What is roller derby?
I get asked this a lot. I know what they’re asking. They want to know how in the world it’s played. They want to get an idea of what the hell is going on.
“Is there a ball?”
“Do you wear roller blades?”
“Can you punch each other?”
“Do you just skate in circles?”
When I describe the game, they’re usually mildly impressed that a grown ass woman will skate around and smash into other grown ass women for the entertainment of an audience. Sometimes they express interest in watching a game sometime. I always say, “You should try it!” and it’s almost always met with uncertainty and hesitation. “I don’t think I could do that”.
They are operating under the assumption that because they lack the skills to wheel around and slam their bodies into their opponents, they can’t join a derby team. The thought process of, “it’s a sport, and I can’t play that sport, so why would I join a team?”. I can understand that. I am completely incompetent in any sport involving a projectile object. I naturally avoid them, because why would they want me on their team? So, if someone can’t roller skate, why on earth would they show up for roller derby practice?
Because roller derby is so much more than a sport.
A roller derby team is a band of warriors. A tapestry of brilliant colors. A collective tribe. A diverse, ragtag crew of humans. Roller derby is a family. And I mean that with every fiber of my being.
Somehow the sport of roller derby, in it’s inception and progression, has fostered an atmosphere of ultimate acceptance, empowerment and encouragement. When you enter the little coven that is a roller derby league, you are wanted, desired, and genuinely cared for. Basically, how we should all be treating each other in life.
It’s what allows me to take four months to write a damn blog post, and not feel like a complete failure. I’ll be honest, you guys, it took me thirty minutes to finally churn out this post, after about 3 months worth of missed deadlines (they were soft deadlines, ok!?). I enjoy writing (usually), and I do it well (usually), so when the opportunity arose to be the one to write our league’s very first blog post, I volunteered to give it a shot. My sweet derby love, Cactus Rack, hounded me in the most gentle of ways. I am not motivated by shame, and she felt no need to shame me. In between memes of scowling children and profane gestures (plus many, many “Oh. My. God, Becky” references) we talked about our struggles with mental health, we joked about cast fetishes, planned social time and interacted like good humans.
When I come to practice, I’m not just there to skate. I’m there to be myself, and know that my entire self is accepted and cared for. There’s no “leave your problems at home” mentality. Those who can skate get on with it, and those who just can’t come anyway because they are loved and their presence is enriching. I am a better person because of each and every person I encounter through this sport, which has helped me interact on a deeper level with humanity in general.
Because the Vixens are so much more than the sum of its parts.