Born and raised in San Jose, Williams left only to attend college at Cal State Monterey Bay for five years. When she returned, Megan “Panda Monium” Williams first started playing roller derby with the Bay Area Derby Girls after reading about their first bout. Since 2008, Williams has been coaching the Silicon Valley Roller Girls for “the good and the bad” of four years.

Silicon Valley Roller Girls is a non-profit, all-female flat track roller derby league that was founded in 2007. Williams played alongside the girls for three years until stepping off the rink to focus on her role as coach. Along with other members of the coaching staff, Williams does her part by facilitating scrimmages, teaching new skills and strategies to players and developing teamwork.

Name: Megan “Panda Monium” Williams

Age: 29

Occupation: Head Coach for the Silicon Valley Roller Girls

How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I’m born and raised. I’m local. I love San Jose. I went to college in Monterey for five years but came back.

What do you like most about San Jose?
I love that even though it’s a big town, there’s so many small-town things that go on. There’s so many DIY things, like roller derby and vintage baseball, which is kind of like roller derby for guys.

How old were you when you first started roller skating?
I roller skated on and off at birthday parties at Aloha Skate when I was little, but I started really skating in 2006 for Bay Area Derby Girls.

How did you come up with the name “Panda Monium”?
I love pandas, but “Panda Monium” definitely described my skating style when I first started. It was pretty chaotic. When I first started competing, I used to do my makeup to make myself look like a panda.

What’s your favorite thing about being coach?
I love teaching. It sounds cheesy, but I like empowering woman; helping them be stronger and teaching them things they thought they couldn’t do. I like facilitating, research and organizing, and being a coach those are things you have to be strong at. I love that I get to interact with so many different people in our league. They’re people who I might not have had a chance to meet in my normal life. It’s a fun and inspiring bunch.

What are the biggest challenges you face as coach?
The injuries are the worse. The absolute worst. Probably the most severe thing that happened was a broken hip once, but we’ve had five tibia breaks, several broken noses, shoulder separations. The worst is having an injury at a game. I’m the first responder to assess whether or not we should call an ambulance. We prepare for it, I’m trained in first aid for coaches. When it comes to injuries in derby, it’s not the if, it’s the when, because roller derby a full contact sport.

When you’re not at the rink, how do you like to spend your time?
I like spending time with family and friends, I like walking my dog. I’m researching a lot, looking up stuff about derby.

What are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
I love the stretch of the Alameda, there’s just so much cool stuff there. So many cool shops: The Usuals, Black and Brown, the chocolate shop [Schurra’s Candy Factory]. I love that place. My dad has been taking me there since I was a little girl, so it’s sentimental for me.

I love San Pedro Square, I love our local dog park. I love that I can ride my skateboard downtown. Downtown has so many vegan places, and I’m vegan, so I like always having a lot of options. And I love that Psycho Donuts makes vegan donuts! I’m so proud San Jose has Psycho Donuts; I love them! They’ve been one of our sponsors. We had a donut-eating contest with them.

If you could change anything about San Jose, what would it be?
Two things: one is bicycle safety. I’ve had several friends get their bikes stolen lately, and that makes me really nervous about my own bike. It sometimes make me not want to take my own bike downtown, even though it’s convenient for me because I live near downtown.

Second is the housing market and how expensive everything is here. It’s hard. All my friends are going and buying houses in Portland and wherever. It’s a bummer.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?
Tracy O’Neal, he’s my boyfriend. The girls are totally gonna hark over that, but still, I just feel so lucky that we live in the same town. He grew up in San Jose. He’s so fascinating, so supporting and so loving.  It’s amazing.