Doug Whitten is known to most as a music professor, director of the university’s renowned Pride of the Plains Marching Band, and one of the finest tuba players in the region.

But Whitten has a small secret. On certain nights, he will heed the call, lace up his skates, don the uniform

and helmet, and patrol the skate track as Wheelzabub: roller derby player.

“In a prior incarnation of this life

I was a speed skater, I practically lived in the rink as a kid,” said Whitten.

“I was at Roller King in Reno, Nevada, every morning at 6 a.m. I skated at a fairly high level back then, even went to the Olympic training center in Colorado. As I got older, I missed skating so I got into this.”

Whitten’s roller derby experience has provided him with the opportunity to see the sport as a player, a referee, and as coach of the Mo-Kan Roller Girlz, a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

“I really like him as a coach,” said Chrissy Landberg, a member of the Roller Girlz team. “He works us hard with endurance, but we learn a lot from him. He’s good at knowing exactly where to put people and how to make practice flow. Because he plays, he understands the game better which makes him a great coach.”

Whitten believes his career as an educator helps him be a better team leader in roller derby.

Doug Whitten’s love of teaching and speed skating has made him a successful coach and competitor in the world of roller derby.

Doug Whitten’s love of teaching and speed skating has made him a successful coach and competitor in the world of roller derby.

“To me, coaching and teaching are all about relationships,” said Whitten. “What I do as a coach, is almost identical to what I do as a teacher. I give lots of feedback, and lots of praise for quality work.”

Adrenaline-filled game play in roller derby consists of short match-ups, called Jams, in which both teams designate a Jammer who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team.

In effect, teams play both offense and defense at the same time.

“We want fans to see the excitement of the game,” said Landberg. “I’ve found that fans really enjoy the skater names because they can then follow their favorite skater.”

Skater names on the Roller Girlz roster include “Psycho-analyzer,” “Rocnagem,” and “Strychnine.” Most have a connection to the players’ professions which, on Whitten’s team includes counseling, elementary education, and accounting.

“They help hype up the sport a bit and let fans know they’re going to have a good time while they’re here,” said Landberg.

While the names are fun, once the whistle blows the competitors are all business. Heavy hits, strategy and tough play are always on display.

Whitten believes his students can learn a great deal from the women who compete in the WFTDA — a concept he developed as a speed skater and which the sport helped reignite.

“I think we need more grit in our society,” said Whitten. “Roller derby is a community of women who come together and succeed at getting fit and taking charge of their lives. The sport teaches them toughness. Students need a little toughness in their life, too. Sometimes, I push them a little harder than they want to be pushed to show them that they can do it. Let them get out of their comfort zone and discover for themselves that they can accomplish great things.”