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The Birth of Strong Athletic: Words are Powerful

Posted by Nadia Kean on Jul 20th 2016

Strong Athletic is so much more than a t-shirt company. It's an idea, a movement and a mission with a backstory.

Our Mission

Strong Athletic provides a platform for people to express themselves. We want people to tell the world who they are. Whether it is the word "Strong", "Athletic", "Woman", "Skater", "Queer", "Girl", "Official", "Mom" that you identify with the most, we want you to proudly wear those words across your chest. We believe words will start a dialogue with those around you. Regardless of if you're wearing your Strong Athletic shirt, we want you to look in the mirror and know that those words are true.

The Origin of our Sport

When roller derby was brought back into existence in January of 2001, the original league used a few different names, the first was "Bad Girl Good Woman Productions" and the second name was "Texas Rollergirls". After the original league split into two leagues in 2003, the flat track league continued to operate under the name "Texas Rollergirls" while the bank track league went on to use the name "TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls". Both leagues had the word "rollergirl" in the title, which inadvertently helped to launch our sport down the rocky road that would be laced with feminism, athletics, rock and roll, DIY tactics and politics. Although the word "rollergirl" says little about roller derby or the athletes who play it, it has taken a front row seat in the foundation of the sport, being used in thousands of league names and creating a massive shadow upon the athletes who play roller derby with its undeniable presence.

Although it would be easy to point to the word "rollergirl" as the sole culprit to why adult women in derby are called "girls" the problem is actually age old and a pervasive problem around the world. I am angered when I’m called a ‘girl’, especially when the person making the reference is an adult male. I find the reference to be antiquated, out of date, unfortunate and in need of a change.

Words are Powerful

Words are a human construct, used to paraphrase and construe the complex thoughts that make us who we are. I've put much thought into the two words "girl" and "woman". I've been forced to actually because depending on the person I am talking to, I'll either be referred to as one or the other, and as a result I have an immediate reaction to the reference.

"Girl" is a powerful word, and is used to describe one of the most important times in a female's life. I used to be a girl, and that was great, but time passes, we grow up and I did too. The word "girl" should be used to refer to a child. A person who will be capable of many things when they get older but until then they will need to rely on adults who can take care of them.

I love being called a "woman". Women are the backbone of my life. I was raised by a strong, smart, talented, loving and well-traveled woman, Nona Kean. I grew up with an awesome, creative, clever, athletic and kind sister Lisa Nanyes. I have the best friends in the world who are women. I've played sports and made music with so many awesome women. There are countless women that I look up to, strive to be like and who I do business with. There is power in the word WOMAN. There is power in being a WOMAN.

Strong Athletic was Born

It was 2013 and I was bothered by all of the coaches, officials and the announcers in the sport of roller derby referring to female athletes as "girls". I started to call the Texecutioners, the team that I skate for, a "fine group of strong, athletic, women". I called my teammates this at practice, at parties, when traveling. I said it with pride and respect and meant it as the highest compliment.

My league mate and good friend Cristen Perks knew that this was an important phrase to me and so she designed a shirt with the words Strong, Athletic, Woman and hand screen-printed it for me as a gift. It immediately became my favorite shirt and I got complements on it constantly. I decided I wanted to make the shirt available to the public and Cristen was kind enough to allow me to use her design. We printed 100 shirts and I sold them out of my bag at ECDX 2014 (sorry Philly!)

How do you Identify?

Not everyone identifies with the word woman, and I believe it is important that people are referred to by the words that they identify with. It is for this reason that I have branched out and created a few additional lines including #strongathleticskater #strongathleticqueer #strongathleticmom #strongathleticgirl #strongathleticofficial.

Thank you to everyone who has made this movement possible. I am so happy to be one of the many companies working to bring equality and liberation to humans and especially to athletes in the world.

About the Founder

My name is Nadia Kean. I play roller derby under the skate name Smarty Pants for Texas and Team USA. I started playing derby on May 26, 2003 in Austin, Texas for the banked track team TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. I moved to flat track on January 5, 2011 when I joined the original flattrack team Texas. I am the owner and operator of Strong Athletic. I also own Get Smarty Coaching, a roller derby coaching and consulting firm. I live in Austin, Texas, Y’all.

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