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Author: Huck Spin

Snark Bite #789: My Derby Journey

Snark Bite #789: My Derby Journey

You know that moment when you are inches away from the goals you’ve been working your whole life for when suddenly fate tears the rug out from under you and sends you hurtling into the darkness? That’s how my derby journey began, 2 years before I’d ever heard of the sport.

I was a triathlete a week out from qualifying for the world championships again when I was riding a demo bike in a bike lane. I was passing a wedding when the driver of the limo I thought was empty suddenly opened his door on me, catching my hand as I tried to turn away. My hand absorbed so much of the energy that I hit the ground softly. As I assessed my internal injuries, the driver & his co-worker left me lying there. The coworker told me the accident was my fault and as I hobbled over to the other wedding workers in search of witnesses, the workers huddled up & looked sideways at me like I was Quasimodo.

The accident left me with a crippling condition in my hand that is extremely rare. As I bounced from doctor to doctor searching for answers, the medical community gave me shrugs of “just deal with it,” or worse, “it’s all in your head.” Meanwhile, I was fighting desperately to hang on to the life I had built, believing that I could somehow tough it out and everything would go back to the way it was. Two surgeries later, I was still suffering from chronic pain and sliding into depression as I tried to accept that I could never get back to what I was.

The thing about rare conditions is that you can’t just say their name in public & people will understand what you’re going through. If doctors didn’t believe me, how could a stranger? After all, I looked perfectly normal! My social life was wrapped up in my ability to train & race which meant I wasn’t seeing my friends anymore. And where once I had worked toward grand athletic goals, I now spent my hours online, desperately hoping to find a way back to normalcy. There’s no support groups for what I have so I tried joining a para-athlete group. But when I showed up to one of their activities, unable to fully explain why I thought I might fit, I just felt like an imposter. I wasn’t disabled enough, but I wasn’t fully abled either.

Although my family continued to offer their support, the negativity seeped into my relationships with them too as my world grew smaller and I struggled to get off the couch. I forced myself to go on long walks, but that left me awash in my dark thoughts. On a whim, I dug out my old rollerblades and hit the bike paths. Finally, I’d found an activity that didn’t make my hand hurt! In fact, the wristguard actually helped a bit! But there were not enough miles of path for me and it was still a fight to make myself do it. When I wore my wheels into squares, I went to Skate Ratz and saw videos of roller derby. I didn’t know anything about it but it looked like a lot of fun and you didn’t need hands. I wanted to learn more!

I looked into FoCo Roller Derby and what really got me was the mission statement. Here, spelled out, was everything I had always believed about sport and even better, it was a women’s sport! I wouldn’t be fighting entrenched misogyny like I had in other sports all my life. Bonus!

When I showed up to the New Recruits meeting, I’ll admit I felt a bit out of place. Why would this group accept me when others had not? I didn’t fit any definition of what I thought a roller derby player was but as I watched some of the practice that night, I was mesmerized by how the skaters moved. I wanted to learn how to do that!

Finally, I had found something that forced me to clear my mind completely at every practice, no time to mope about my hand. And it was so engaging that when I was off the rink, I was watching derby videos instead of researching my condition. Instead of fearing the things I couldn’t do, I was striving to learn new things on skates.

But the best part was that I had found a community where I didn’t have to define myself as abled or disabled, just willing. My ability or inability didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I was willing to get back up & try again every time I fell down. And though I’d never realized it before, deep down, that was who I have always been.

Some people think that the hardest part of roller derby is the physical aspects of the sport. I would argue that the hardest part is the dedication required to succeed. But with a team like FoCo, that comes easy!

 

Huckleberry Spin #619: When Derby Finds You

Huckleberry Spin #619: When Derby Finds You

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.

Photo By Gil Crommens

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.

Photo By Flash House Photography