“Y'all, let's just play some derby. And then afterwards, we can all hug!” -Brody Slaughterhouse
Is winning the most important part of derby? What happens when it becomes the top priority?
Guilty, by the way. Yes, me. Totally, one hundred percent guilty. I am one of those aggressive, full out, smack talkin', ride-or-die roller derby girls that embarrasses her mother. I have thrown my helmet, yelled at refs, growled at my competition. Sometimes, when I lead practice I wear a t-shirt (that I made) that says: “Nut up or Shut Up” (technically, it says “Zut up or Shut up” because I ran out of “N” letters).
I really, really like to win. Sometimes, I lay awake at night dreaming of what it must have felt like to win the derby world cup. I also wonder how that skater from New Zealand, responsible for the one point they scored against Team America, must have felt (I hope she goes to bed at night knowing she is a hero to all us underdogs).
Before a bout, I have to actively turn off my bull dog attitude. I have to physically and mentally prepare for a bout by changing who I naturally am. I have to do this, because I am a captain. I also have to do this because my attitude tends to go over the line of “caring” to “caring too much”, and I wasn't a very good teammate to be around when things weren't going our way.
The words of wisdom at the beginning of this post were brought to you by my teammate Brody Slaughterhouse, spoken when we were losing our fourth bout in a row by over sixty points. Our home team, the Elm St. Nightmares, went from 0/4 to being the team to beat over the course of one season. I am immensely proud of my team, but I take no credit for the change in our dynamic that lead us to our first victory. All the hard work of creating a positive atmosphere on our bench is my teammates doing, as is evidenced by Brody's words.
I will never not care, that is impossible. But, I no longer play angry, or blame others for a loss, or only enjoy a bout because the score was in our favor. To me, a true athlete is humble, always learning, and doesn't have to yell to express passion*-you can see it by their actions on the track.
Not sure how to go from caring too much to just flat our caring? Here is what I have picked up over the last three years of being teammates with a wide range of women:
- If you expect other people to do things the way you would do them, you will constantly be disappointed. (Thank you, Ann What?!)
- Learn to lose nobly, or stop playing sports.
- Nobody cares that someone elbowed you. Shut up about it.
- Playing roller derby mad is a free pass to the penalty box. If you play mad, or hit someone for revenge, you are not playing very well and you look like a jerk.
- Keep getting the same penalty? Whose fault is that, really?
- Humble yourself to the rules of the game. You know less than the refs.
- A hit is not personal. You learned this the first day. So, stop taking hits personally.
- That girl you are yapping about who backed blocked you? She is your derby sister, possibly even a good friend. Stop talking about your friend.
- Don't be that skater that yells ref calls. Just don't be.
- Women don't thrive on criticism, but we can take it. Know where the line is, and do not cross it.
- If you have given a teammate advice, and she did not take it well, stop giving that teammate advice.
- The only person in charge of your actions is yourself. This is an extreme amount of power for one person to have. Use it.
- Stop waiting for help. Grown women know how to help themselves. Help yourself.
- Learn to take a hit like a woman, and learn to hit like a woman.
- GET BACK UP.
So, these words are simple. So very simple. But for some reason, they took me two and half years to follow. Join me, in my quest to be a better skater and person. Because basically, that is the same thing.
In love and derby,
*When people make comments about women athletes and say negative, insulting words about them or call their behavior unsportsmanlike, I think that is sexist. Men are allowed so much room to act like animals when playing sports, so I think the same courtesy should be extended to women. Caring about winning is not limited to the male gender. I also think that people see aggression as negative in women because it goes against gender norms. We are already breaking gender norms playing sports, so when we aren't all cutesy and sweet about it we are only confirming that you can't keep us in a box forever and we really are shifting the paradigm of who is IN CHARGE. So, although I think that there is a line between “caring” and “caring too much”, I think the line is subjective and completely open to interpretation. I also would like to re-iterate that roller derby is one of the best and boldest feminist statements a woman can make. BE LOUD AND PROUD.