My love affair with roller derby started approximately two years ago when some friends invited me to a bout (bout = roller derby game). It sounded interesting – definitely different from our usual fare of entertainment – and so I went expecting to be mildly amused by pay per view wresting style antics. And while there are definitely outrageous names and over the top personalities (and the outfits to match), the athleticism and focus of these women could not be denied. I watched transfixed as the teams skated their introduction laps on the quad skates I spent my childhood on. I sat in awe as they whipped through turns, hair streaming behind them. I watched in envy as they set aside their daily identities of businesswomen, mothers and wives and adopted personas of strength and aggression and fierce competition. I witnessed a sisterhood of comrades, even between teams, and I wanted to be part of it.
It took two years of watching from the sidelines before life brought me to a point where pursuing the roller derby dream was a possibility. But after a chance meeting online and encouragement from my husband, I made plans to join a practice for girls new to the league in my town.
Normally Saturdays are the one day a week I have to sleep in but I found myself awake much earlier than necessary. Though I’d spent the past few days in a tizzy state of excitement, the nerves kicked in the closer the clock ticked to practice time. I left early and was the first to arrive. The little warehouse was a no frills facility. The track was marked out by tape; notes were taped on the cinderblock walls. I was given the waiver to sign before being directed to the lockers of gear and instructed on how to choose knee, elbow and wrist pads. I found skates and a helmet that fit and looked at the coach expectantly. “Okay. Start skating” She gestured at the empty track. I looked at her. I looked at the track. I looked at the other girl who’d arrived and I gripped the wall a bit tighter. Somehow I remembered navigating on skates to feel a little more….natural. My fellow beginner grinned in sympathy and said “I hadn’t worn skates in two decades before I started 3 weeks ago. You’ll remember soon enough.” With that simple statement, I felt the camaraderie I’d envied two years before settle around me and I pushed off confidently onto the smooth concrete.
Two hours later I had fallen approximately twelve times and stumbled at least twice that. I was out of breath, soaked in sweat, nursing an aching ankle and was feeling muscles scream that I’d forgotten existed. And I couldn’t help but grin. It will take awhile to become an aggressive, confident roller girl flying around the track on eight wheels. But I had taken the first step. Looking around at the other “newbies” and our coaches I couldn’t wait for the next practice.