In May, I will celebrate three years of Roller Derby.  Now, this isn’t three easy years we’re talking about.  Let’s have a little story time.

In May 2010 my husband encouraged me to meet with a local Roller Derby league (I haven’t ever asked him if he regrets that decision….)  I was cautiously excited as I approached them at a local convention, but after meeting the few ladies that were manning their booth, I decided that I would indeed check out the next practice.  Here’s what I knew about Derby at that point.  The women were tough, it was on roller skates and it was all the rage in Seattle.  That was it.  I’d casually toyed with the idea of checking out a league while I was a Seattleite but never did (much to my great regret later on).  I even met a few rollergirls from the Seattle team during my time in the bar biz, but again, I was too young and stupid to see a good thing when it was rolling right in front of me.

Anyway.  It was practice day number one and I was a nervous wreck.  Would these ladies like me?  Would I be any good? Could I afford this?  What the hell was I thinking.  I showed up in sweat pants and a baggy shirt to a group of women in tights and fishnets.  I had no gear but was given an old pair of white dance skates, some elbow and wrist pads (they didn’t have much else in the way of loaner gear) and was set to the middle of the track to try out my skills. 

The skates were three sizes too big, I fell on my ass at least a dozen times and I scraped up my knees pretty good but I was in L-O-V-E.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know how.  The derby bug bit me in the ass and I’ve been infected ever since.  

Our league was young and plagued with drama and we changed coaches, names and team colors twice over the next year but I continued to skate.  I watched my best friend (who I met on the team) break her leg.  I watched other girls break ankles, wrists, tailbones (and broke mine twice) and still we all skated.  The following February we had our last bout as a league.  Too much drama and ego, not enough structure and design, destroyed our league.  We briefly discussed forming our own league but some of the gals who were ready for the next level of played wanted to join the already established league in our area.  Our team had been through a lot together and now everyone was going their separate ways.  Some of us that were unwilling to join the other local league (they too were plagued with drama and ego) saw our derby careers coming to an end.  

I was devastated and angry and let others steal my joy.  I won’t ever, ever do that again.  I could have kept skating.  I could have let go of my personal hurts on the track.  I could have kept skating.  Instead I hung up my skates and bitterly looked back on that time as the best years that could have been.  Not long after that my husband was laid off, finances were tight and although derby was always on my mind, I rarely looked at as more than “something I used to do”.

Fast forward to spring 2012.  My BFF was cleared to skate after her break and we somehow ended up at a recruitment event for the other local league we’d dismissed before hoping that the time and inclusion of some of our old teammates had quelled some of their less than desirable qualities.  Unfortunately, despite a concerted effort by some members, the “old guard” on the team still had the “We hate fresh meat” atitude and it was overheard by me and the BFF that one player in particular would not “Ever skate with that bitch” aimed at I don’t know who but it was enough to put us off.  Derby dreams crushed, take two.

Shortly after that recruit event another sort of local league (they were positioned in a town about 40 minutes away) was holding a recruit night.  We decided to head down and check it out.  It was exactly what we were looking for.  A positive, supportive group of ladies, working hard to make derby work.  I’m not sure how long a time passed, not long, but I decided to join them and attended a couple of practices, excited at the prospect of once again being part of a league and continuing my skating journey.

Fast forward less than a month.  My husband, who had been laid off for a year, got offered a job in San Diego that would last the summer.  I was no longer able to commit the three night, 4 hour practices with the kidlet under my wing.  So, once again, derby got put off. 

Okay, stick with me, hop in the TARDIS and fast forward to Winter 2012.  Our family is relocated to ____ _______, New Mexico.  Of course, the first thing my husband tells me about this strange little town is “they have a derby league” (wow, he really does love me, doesn’t he?)  I contacted them, attended one recruit night/practice and now, four monthsish later I am a skills tested, boutable skater for the first time, ever.  

Am I proud? Hell yes!  Do I wish I’d never given up on derby in the first place? Hells yea!  Do I plan to do this until my body falls apart at the seams and the refs have to send me off the track because despite having four wheels a wheelchair does not qualify as an “oversized quad skate”? most likely.  I will never let any league drama or personal issues steal my joy.  I am my own joy maker and only I can take away my own joy.  That’s really more profound in my head than in print, but you get the point.  I’m DO ROLLER DERBY. It’s not a joke, it’s a sport.  Over these past few years I’ve traded in tutus and fishnets for moisture wicking pants and athletic tape.  I’ve gone from scarfing down nachos and beer at the after party to protein shakes and muscle support supplements.  I’ve gone from letting others ruin the experience for me to taking charge of my experience and becoming the better skater I knew I could.  



2 thoughts on “Derby Love

  1. Fink says:

    This story is horribly familiar. I have even seen cases where the local derby team is a clique where skaters are refused membership and have had to move away in order to keep skating.

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