One of the amazing things about derby is the opportunity it gives to women to participate in a team sport as an adult, a woman with responsibilities and obligations. I have tried to think of another sport that has as much to offer women as roller derby does and I honestly cannot.
I look at my fellow derby players and I see women of so many different backgrounds, skills, personalities, occupations, ages, experiences, and lifestyles. The one thing they have in common is that they want to play a sport that will stretch and challenge them in ways that they left behind when they left school. They want to participate as women, on a women’s team, in a women’s sport, relishing in the athleticism and competition that has traditionally been exclusively reserved for men’s sports. Derby gives that to us in a unique and beautiful way.
Parents want their children to participate in team sports for many reasons but I think one of the most common reasons given is that parents want their children to develop confidence. Unfortunately, so many girls transition to their lives as adult women with very little confidence. The confidence that was fostered in the girl takes a beating in adolescence, and as an adult, a woman’s confidence is often considered a negative trait. There are very unflattering names for truly confident women. Confidence is for men, as are adult team sports. Unless you are a professional athlete, as a woman, your options for challenging team sports are nearly non-existent.
This is why I love roller derby. I am a decided extroverted introvert. My natural inclination is to camouflage my presence in social situations. I played sports as a student. I was not very good at any of them but I enjoyed being on the team and managed to pull off a few shining moments that bolstered my self-esteem.
As an adult, I have struggled with my self confidence a lot. I had my children at a very young age, which made me self-conscious at times and I have struggled with my weight my entire adult life. In my late thirties, I weighed 225 pounds. I was depressed, in a toxic marriage, and completely isolated from any social life at all.
At 40, I left my husband. At 41, I came out as a lesbian. I started teaching kickboxing, telling people that was how I got down to a size 4, but spent about two years denying that I had become anorexic, literally living on gin, cheese and crackers, and cigarettes. I started smoking for something to do in the middle of the night because I only slept about 2 hours per night. I was so emotionally, physically, and mentally depleted, I was even beginning to lose my hair. I had absolutely no confidence. I was completely hollow.
Needless to say I have come a long way since then. But I think, if I had had the support of a team like I see with the Angels, things never would have gotten that bad. I think that the growth I have experienced in derby would have prevented me from becoming so self destructive. I would have had friends who encouraged me and made me feel valued and respected. And I would have had something to throw my energies into that wasn’t tearing me down, but building me up.
We use the term “Derby Love” and I feel that it is a bona fide and legit thing. I love how the Angels treat each other, and I look for opportunities to show that Derby Love when I can, because I know what it’s like to be looking up from the bottom of a well, hoping for a friendly face, or a kind word. Sometimes you have to have some love from someone else before you can grow the confidence to Derby Love yourself. That’s why I love derby.