Six months ago, at the age of 42, I decided it might be fun to try roller derby. I've been fascinated by the sport for years. Ever since I saw a photography display showing side by side images of women in their derby persona and then in their everyday lives. I was hooked. For my birthday one year some girlfriends and I went to see a bout. We were green; to the point that the bout started and we had no idea what was going on. Furiously we googled to figure out the basics!
This spring by chance I met a woman who had done derby for a few years and was a coach. We chatted about it for a bit and she told me how much she loved it and how she was still involved as a coach. She encouraged me to check it out. A few days after that conversation I discovered that the league near me was holding clinics for anyone who wanted to learn. Participants didn't even need to know how to skate. The one requirement was that a person needed to have full gear. Helmet, mouth guard, elbow, wrist and knee guards, and of course skates. So I borrowed what I could, collected what I had, and used a gift card to purchase what I didn't, and one evening went off to give it a try.
The ability and age of the skaters varied greatly and I did not feel too out of place. I will add that it's not like I rolled off the couch of inactivity to do this. I am in fairly good physical shape from lifting weights regularly and biking year round. I am also short and have big feet so my balance is quite stable. I have also been skating in some form most of my life. While I have never played a game type sport I do have some natural athletic ability. So long as there aren't balls involved!
The clinic itself was 2 hours long. I loved every minute of it and was hooked. We spent the majority of the time working on basic skating skills and as the clinics progressed we worked on developing those skills and gaining confidence as skaters. At the end of the summer were tryouts. I had decided to try out because really, I didn't have any reason not to. The league has a rec league that people of all abilities can skate in if a person isn't chosen to skate on a team and I figured if I didn't make it through tryouts I would just skate in the rec league for fun. But through lots of practice and hard work I got better and better and was able to pass the minimum skills test and be eligible for the draft. This works essentially like any sports team draft. The captains scout the bootcamps and pick which players they'd like for their teams. And I got drafted! It was quite exciting. Our rookie group ranges in age from 18-43. And our league age ranges from 18 to a few people in their 50s.
It has been such an amazing experience to be part of a group of strong, athletic, supportive women. It feels a lot like being in a sorority felt but with a lot less drama. We have common goals and are supportive of each others success and struggles. And the veteran skaters all recognize that we are rookies and they were rookies once too. So when we look like a shit show, they've been there!
Currently I am taking a reformer Pilates class and I was talking to the other woman in my class about derby. She told me that her granddaughter loves to skate. So I mentioned that there is a junior derby league for kids. Yesterday she told me her granddaughter would be attending and was so excited. Many of the women in my league participate in coaching and training the junior league (which is coed) and it is a wonderful place for young children to have access to strong female role models.
It is very important to me that my child and the children that I know be raised with the understanding that we all, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, can accomplish great things. Anything that we set our minds to and work toward.
These are photos taken from our rookie scrimmage. Photo credit to Wijadi Jodi who takes all of our photos and makes us all look good!