Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roller Derby Really Can Save You

This entry is dedicated to our new crop of Fresh Meat who showed up in droves at our interest meeting last week, and will be coming back for tryouts in October. I'm so happy you've all found us. Roller derby can and probably will change your life. Let me tell you what derby has done for me.

At my very first visit to watch a Greensboro Roller Derby practice, I saw a girl with a pair of shorts on over her tights. The shorts read "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" across the butt. I remember wondering what that meant to her, and wondering if I would ever feel the same way. I was in a pretty low place at the time; I was sedentary and deeply depressed, and joining GSORD was my way of shaking things up because I knew they weren't going to shake themselves up by magic. At 35, I was finally tired of being tired. I decided to do something for myself.

I also did it for my children. I realized that I was sending a mixed message to them about health. "Be active!" I told them, but at the same time, I couldn't get my own butt off the couch. I was taking them to soccer, basketball, aikido classes, and expecting them to want to play outside at home, but I was not modeling a healthy active lifestyle to them. I knew that nothing they learned in their activities and classes would stick if it was not modeled for them at home. I needed to prove to them that I was willing to do these things, too.

In theory, I had so much to motivate me: my own health, my children's health, the allure of happiness and confidence. Despite these things beckoning me, it still wasn't easy to choose derby. I was always an observer and a watcher, never a doer. I had never played any sport, and in fact I had gone out of my way to avoid sports all through school and settled firmly into inactivity as an adult. I've also spent a lot of my life being ruled by fear. So many fun or meaningful opportunities passed me by because I was afraid to try. I was tired of fear (and the subsequent regret of not having tried) being my defining feeling. So when my friend Lita Revolution (who has been a part of GSORD since it started) posted a link to the information session last January, I decided I needed to do it.

I went to the info session, where I saw the girl in the salvation booty shorts, and then the bootcamp, where I thought I was going to pass out and/or die. But I didn't allow myself to give up. I had help with that. Already the group of girls was busy supporting each other. Girls organized workouts and meetups at open skates together. I showed up because something was telling me that these were girls who, once we knew each other well, would go to bat for me. (They would, and I would for them.) So I returned to tryouts. Somehow, I wasn't laughed off the rink, but instead I was welcomed into the fold. Thus began my roller derby journey. The same one you're just beginning.

Nearly eight months later, I can say without a doubt that roller derby has saved me. I mean that literally. I have a heart arrhythmia (congenital, so not my fault) and high blood pressure (probably entirely my fault, though I have a family history of it). Being a fatty couch lump was even more deadly for me than it is for most people. Before roller derby, I got winded and heard my heart pounding in my ears just taking a single flight of stairs. Now I can hop up many flights before I start to fatigue, and it's my muscles that need a break, not my heart and lungs. I'm not in the "elite athlete" zone (yet!) but I'm a far sight fitter than I was before. Derby did that. I had tried to change my habits many times on my own before and always lost my momentum. There's something about strapping wheels to your feet that gives you a little extra oomph.

(I feel the need to make a disclaimer here: if you have a health issue, please see your doctor before you start anything as intense as roller derby. I did, and he told me that it was one of the best things I could do for myself--"We can fix broken bones, but we can't fix the damage done by years of inactivity"--but your situation might be different. Please be careful. We wear pads on our knees and elbows, but they don't make a pad for your heart.)

But roller derby hasn't just been good for my body. It has been healing for my mind and soul as well. Derby has a way of making you face your issues- mine are lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, and a tendency to give up to avoid failure. All of these things have reared up in my face many times over the course of my derby journey. Before, I would have run away to avoid the feelings. But I love roller derby and my leaguemates so much that I haven't allowed myself to do that. So I have no choice but to face the feelings those issues bring up, and by facing them, I deal with them. I believe derby does this for everyone, whether they realize it or not. It is, without a doubt, a form of therapy. I don't know anyone who isn't a better person now than they were when they joined the sport.

So please, stick with us and see how you can change. You will be amazed at what you can do that you never thought possible.

Derby <3,
St. Knives


  1. Don't forget the punches to the face!!! <3

  2. punches to the face... cherished! <3

  3. I have also been saved by derby. In addition to what it has done for me physically and emotionally, it has helped me develop stronger friendships with women, a part of my life that was sorely lacking. I couldn't have found a more supportive, unique and all-around badass group of women if I had hand-picked them.

    -Cuntry Ham