By Huckleberry Spin #619
Spend a little time in the world of roller derby and you will hear it over and over again: derby will change your life. And of course, it’s true. How can a sport so uniquely physical, with such a colorful history and so many strange and wonderful traditions not shape you into a new person once it sucks you in? Skaters, refs, fans–we all feel the pull of this high energy, empowering game that pushes limitations in every way, all while creating a culture that is fiercely loving, accepting, and familial.
It seems to me that derby has a way of finding you at a critical life moment. Not necessarily one you see coming, but in the rearview mirror, it starts to make more sense. Maybe you’ve followed the sport for years and always considered joining “someday.” Maybe you saw Whip It back in the day and started to dream about knocking people down in a whole new way. Maybe a post appeared in your Facebook feed and you thought, “What the hell? I could do that!”
However it starts, it takes over quickly and you are inevitably drawn into this world of bruises, sweat, tears, and inside jokes. When derby finds you, it changes everything.
“I was a mom of two who didn’t leave the house except to go grocery shopping or take the kids to the library, the only adult interaction I had was my husband…I was sucked into the world of derby.”
– Teisha Rasmussen, aka Molly NoMO, Durango Roller Girls
“I went from being a lifelong endurance athlete to being unable to swim, bike, or run after a debilitating hand injury. In an effort to stay active, I dusted off some old rollerblades. When I quickly wore out my wheels, I went to Skate Ratz where they were showing roller derby on tv. I knew almost nothing about the sport but I could see that it involved a ton of teamwork, strategy and fitness, things I have always loved. And the best part was, you didn’t need hands to play! I had no idea how much I would love the physical & mental challenges of the sport and how much it would help me re-define myself as an athlete and a teammate. I wish I had found it sooner!”
– Snark Bite, FoCo Roller Derby
“Derby found me when I needed it most. This sport draws me in week after week with it’s physical and mental challenges combined with a sisterhood that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.”
– Ruby Snap, FoCo Roller Derby
“I was a collegiate athlete and decided that I just wasn’t in love with my sport anymore. When I quit I was so incredibly lost. After about a year of doing nothing physical and basically being a lonely sad sack I tried out for derby. I’ve been playing for 7 years and it’s pretty much my entire life now. It’s by far the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done with my life.”
– Dusty Doublewide, Texas Roller Derby
“I was in grad school and also in a relationship that I was figuring out (slowly) was not great/was (also slowly) figuring out I was queer and was generally a bit lost and sad. I don’t know what made me do it…I joined, and I loved it pretty much right away.”
– Sasha, Toronto Roller Derby
“I call it my “mid life crisis” activity. I finally found the right time in my life to realize this childhood dream of mine. I grew up watching it on tv, as a kid, and I fell in love with the sport way back them. In my mid 40’s now I finally have the time and there’s still energy left in me to pursue it, for as long as I can. You’re never too old to achieve your desire. I also find this sport very exhilarating and it offers a sisterhood of some amazing ladies.”
– Coco Ruff, FoCo Roller Derby
“It was a present I gave myself for my 33rd birthday. I’m not nearly as meek and mild as I used to be. I’m much more aggressive. I’m much more confident in my everyday life.”
– Crazy Anya, Cape Girardeau Roller Derby
For me, I finally took the leap and put on my skates for the first time since childhood because I needed to do something, anything, that was for me and only me. I was a stay at home mom struggling with severe anxiety and depression. Roller derby hasn’t cured me, but it has opened up my world. It gives me a reason to fight that debilitating desire to curl up on the couch and hide from the world. It motivates me to make healthy choices for my body because I want and need to show up on the track every week. Once roller derby finds you and you choose it, your life is turned inside out in the best of ways. Eventually, you will look back on that first day, week, or month and see why you needed to be found.