Tammy Matthews has taken Harry Potter into the world of roller derby.
Matthews transforms into Hermione Danger in the Windy City Rollers league, as the Hell's Belles co-captaina tribute to Hermione Granger, the name of the main female character in the books.
She was in the middle of the series when she started playing derby.
Matthews, 29, who lives in East Lake View, is an editor/journalist. She graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 2000, and then the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2004 with a bachelor's in journalism.
She is in her third season as a Windy City skater and second as the Hell's Belles co-captain. Before that, she spent a year as a Windy City referee and another year skating for the now-defunct Chi-Town Sirens.
"I have no idea what I expected [when I first started skating], but I never thought I would become so wrapped up in the culture," Matthews said. "It fits well. I can be loud when I want and quiet when I want; as long as I remember my ultimate goal is to become the best damn skater my body can make me. And to eventually win a championship
"No matter what, the 2011 derby season is going to be successful for the Belles. This is our second year of rebuilding. Every game, we get a little stronger, faster and more competitive. For the league, the 2011 season is going to be profitable. Derby has never been so popular, and the talent in the league has never been so extraordinary."
Matthews, who is openly gay, has previously played competitive soccer. And she also has long been a gym rat, she admits.
"I generally say I'm gay, but I'm starting to own the title of 'lesbian,'" Matthews said. "I always had the utmost respect for people who identify as lesbians, and it's not something I'd slap on my chest lightly. If I fell for a man, I'd be open to that relationship. But I haven't dated a man in a long time. Right now, I have a girlfriend in the league.
It's relatively new, but she's a good one. We'll see what happens."
Matthews skated to All-Star accolades in 2010, but did not play in the All-Star Game due to an injury, "but I never will forget how I felt when I saw my name listed next to some of the best skaters in the nation."
Matthews said she was attracted to derby by the sport itself and the athleticism. "I just knew it was something I could fall into and totally love." She said the best things about derby are the sport itself and the women, and the worst things are the injuries and the drama.
"Roller derby is incredibly inclusive and accepting," Matthews said. "We have street-teaming events in Boystown and Andersonville, and we also pull groups together for the Pride Parade and Market Days."
Matthews added: "I want to build my skaters into confident and formidable derby players. Personally, I'd love to make the All-Star charter again someday."