On a Roll
A Drake alumna makes waves in the rough-and-tumble world of roller derby
As a jammer for the Des Moines Derby Dames, Malay Bouaphakeo, JO’05, strikes without hesitation. As a blocker she’s always ready to throw a hip and send a rival to the skating rink floor.
Bouaphakeo, a resource consultant at Paragon IT Professionals, is more than a tough competitor. She is also the founder, coach, owner, member of the board of directors and PR maven for the Derby Dames — the newest roller derby league in central Iowa.
“We want to win, but it’s not just about that,” she says. “It’s about building the league and growing the business.”
In their first year of competition, the Derby Dames averaged 600 fans per meet. At the opening bout of 2011, the Dames took the rink in front of nearly 3,000 screaming fans at the Iowa State Fairgrounds — a record attendance for any derby event in Iowa.
“That’s an amazing number of fans,” she says. “I knew Des Moines was ripe for derby; I just knew we had to do it better. We raised the bar a lot.”
From Drake to Derby
Bouaphakeo has always been competitive, but this spirit was reinforced as a student-athlete at Drake. She played softball for all four years, first as a walk-on until her determination and natural ability earned her a scholarship.
“I wanted to go to college where I wouldn’t just be a number and where I could compete at the highest level,” says Bouaphakeo.
She credits her Drake experience with helping her succeed in her day job and also with providing her the knowledge and leadership skills needed to create and sustain a competitive organization.
“Drake helped me develop these skills, and I’ve carried what I learned with me into derby,” she says. “I wanted to create something sports-focused and competitive with a good brand, and I’ve done this with the Derby Dames.”
With athletes taking on alternate personas (Bouaphakeo skates as “Show Stopper”) and often wearing elaborate outfits, there is a strong focus on entertainment as well as competition in derby.
“It’s an entertainment sport, too,” she says. “It encompasses the whole spectrum and really makes for a great fan experience.”
— Tim Schmitt, GR’08, ’10
Thanks to Laura Foster of Maharry Photography for the photo of Malay.