How Champion Loren Mutch Became the MVP of Roller Derby

The 28-year-old RedBull athlete shares exactly what it takes to become an elite roller derby competitor - and it's no joke.

Loren Mutch rounds the track at full speed in the Hanger at Oaks Bottom Park in Portland, OR, USA on 8 August 2017. // Aaron Rogosin/Red Bull Content Pool // SI201708180345 // Usage for editorial use only //
Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

"I was the worst roller skater at kids' birthday parties growing up," admits 28-year-old Loren Mutch, who is now a member of the USA Roller Derby team and four-time world champion of the sport.

Mutch was introduced to roller derby by happenstance in 2007 when a friend of her sister started the Kitsap Derby Brats, a junior roller derby team in her hometown of Port Orchard, Washington. Mutch says she could tell the sport was for her even then at just 14 years old and despite her lack of skating skills. "It just looked so fun and so cool," she tells Shape. "It had this punk-rock vibe, so I picked it up relatively fast once I knew I had a passion for it." (

Finding Her Home On the Track

At first roller derby was more about the people than the actual sport itself, says Mutch. Throughout her teens, Mutch explains that she suffered from vocal polyps (non-cancerous growths that can cause hoarseness and irritation of the vocal cords), which significantly impacted her ability to speak clearly and loudly. As such, Mutch says she wanted to find a place where she could feel heard and accepted. "No one [in roller derby] really cared that my voice was hoarse or that I struggled to speak," says Mutch. "The atmosphere was so welcoming and accepting. Everyone came together because they shared a common love for the sport."

Over the next several years, Mutch quickly became the best player on her team. But it was in 2012, when she turned 18, that she said she realized roller derby could be much more than just a hobby. "I remember watching the Rose City Rollers, Portland, Oregon's roller derby team, compete in a regional playoff game and it was so exciting," she shares. "They won and were headed for a championship. I was so inspired." (

Becoming an MVP

So, later that same year, Mutch tried out for the Rose City Rollers and secured a spot on the team. During her first game, she realized that roller derby wasn't just her passion but also her purpose. "There was no doubt in my mind that this is what I wanted to do, and I was going to do whatever it takes to be the best derby player that I could be," she says.

While she admits it took some time for Mutch to find her footing on this higher-stakes stage, her motto has always been to take things one day at a time and go with the flow, she explains.

Things changed for her as the Rose City Rollers were headed to their first-ever Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTA) championship, the leading competition for roller derby in the world. In the very first game of the series, Mutch scored 30 points, helping her team win the game, and went on to be named MVP of the tournament.

In 2016, Mutch had what would be her last surgery to remove a vocal polyp, and was finally able to fully communicate with her teammates. Unsurprisingly, this was especially helpful during derby games, so this newfound advantage propelled her even further in the sport. Since then, she's gone on to join the USA Roller Derby Team, has won four International Championships, one World Cup, and is a proud Red Bull-sponsored athlete.

Despite her accomplishments, Mutch says she's still frustrated by the misconceptions around her sport. In fact, it's this mistaken belief that roller derby isn't actually a sport, but rather a form of entertainment where big, mean, fish-net-wearing girls shove each other around for fun that irks her the most, she says. People seem to think that there are no rules and that the objective is to fling at your opponent without fear of consequence, she adds. "Yes, it's super aggressive, but you can't elbow people or push and trip your opponents - there are penalties for that." (

What's more, Mutch's training is proof that these players are nothing short of elite athletes. Mutch dedicates about two hours in the gym, five days a week during the off-season and between two and three days during it. Right now, she's working one-on-one with Red Bull strength and conditioning coach Alex Bunt, who has her doing a combination of strength training and weight lifting, complete with complex exercises such as clean and jerks, snatches, Olympic lifts, and other CrossFit-inspired movements.

Throughout a typical week of workouts, Mutch also focuses on speed drills and does a lot of plyometric movements. "Roller derby is a combination of every single aspect of athleticism," she says. "You need to have strength, sturdiness, and power to ward off blockers, but also endurance, speed, and agility to outpace your opponents. I want people to know that we're real athletes. We work really hard and take it very seriously."

How Roller Derby Combats Stereotypes

There's one big element of the sport of roller derby that's too often missed, though: It challenges the constraints society puts on female athletes. "When I'm playing roller derby, I feel so good about myself and my body," says Mutch. "It's so challenging and equally rewarding. It's empowered me to take up space and own it."

Even cooler? Roller derby is one of the few elite sports that welcomes transgender, intersex, and non-binary athletes with open arms. "I couldn't be more proud to be a part of such an accepting community," says Mutch, who is a member of the LGBTQIA community herself. "Right now, there are so many anti-trans bills being passed about why trans women shouldn't be allowed to play female sports. But I play a full-contact, aggressive sport against these women all the time, and I have never felt that the playing field isn't even. I will still school you on the track, no matter who you are. Trans, non-binary, and intersex women belong in this sport, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Skating Forward In Life and Career

While the pandemic put a pause on Mutch's derby schedule, she's certainly been keeping busy. Not only is she pursuing a degree in sports management, but in lieu of derby games, she's has taken up park skating with some of her team members as a fun way to stay connected with the sport. "We literally skate as long as we can - until the sun goes down until it starts raining, or until our legs fall off," she says. (

Mutch has also taken strides in her personal life, typing the knot with girlfriend Sophie Kaplan in March this year. No surprise here, but Kaplan is also an incredible athlete as she holds the Oregon state record for her weight class in powerlifting.

Kaplan has been by Mutch's side throughout her roller derby and helped her hold it together when COVID temporarily halted her career. "I don't think I could do this without her," says Mutch. "I think it's so important to have somebody who understands what you're doing. She's not a skater, but she understands the lifestyle, and I'm so appreciative of that."

Make no mistake: When the roller derby season finally begins again, Mutch will be ready. "I'm going to play roller derby for as long as I'm happy and healthy," she says. "I want to win some more championships and inspire more future skaters and athletes to try the sport. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll make it on the ESPN the Magazine's body issue. That would be an ultimate dream come true!" (

If you've been interested in trying roller derby yourself or just don't know much about the sport, just "Come to a roller derby game - experience it," says Mutch. "There are leagues everywhere. You don't have to wait until the perfect time. You don't even have to know how to skate. Pre-COVID, I could go anywhere in the world, find a roller derby league, and I would have friends. The community is truly so special and the amazing this is, anyone can be a part of it."

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