in their life, but I get to hang out with them multiple times a week and share a life with them and get support and love and encouragement from them and give that to them in return. It’s an amazing example of how the Church is supposed to be in the world.”