I joined roller derby because I wanted to try it out. I had no real ambition of becoming a super star. I didn’t research the leagues in my area because of their WFTDA rankings. I knew nothing about the sport except the little I witnessed at a bout one night, that I wasn’t even supposed to attend except for the sole fact that my boyfriend’s cousin was getting married on the rink, and we were her guests. Roller derby sounded so foreign to me, more foreign than golf or cricket, and I never played golf or cricket.
Little did I realize how much impact this sport would have on my life. It redefined mostly everything. I owe this transformation not just to a pair of roller skates, but to the league I joined. The power of a group of skaters can change you, and bring the best out of you. I was fortunate to become a member of the Garden State Rollergirls. These ladies and gents welcomed me with open arms. I was terrified, of course. I let them guide me onto the rink, and I felt good. I didn’t feel embarrassed, or pressured to do anything except skate. Fall. Get back up. Fall again. Rinse. Repeat. Throughout my challenges, I heard encouragement, and I felt real support.
Finding the right league is crucial to a great derby experience. I heard many horror stories of leagues that didn’t really help freshies feel at home. Lots of drama. Leagues disbanded, split, or reformed someplace else with different folks… Or the same folks, trying to figure things out and not repeat the same mistakes. We are only human. I feel fortunate that the league I’m in tries its hardest to be healthy, and supports its skaters without prejudice. GSR is really my tribe!
With a tribe, comes an identity. Yesterday was the derbyversary of my derby name baptism. Finding the right derby name wasn’t something I really planned either. I honestly didn’t think I’d get a name until I made one of the teams. But here I was four months later as a freshie, brainstorming for a derby name that would be my identity on the rink and in the derbyverse. That stuff is serious. I saw people come up with really smart play on words, and celebrity names I sometimes wish I had come up with because they’re truly genius. My name is fine though. It’s funny and I like it. Plus, given the multitude of names out there, it gets harder and harder to be original.
Today, I’m thankful to have a tribe and a derby name. I play for the name in the front, so people remember the name in the back… I have good days, bad days, but overall, I see derby as my second family. It’s crazy, and amazing. I can’t really explain it. I’m just grateful to have found this sport, to have discovered and tried new things, to have met new people, and to grow, learn, always evolve. I’m not going to lie; it’s also so much fun to hit people three to four times a week!
I want to hear from you! How do you like your tribe, and your derby name? How did you come up with your identity? What does roller derby mean to you?
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