TaShina Kohlman is a fighter.
She has a disability, but her degenerative hearing loss doesn’t hold her back.
She is a fighter – in every sense of the word.
Kohlman sat on the floor at Razor City Skate Land lacing up her skates and pulling on her gloves to get ready for practice.
She was oblivious to the music in the background that rattled around the small rink like a pinball as “Pinball Wizard” by The Who echoed off the walls.
Kohlman’s gear – the helmet, skates, gloves — help protect her body. But her real ammunition is her heart and an attitude of never quitting.
In only a matter of minutes, she will be in a battle. But she has been fighting most of her life. She will knock people down, and get knocked down. But, as always, she gets back up and moves forward.
She jumped up and rolled onto the rink to join the wall of blockers on the Coal Miners’ Daughters roller derby team as they skated in tandem, circling the track.
This Coal Miners’ Daughter lives in two worlds.
She’s had the hearing loss since birth. Through the use of hearing aides, sign language and lip reading, though, her communicative skills are as clear and bright as the sparkle in her eyes.
The other world includes the hustle and bustle of human activity, the sound of rush hour traffic and the noise of everyday life. She lives in that one too, but she is no prisoner to a world without sound.
“I consider it a hearing limitation, not a disability,” Kohlman said. “What I’m doing here is about the team and proving to the deaf community that just because you’re hearing impaired doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
“If I can do roller derby, so can anyone.”
Life without limits
The 19-year-old from Great Falls, Mont., goes by the rink name of Tik Tik Boom, because she’s a redhead with very little patience. When she’s upset, there is no doubt about what is on her mind.
That stubborn streak is a driving force for a young woman that’s been on her own since she was 17. When she sets her mind to do something, she works hard to make it happen.
Roller derby is the perfect outlet for her Type A personality. Skating for Gillette’s newest roller derby team is new experience in a world without limits for the Kmart checkout supervisor and full-time college student.
It is one of the few full-contact sports available to women and she’s not afraid to flex a little muscle when needed. Then again, in a world with tattoos, leather and lace, she’s not afraid to show her feminine side with black-net stockings under her shorts.
Kohlman is a blocker. Her job is to make it difficult for the opposing jammer to get through her team’s line. It is a simple tactic, if you stop the opposing jammer, you stop her point-scoring ability.
A roller derby team is only as good as its blockers and the determined set in her eyes makes it clear she takes her job seriously.
The speed of the game pushes her beyond her comfort zone and forces her to make decisions in rapid order. Communication is based on eye contact and hand signals. She communicates on the fly.
As the workout unfolds, she doesn’t hear the grunts of exertion or a startled squeal when one of her teammates loses her balance as the rolling pack loops the track faster and faster.
But the vibration, the grind, the physical contact is as much a part of her world as it is the others.
“I’ve done swimming, volleyball and basketball, but there’s no muscle memory for this,” she said with a smile. “It’s totally exhausting.”
The offensive part of her job is to slingshot the jammer to a faster pace and hopefully pass the other team’s blockers.
As the Coal Miners’ Daughters worked on the maneuver, they sent their jammer at break-neck speed into the corner. She didn’t quite negotiate the turn and went sprawling across the floor.
Yep, even roller derby girls biff every now and then.
On Saturday, she was part of something special, skating in front of an estimated 400 people in the Coal Miner’s Daughters’ 149-147 victory over Casper’s Deadly Ghosts at the Cam-plex Central Pavilion.
Life is what you make it.