“Roller Derby is the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me.”
authored by Carnage
It’s a phrase that virtually every roller derby player has said on more than one occasion. It might seem like a typical thing to say – of course everyone wants people to know how wonderful their hobby is. But really – it’s true with roller derby.
I recently had a housewarming barbecue and I noticed something really special: 99% of the people who came were people I met through roller derby. At one point, a friend from grade school texted me to say she was en route and I exclaimed, “One of my real life friends is coming!” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I realized it wasn’t true and I actually felt guilty for saying it. My roller derby friends are my “real life friends”.
I’ve been playing roller derby on and off for about seven years now and, in that time, I’ve done and experienced things I never thought I could. I’ve traveled with derby friends to Chicago, Dallas, Ithaca, Baltimore, Portland, and more. I’ve jumped over two very burly gentlemen on skates, been jumped over by a pro BMX biker launching off a ramp, played the role of a zombie and chased people down as a fundraiser, made an All-Stars team briefly and rubbed shoulders with world-ranked athletes, caught a hot dog in my mouth on the back of a motorcycle (don’t ask), raised hundreds of dollars for charities I believe in (do ask!), and countless other things.
I’ve also met some of the most amazing people who have genuinely changed my life for the better. A stranger I met only once sent me a hefty gift card so I could afford a prescription I needed when my health insurance lapsed. I’ve been given countless things to help furnish a home, had derby friends actually move me, and been offered places to sleep when said home didn’t work out so well. I’ve been offered job recommendations, nights upon nights of sacrificed shoulders to cry on, been encouraged to go back to school, had a skate vendor scour for new skates I could afford and gave me a HUGE discount, loaned me money when my car was totaled during a hit and run, became Aunt Carnage to my derby-met best friend’s daughter. The list goes on.
And the best part? I met love of my life through roller derby – he was my first ever WFTDA coach and honestly, he is probably the best thing this sport has ever given me. You may think this sense of community is JUST for me, that I’m just lucky but really, this is just how roller derby is. Recently a few people have asked in Facebook derby groups, “What is something that someone nice has done for you?” There were hundreds of responses, all of them similar to mine.
I posed this same question to my own team and here are some of their responses:
“I was super eager to join fresh meat and showed up with all of my gear. After I was all geared up and ready to go, I realized I somehow had misplaced my mouth guard. I drove to Target as fast as I could to get a replacement, but was heartbroken that they only had juvenile sizes. When I got back to practice a teammate skated up to me and told me they had a spare mouth guard if I wasn’t grossed out. I think I barely ran that thing under the tap before shoving it in my grill and rushing out there.”
“I love how supportive we are towards each other. Often we are posting internally about [garbage] we are dealing with, struggles we have at practice, etc. and in response, we flood each other with support and love. Seeing that kind of support from people I’ve only known for 3-4 months is surreal.”
“I have seen a retired player, more than once, pay the full amount of or use their own Rewards Points to foot the bill at various rentals sleeping 10 people so her former teammates (and some new friends) didn’t have to drive 6 hours to and from a bout !!!!”
“In my short time in derby, I’ve been really moved by how supportive and empowering the team has been, especially our coaches. I’m so grateful Nat has set aside time at practice specifically to help me and others who haven’t made our 27/5 yet work on crossovers and strides. And I’m so grateful for the patience of you vets and those rookies who have passed for having to spend time on it at practice with us the other night.” *Update: This skater has since passed her 27/5!
“The constant encouragement from everyone. I find it awesome that even though if I know/feel that I’m doing absolutely terrible at a drill/skill teammates help… As someone who has always been my own worst critic and enemy, it’s a completely different ballgame and a wonderful experience with this team.”
“I moved to an entirely new area of the state to support my then fiancé’s dream job. It didn’t work out, and we amicably cancelled our wedding plans. I was understandably crushed and, to top it off I was left in a new city with no friends or family, except my teammates. They helped me build a new life for myself and my daughter. If it wasn’t for derby, specifically my teammates on Two Rivers, I’m not sure how I would have made it through that time in my life. Derby helped me build myself back into an even stronger version of me.”
“One day, I saw a derby goddess post her new very expensive skates [on social media]. I commented that I was totally jelly and had my same skates for 3 years. This amazing woman said, “what’s your address? I’m going to ship them to you, you need to get out of those R3s.” When I received them, they were unfortunately a smidgen too small for me. I let her know and then said, would you like them back or can I gift them to someone else? Here’s where it gets really good! She said, “You can let someone else have them and I will ship you a bigger pair.”
After I asked my team this, a skater who joined only a few months ago requested this of our team – to which we all gladly agreed:
“…my daughter will be 10 on Tuesday and has never had a real birthday party …she’s never had “friends” because of her autism, it’s difficult for her… She really enjoys seeing everyone when she comes to practice with me and seeing/meeting the kids at [another skater’s kid’s] party. She hasn’t stopped talking about it. I’d love to throw her her first party with people other than my small family.”
Everyone on the team jumped at the chance to celebrate with our teammate and her daughter and we’re planning the party as of the posting of this blog entry!
In short – roller derby really is the best thing that has ever happened to me, to my teammates, and to players across the country and world. We’re here for one another and especially for you, a new player who might not think you can do it: you can! And we’re here to make sure you do.