I practice as much as a woman with 3 kids can. I travel an hour each way to my current team. My husband switches jobs quite often and we tend to have to move because of this. I am by no means a stellar athlete. I'm 40 years old. I am about 50 pounds over weight. Because my husband's profession is so iffy, we usually don't have much money so I can't afford to update my equipment. (I'm still skating on the same wheels & equipment I first bought 4 years ago.) The fact that I can accomplish what I do on the track with the time & things I have is amazing. I'm not disputing that fact. But when you go to a roller derby game, you have a definite split between the hard core players and those who play for love of the game.
I am most definitely the latter.
I have loved roller skating since I was a child. I asked for new roller skates at every birthday. Once I got into high school and became a band geek, I stopped skating but it never left my heart. The breeze in my hair, twirling around and, when I was at the top of my game, jumping a single axle were exhilarating!! Now I speed past women of all ages, smacking into them with my entire weight and knocking them to the floor while aiding my team's jammer in swooping through the chaos. I have spent the last 4 years learning, learning, constantly learning and here's a few things I learned.
- Just because you're totally immersed in derby doesn't make you any better than the girl who comes 2x a week. I've seen this happen lots of times. Skaters who live and breathe derby will look down on those who can only make some of the practices. It sucks because you have no idea what that girl has to do in order to make those few practices a week. She may have to take a lousy shift at work, rearrange her school schedule, get the crappy car pool day, or any other myriad of real life B.S. that happens during a day in the life of a human being. Just because your life is unfettered and all the stars aligned for you to be able to hit up derby 5x a week doesn't make you a better person, just a more seasoned player.
- NEVER FORGET: IT IS THE FANS & VOLUNTEERS THAT MAKE OUR LEAGUES FUNCTION! I've said it before, and I'll say it again, without the volunteers, NSO's, refs, and fans we wouldn't have roller derby like we do today. It would be foolish to think we can live in our ivory tower strategy and play books, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, bouts would not happen with out all those people. Our volunteers help sell tickets, raise money, and set up for our bouts. Our NSO's make sure the score, penalties, and box visits are all on the up and up. Our Refs make sure we are safe as we try to kill each other. Our fans keep us grounded and amped up! We cannot exist as a league without these people yet I find it laughable that we(the leagues) totally forget about all of these folks till the week of the bout. Oh hell, then the leagues are scrambling, searching, & begging for help whereas just a week or so ago they didn't have time to respond to even a facebook message!
- Some folks just don't wanna go WFTDA. WFTDA is the governing body of women's flat track roller derby. They make the rules, hold the national tournaments, and decide everything. Generally we as derby players are supposed to want to be WFTDA certified players, playing for a WFTDA certified team. That's not always true for everyone and just because someone doesn't want to "Go WFTDA" doesn't make them any less qualified of a derby player. Look at me. I'm a 40 year old woman with 3 kids, a husband, and a 2 hour round trip to derby practice 2x a week. I have 3 major joints that I need surgery on that I have been putting off for a year and a half now because either my husband changed jobs and we lost our insurance or it just takes forever to get said surgery scheduled. Given a choice between buying something for my kids for school or buying new wheels & bearings, I'm always going to put my kids needs first. Apparently that doesn't jive well with WFTDA-minded teams and players(At least from my experiences.), but hey... I'm ok with that. That's why we have rec. teams and I am totally cool playing on one of those.
- Don't "forget" your sick, injured & troubled. We've seen it happen in every league and team. Someone gets injured or someone's family has an emergency and they drop off the face of the earth, but really... that may be some of the league's fault too. Do we call these people? Drop by to visit? Send them FB messages asking about them? Include them in our practice & bout planning? Being injured or screwed over by life circumstances and not able to skate sucks ass, but also being forgotten and the written off? That sucks worse. From my own experience with a past leagues, I was injured, but still offered to help with the posting of bout information on all the local community calendars for my league as PR. I couldn't drive to practice but I made damn sure I could help out my league, even if it was only online. It was ok for the first few bouts, but then since I wasn't skating they kicked me out of the skater's forum where I was gleaning information to post about fresh meat intakes and meet the skater opportunities. Then I wasn't allowed on the committee FB pages. I finally took the hint that I was dropped from any and all team doings when I was no longer receiving the press releases so that I could update all the community calendars. It was all done gradually and no one ever said "Hey, thanks but since we haven't seen you in a while we're going to have to sever ties with you.", but this goes back to my earlier point of not taking your volunteers for granted. I hope they got someone to fill my shoes, (and in all reality, they more than likely did), but the way they went about replacing me was just shitty and I'm no longer a big fan of that league.
- Lastly, and most importantly, play for the love of the game!!! If derby becomes more of a job than the adventure it should be, step back for a little bit. Being a mostly women's sport, we got bucket loads of drama. Skater squabbles, league squabbles, squabbles squabbles squabbles..... but we usually can wade through all that. What we can't wade through is someone's bad attitude poisoning the league. No one is going to think less of you if you gotta take a moment. (Just know if you're in my league I'm gonna be checking on ya!) We all need a breath of fresh air sometimes, and if you can't find it in your current league, go and find your happy! It has taken me three leagues to find my derby happy and I am so delighted it's ridiculous. My knowledge is valued. My experience is respected. My attitude is echoed by all the women I skate with. Remember that "thing" that brought you to derby in the first place and skate your heart out finding it!!!
Ok then. Glad we could have this chat. Roller derby is an ever evolving sport that is as exciting as it is maddening, but at the end of the day, it is totally worth the work and effort we as players put in to it. Just remember, find your happy and play for the joy of the game because that's what'll keep you coming back!
Joy of the game.