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Reasons Why Roller Derby Is Fantastic

April 14, 2010

About a week ago, I joined my city’s roller derby team.  I’m still considered “fresh meat” and will be learning the basics for the next two months or so.  But already I’m completely absorbed, and I’m learning a lot about what makes roller derby a fantastic sport:

1. Women are encouraged to work out in order to become strong and powerful, rather than to lose some weight or achieve a certain dress size.  All of the focus on our bodies is about being healthy and capable, not about how we look.

2.  Roller derby disproves the stereotype that if you put a group of women in a room together, they’ll ultimately just be bitchy and competitive, backstabbing and gossipy.  We’re a very large group, and so far I haven’t heard a single girl say something nasty about a teammate.  The varsity girls are super helpful and seem to care a lot about all of us newbies.  They’re constantly reaching out to us to help us learn the ropes and to make us feel welcome.

3.  Everyone is encouraged to recognize and embrace her strengths and weaknesses.  I’m very fast and have good balance. I can fall and get right back up on my feet.  My form is good.  But I am probably the weakest of the fresh mea,t, by far.  Last night during practice we were learning about hitting and blocking, and I’m behind the curve.  We also did an exercise where we skate around the rink in pairs.  The goal is to press one side of your body up against your partner’s while you skate, so that you end up looking a bit like you’re in a three-legged race at a fair.  I was paired with a girl who is 5’7″ and whose best derby asset is her strength.  I couldn’t keep up and kept getting rammed into the wall.  But one of the refs who was teaching us talked to me and explained that it’s okay to have a weakness, that every girl who starts derby has a problem area.  He said the goal is to learn to accept those weaknesses and compensate for them, and learn to overcome them when we can.  In other words, “Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Just keep on trying.”  I kept on trying, and by the end of the night I was better.  I’m still not that strong, but I’ll get there.  And it will be a triumph when I do.

4.  It’s a great way to release aggression.  I was angry about Comedy Guy for a good portion of the day yesterday.  By the end of practice, though, I felt calmer and more in control.

5.  Girls of all shapes and sizes can be great at derby.  They completely disprove the myth that you can’t be physically fit if you’re “overweight.”

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. SweeneyQuad permalink
    April 14, 2010 2:25 pm

    YAY! Welcome to the derby family! The points you mention are part of the reason I joined the Oklahoma Victory Dolls last year. I love that my strength is praised, and I am encouraged to be aggressive. On top of that, I use the term “family” in all seriousness… sure, we don’t always get along, and there may be a cousin or two that I absolutely can’t stand, but those girls are always there for me and for each other when it counts. And yeah, definitely cheaper and more effective for me than anger management. I don’t bottle up my anger anymore, I release it deliberately and effectively in a full-contact sport.

    Another HUGE reason that roller derby is fantastic? The teams and leagues are mostly skater-owned, DIY enterprises. The same athletes that you see on the track are the ones who coordinate the entire event. Our league takes consensus votes on everything from uniforms and fundraisers to eligibility requirements and membership. There is no deep-pocketed sponsor telling us where and how we will compete.

    • April 14, 2010 10:59 pm

      Thanks for the warm welcome, Sweeney! Also, your name is fantastic. I still have some time to go before I get a name, of course, but I’m already cogitating on some options.

      I’m glad you mentioned the DIY spirit of the teams. I’m a sports-lovin’ girl, but the corporate aspect of things like football really gives me the heebie-jeebies – particularly because that corporate side is often also invested in maintaining the misogynist qualities of most major sports. Additionally, running our own game brings us all together even more as a family. As fresh meat, we’re already learning how to sell ads and help with fundraising. And I can’t wait to get even more involved in the production aspect of things.

  2. ImTheMarigold permalink
    April 15, 2010 3:19 pm

    That is so bad-ass! I have had a secret yearning to try derby myself, since I watched the Rollergirls show on A&E several years ago. There is a team where I live now, but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be in this area. And……..I’m really self-conscious and I bet I would suck. So I’ll be living vicariously through you for the moment, can’t wait to hear more about it! Congrats on joining!

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