A Seattle Coffee Scene Profile:
Blood, bruises, and coffee is something that is all too familiar for this skilled Seattle barista, who also moonlights with the city’s toughest skaters.
Rat City Roller Girl, Yoko Onoudi’nt (pronounced Oh-No-You-Didn’t) is in her third season on the Derby Liberation Front where her skating skills, mental strength, and focus commands respect on and off the track.
If you’ve ever been to a derby bout, you’d know that the track isn’t a place for wimps. And neither is working behind an espresso machine at one of Seattle’s busiest coffee shops. For this Rat City Roller Girl, doing both several times a week has created one skilled ass-whoopin’ roller derby-barista.
“Each job helps each other in so many ways. For example, being a barista has actually helped strengthen my derby mental game, which sounds funny but it's true!” she says about her job at Starbucks in SODO.
Yoko Onoudi’nt, whose real first name is Kim, wakes up earlier than most of us to start her shift as a barista, a job that she loves because of the customers and the challenge of always improving her coffee skills.
“When its peak rush hour and every move you make – or don't make – directly affects the rate of success for that morning, it can be a lot of pressure. I have learned to slow things down in my head and learn from my mistakes so that on the next try, I'm better,” she added.
After work, she heads to the track for derby practice.
Being a Rat City Roller Girl is a huge commitment during the week for every skater out on the track. As a barista, Kim is able to have the flexibility to make multiple weekly practices, attend bouts, and travel for the team.
So what’s it like slinging shots of espresso by day and kicking ass and taking names by night?
Well, it takes work and a hell of a lot of practice, guts, and sacrifice.
It is a life that is fueled by coffee.
But Kim, who has been drinking coffee ever since she could hold a cup, wouldn’t want it any other way. She loves coffee and skating.
“I remember saving up all my allowance money so that I can go to the roller skate sessions,” she recalls of her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Coming to Seattle several years ago, Kim was introduced to roller derby by a friend. As an excellent skater, she tried out and made the team.
Once she made the team, it’s been bruises and bumps at work ever since. “Having a shiner on my face is a good conversation starter,” joked Kim, who enjoys the positive interaction she has with her customers.
“My favorite thing about being a barista in Seattle is the knowledge Seattleites have about coffees. I have learned so much from both my peers and my customers,” Kim said.
Determination, Commitment, & Attitude
Kim has become just as passionate about coffee and customer service as she is about being a Rat City Roller Girl. “We turn a lot customers in a day… at the end of the day you want to put out a quality beverage. It must taste right and be the right temperature,” she added.
Kim, who prefers black coffee herself, receives a lot of coffee education from Starbucks, who has regular coffee cuppings and training sessions.
“Starbucks is also passionate about what they’re doing and have a focus on coffee they’re serving. They care about people and community and connecting with customers who come in our store,” Kim said, who mentioned that Starbucks donates food to the mission and participates in other community events.
The Roller Derby Addiction: These Girls Don't Do Decaf
“This is the real deal. None of the action you’ll see is scripted or pre-planned; this is a real sport, and we play for keeps,” reads the RCRG website.
And if you’ve ever been to a bout, you’d understand they’re talking about. These women are tough, fast, and conditioned to circle the track fast in order to win their bouts.
The Rat City Roller Girls, which started in 2004, have a dedicated and loyal fan base that extends well beyond the city limits. Their bouts are now held at the Key Arena to enthusiastic legions of followers who come for the showomanship, displays of athleticism, competition, and fun.
From all accounts, Roller Derby is gaining momentum, not just here in Seattle but around the country and the world where it may qualify as a participating sport in the 2020 Olympics.
If you’ve never been a Rat City Roller Girls bout, you’re in luck there’s one coming up next month (Check out the schedule here).
A Life as a Derby Queen
Being a Rat City Roller Girls takes an enormous commitment, a reason Kim mentions, is why she admires her fellow skaters. But despite all the sacrifices she and the others make to put on great bouts, she loves what she does.
“For me being a Rat City Roller Girl is like getting to be a kid again. After we hit a certain adult age it's sometimes hard to believe you will find something that can completely reawaken your mind and body. But derby did that. I am constantly learning new things about the game and my skating ability. My old bones are doing things I didn't know they had in them. I'm constantly craving more and always asking the question “what's next??” The feeling is addictive,” she added.
Barista and Derby Skills Roll Together
Her positive attitude and focus she takes on the track, spills over off the track in life and work. Kim loves her customers and enjoys the challenges that both positions bring to her life.
“Communication is another skill that definitely overlaps. In derby you have to be communicative, whether verbal or by touch, so that you can be successful with your teammates and they can learn how to read you. I use a lot of the same heavy communication at work to make sure we succeed as a team during the day,” she said.
“Also, being a Rat City Roller Girl has helped me with my people skills. Because we are out and present in the community I talk to a lot of different people,” she added.
“I'm truly moved by so many of the connections I've made. It's no different when I'm on the front bar talking to my customers. There have been so many times where THEY have inspired me.”
Rat City Roller Girls’ Next Bout
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Key Arena Doors, 4:30
Opening Ceremonies, 5:30
Bout 1: Rat City Rain of Terror vs. Sac City Rollers Capitol Punishers
Bout 2: Rat City All Stars vs. Charm City Roller girls All Stars
Want to Be A Rat City Roller Girl? Try Out are Coming Up
If you're interested in being a Rat City Roller Girl, click here for more information.
A special thanks to Scarlet Leather and Penny Racer!
Photo Credits: Rat City Roller Girls. Photos Used by Permission. They are available here.