The Road to Rollergirl How I Stopped Being a Roller Wannabe and Started Being a Rollergirl


Camaraderie is Powerful

football players holding hands

Last night was rough. It started out well enough, but by about three quarters into the evening, lack of sleep from the night before was starting to make me sort of scattered and grouchy. I’ve had a shitty chest cold for about a week, so my muscles stung and my lungs refused to fill. Then I found out that I failed the fuck out of a written test. Although I had taken the test completely without studying and knowing absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was far beyond my level of understanding, I was pissed. It was supposed to be for shits and giggles, and there was no giggling going on. I was done for the night.


Reply Turned Post: Derby ain’t a bed of feminist roses

File this under "You Must Read This." Live Derby Girls really hit it out of the park yesterday with a post about the dark side of roller derby, and again today with a follow-up commenting on the fact that we all realize that there is a dark side, and how it is a feminist act to continue to love derby--and each other--even when we fall short of perfect sisterhood. As Villainelle so aptly put it: "Derby isn’t perfect?  So what?  Neither am I.  That’s why derby feels like home to me – because I’m fucking sick of perfection."

The post resonated with me because last night was a less-than-sisterly night for our league. Here's my response:

This is a thing of beauty. I am concerned with the feminism, as you put it.

Last night, practice was rough at our house. Lots of blow-ups, elbows to faces, tension I could feel in my belly. And for a moment I found myself thinking “god fucking dammit why can’t so-and-so stop being such a diva, and why can’t our pack work together, we’re all on the same fucking team!”

On the drive home, I came to the same place – derby is not about some sort of peaceful sisterhood where we all braid each other’s hair and live in our utopia of a woman’s separate way of knowing. It’s about us getting to be who we are, even if that is abrasive, or discouraged, or whatever. It’s about working with and through the differences, not about sameness. The fact that there is a dark side to derby just means that we get to be whole, many-sided personalities. It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but like a lot of derby pain, it’s ultimately a good thing.


When Shit Gets Real


The other day at practice, we had our first real injury of the season, an ankle break. Honestly, I don't even know what to say about it. It was the damndest thing, this girl just suddenly fell over and was screaming in pain, her ankle snapped like a twig.


Rollin’ with the Pack

After my admission of shamefully unsportsmanlike thoughts, I think that I should talk a little about the other untapped aspect of my personality that training for derby has coaxed out of me: team player.

I've never gotten along that well with other people. I think I'm just the sort of person that forms a close friendship with one or two other people, and everyone else is sort of arm's-length relations. I started this process as a lone operator - the road to rollergirl was one I was on by myself. That's great and all, but I feel like my commitment to this has ratcheted up about 1,000x since I found a pack to roll with.

When I was in my workout class, I noticed a couple of girls who looked like they had been skating a little longer than me and were really pushing each other. They'd tell each other to do certain moves, calling out "t-stop!" "plow stop!" They seemed like they were just as serious about it as I was, and were really reinforcing each other. When I found out that they were going to speed skating practice, I decided to go along with them. I was nervous, but what could it hurt?

As it turned out, it was lots of fun, and they were super supportive. It just sort of built from there - a couple of other people started coming too, and what was just a carpool turned into a group of people who force me to work way harder than I thought possible. We've hung out outside of skating a little, but not much (frankly, our practice schedule doesn't leave much time). Mostly, it's about having other people to be accountable to. For example, this speed skating class is great, but it's like 90 minutes from my home. I had decided I would go once a week to minimize the damage to my life. But after 2 weeks of them telling me all the awesome stuff they did while I was out, I just couldn't take it - I had to go twice a week too!

We're internally competitive in that we're always trying to work harder, try more new skills, just do more. But it's a friendly, non-catty competition. If someone falls, we all give a fuck. I've found myself quasi-coaching - thinking up things to do, calling out drills, helping people improve their form. I think it's something that most people might find irritating, but we thrive on it.

As a result, we've progressed at an incredible rate --so much so that other people have remarked on it-- and we've become crowd favorites at speed practice. The speed skaters are a pretty quiet bunch, they just get in there and bang it out. But we definitely kick up the energy, cheering for each other and others, joking with the coaches, and practicing our derby moves every moment we can.

Finding a group of supportive women has been an incredible experience for me, because it's something I've never had. We're probably the most cohesive group of pre-meat out there (we even printed t-shirts and stickers!), and it's all in the name of motivating each other. And even though we are cohesive, we're also supportive of the other people on this journey with us. Of all the people who regularly attend practices, our group is the quickest with a compliment or a cheer of encouragement. Having a posse has really encouraged me to bolster others in whatever way I can, where I might have totally embraced the dark side of my new-found competitiveness.

So I guess even though I've been thinking shark, I've been acting panda. Or some other supportive and challenging animal...