Category: Roller Derby

Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Fitting In

I had a nice chat with Bull this week. We talked about some of the things that intimidate new skaters. One thing in particular that she touched on had been on my mind for a while so, after hearing Bull’s perspective, I wanted to air it out with you all.

I haven’t spent much time with Bull in the past. She has always been friendly and supportive, but I am kind of an introvert haven’t gotten to know many of my teammates. There have been many times I have felt like I just didn’t fit in. So, imagine my surprise when she shared with me that she has struggled with the whole “fitting in” thing too.

We talked about how we can really shoot ourselves in the foot because of how we perceive how well (or not) we “fit” with a group of people we are just getting to know. Especially when a bunch of those people are good at something we want to do but really suck at. Like skating.

I’m being transparent here. I still feel like I don’t fit most of the time! But the truth is, it is really my perception and not the reality. The people I am getting to know in AFA have the most supportive attitudes of any group of women I have ever met. And this is what keeps me coming back. Not only do I want to be the recipient of that attitude, but I want to be the kind of person that shows others “Hey! You do belong here.”

Before derby, my social pool was kiddie sized. I lived for most of my adult life with no close friendships. So, trading my kiddie pool for an Olympic sized derby pool meant making a decision to let faith, rather than fear, dictate how I interacted with people.

For example, before derby, I had never known a transgender person. But because of derby, I had the opportunity to meet a woman who started her life, biologically male. I will tell you, this gave me some anxiety. Not because of her, but because I felt my inadequacy to mentally roll with ease over the hurdle of what I didn’t know, to what my heart wanted, which was to make her feel welcome and at home with us. I was afraid because I knew it was very likely that I would unintentionally say or do something that would offend her. Like slipping and using the wrong pronoun or saying something that betrayed my ignorance about what it is like to live as a transgender woman.

But, by pushing through the anxiety, and  into the desire to show friendship, I gained something wonderful.  I gained a friend that I came to know as sensitive, funny, vulnerable, and incredibly strong. She and I would chat here and there, and as I got to know her, she described some things from her point of view that helped me understand her better, and to appreciate her class and her sense of humor. She helped me feel like I fit in with her, despite my anxiety about my own shortcomings.

So, you can see how inclusiveness works. You make an effort to include, and then wind up feeling included yourself. You figure out that whether or not you “fit in” there’s a place for you at the track and welcome and friendship too.

Now, we have a bunch of brand new skaters, and I’ve seen enough new skaters to recognize a few things. EVERYONE feels like they don’t “fit” at one point or another. Everyone has anxiety about something or about someone who is different from themselves. At some point, I believe everyone has a moment, or six, when they think it would be best just to quietly slip out the back door. But that would be a loss in so many ways.

If that is you, if you feel like you don’t fit in, if you feel like bolting, please don’t. Not only will you miss out on getting to know some incredible  people, but we’ll miss out on getting to know you. Give yourself a chance to find your place. Look for someone who looks like you feel and say hello. Just stick around for a while and see what happens. 

Image may contain: 26 people, including Melissa Mercay-Collins, Kate Cargile, Rhyanna Larose, Kat Ference, Nina Gargan, Sarah Elizabeth, Jamie Pitcher, Jennifer Gammon, Jamie Hoover and 4 others, people smiling

Derby Love, Angels

Cherri

“Ode to a Bruise”

“Ode To a Bruise”
By Wild Violet

I arrived and walked through the door
of the Armory for the practice du jour.
As a newbie skater
my skills would come later
after many falls to the floor.

I lined up as my legs did shake,
my insides seeming to quake,
to practice a drill
hoping not to spill
or to cause my body to break.

The trainers announced: “Time to jump!”
and into my throat came a lump.
What were they, nuts?
We’ll fall on our butts!
The adrenaline started to pump.

I watched wide-eyed as one by one
the skaters lined up for the fun
of clearing the hurdle
or falling to turtle
but catastrophes- there were none.

As I stepped up to the cones for my turn
my stomach continued to churn.
“Ok, here goes!”
I silenced my woes
and took off feeling my face burn.

With all my hesitation to go
I arrived at the hurdle too slow
and pointed my nose
down toward my toes,
as my legs tangled I shouted “Oh no!”

Onto the gym floor I thumped,
landing on the side of my rump.
Though I felt some slight pain
I mostly felt shame-
for my fear caused me to miss the jump.

I stood back up and shook myself out.
Trainers gave an encouraging shout:
“Try it again!”
So I lifted my chin,
and skated back round’ fighting doubt.

I fell again and again on that day,
thinking “Oh, Derby Gods, show me the way!
To master this jumping
and get my legs pumping,
so this skill I may finally slay!”

Back home after practice I felt
how the side of my left thigh swelled.
Tender and blue-
hot to the touch too-
from the repeated blows it was dealt.

As days passed bigger she grew.
My first “derby kiss”- something new!
I named her Big Bertha,
for she was big as the Earth a
symbol for pushing through.

I wore her with pride and wincing smile,
for she proved I’d gone the extra mile,
and not given up
when the going got tough
as I endured my roller derby trial.

She transformed through many hues-
yellow, green, purple, black, and blues.
To me, Bertha meant
that I’d tried and tried again.
So I sing this Ode to my Derby Bruise.

(Though jumping I still need to practice,
and wonder if I’ll ever quite hack this,
I shall never give up
If I fall on my rump.
Bertha would want me to attack this.)

Monday Motivation- Make that Habit!

 

By Photo Bomber

 

I need a lot of motivation to work out. Like a TON! My status quo is lying bed reading a book or scrolling through Facebook. I can seriously spend the entire weekend doing this. But that’s no good for roller derby.

When I got going in derby, at first I was motivated to get in shape enough to pass my MSRs. I signed up for Pump Up Your Jam with Roller Derby Athletics and found a quick and simple tool to get in shape. FAST!

In a matter of days I found myself getting stronger. That online community kept me motivated and interested. The second time I did it, I had less luck. Why? Because I did not power through all the workouts. And honestly, I was dissapointed that I had fallen back out of shape. (sad trombone).

A while back in my pre-roller derby life, I read The Power of Habit and worked on the habit of making habits. Which basically comes down to finding a trigger that I do every day (getting our of bed), and linking the desired habit to it (working out) and then coming up with a reward.

Knowing that I needed to whip myself back into shape for my first bout, I employed this tactic, along with the basic principles I had learned in PUYJ.

I set up a complicated workout plan, and required that I have an 85% success rate every week, crossing off the various self-assigned requirements, and bonuses to make up missed workouts. My reward was a new (desperately needed) pair of roller skates. The better I did in the workout program, the more money I could spend on my new skates. I figured if I couldn’t get my ass in gear enough to get in shape for derby, what was I doing spending big bucks on roller skates?

I enlisted a friend to be accountable to, I huffed and I puffed and I earned myself the middle level of roller skates. I was very happy– and happy being strong. Although my did friend say to me: “You know, people say you are more motivated by loss than by reward”. I thought on that.

The next time I fell out of shape (hey- life happens!) I figured I would try this loss theory.

I wrote out a check for $100 to a “charity” I did not like very much. I set up my complicated formula and I handed the envelope, addressed and stamped to my friend. I slogged through my core and my strength, my cardio and yoga. I hate starting at the beginning, but I realize, if I am cursing and swearing my way through my workout, then I am challenging my body, and I am getting fitter.

Once I get going with a habit, it eventually starts to self-sustain. I can let go of the reward end (or punishment) of things, once I wake up and crave my work-out.

Until then, I make sure to set my goal concretely, making sure it is measurable, specific, realistic, and time-bound, and I absolutely make sure to hold myself to the reward. If I skip the reward (“hey, getting in shape is it’s own reward!”). I lose trust in myself. Don’t skimp on the reward, and you will have a habit of making habits that you can use to crush your goals.

Then and Now

By Sparks & Wreck

 

As my league moves into a recruitment cycle and the one year anniversary of my Freshie class rolls around, there are a lot of “then and now” pictures flying around on my Facebook timeline, including my own. All of the pictures are success stories in one way or another–they show progress, overcoming setbacks, confidence, and growth. My picture shows all that, but it also happens to show that between two pictures, my body has changed pretty significantly.  But I really hope that isn’t the only thing that people see.

In my “then” picture I am looking down at my feet, unsure that they will be where I want them to be. In my “now” picture I am mid-chest block in our 3rd bout. In my “then” picture my stance is wide and my arms look uncomfortable. I am alone and thinking only about my own success or failure. In my “now” picture I have my teammates quite literally supporting me. I know they are there and I am counting on them. I am stopping the jammer with them. I want people to see all of that.

Because, whatever those pictures show about my body, it is not telling the whole story. I did not join derby to lose weight. In fact, I joined derby because I saw women of all shapes and sizes playing and succeeding. I joined derby because I figured a big, solid, immovable girl would be appreciated–we are!–in a sport where the “ball” is a person trying to get around you by crashing into you.

Maybe the first thing you see when you look at that picture is the change in my size. I had made a decision just before joining derby, along with my doctor, after finding out I was pre-diabetic with a family history that wasn’t great, that I needed to make some changes. I’m not going to say that the 2-hour practices 2 or 3 times a week didn’t help, or that the necessity of doing some off-skates workouts to help with my agility and endurance didn’t contribute. But derby, and my team, would have been there for me regardless.

I love my sport for its body positivity.  I love my team for their acceptance of me however I come. And I hope that is just as noticeable in that picture as anything else.

Monday Motivation: Don’t Let the “What Ifs” Hold You Back

 

By Snack Attack

 

I’ll always look back and remember when I was a young girl, having birthday parties at Motion 26 or going to the Rollodrome. The ‘Drome was the place to be, especially on Friday nights. Some of my best memories were made there. The Rollodrome was the first place I was allowed to hang out with my friends unsupervised, cruising around on skates to The Ace of Base song “I Saw the Sign”. Ah, the first taste of freedom! I didn’t know any fancy moves and have always been quite the klutz. I wasn’t a skilled skater by any means- I couldn’t come to a stop without doing a few slow laps and eventually slamming into the wall before exiting the rink.

When I became a teenager my interests changed. My Friday nights were now being spent at the movies or the mall. My skates were left to collect dust.

I eventually was introduced to the world of Roller Derby. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I do remember that it reminded me how much I enjoyed being on skates. I saw these women and was inspired. They were also pretty badass! I’d love to be a derby girl someday…

That someday kept getting further and further away from me. This was partly because life happened, but mostly it was due to a huge amount of fear and worry I had deep down. What if I can’t do this? What if I can’t skate like they can? What if I fall and break something? What if the derby members are not so welcoming? These “what ifs” were holding me back.

Years passed. I turned 30. I experienced several monumental changes. During this time I came to the realization that, if I want to accomplish a goal- as challenging it might be- I would have to put any fear I was harboring aside, give it my all and tackle it. 2018 was going to be my year I would embark on my Roller Derby goal.

I noticed on Facebook a new recruitment meeting, that read “Come see what Derby is all about.” I was no longer going to put this off because of my fears. I thought, what do I have to lose? I had known a few people that were already members of the Androscoggin Fallen Angels. Not going to lie, that gave me the extra nudge I needed to show up to this meeting. The room was filled with some players from The Inferno and members of the league. It was overwhelming. I did what I do best and just smiled, said “Hey how’s it going?” to anyone I made eye contact with. I was nervous, anxious, and also excited. The meeting started and I began to think “what have I gotten myself into!? This is going to be a huge challenge. Do I really want to do this? Can I do this? Will I fit in?”

One of the members said something at this meeting that has stuck with me. They said something along the lines of “I like you already” to everyone in attendance. Those few words were welcoming and comforting in this room of strangers. I left that evening still overwhelmed but looking forward to giving this a try.

I have attended several practices since that meeting. I’m so glad that I finally decided to pursue this by participating in the Derby 101 program. I have learned that this league is made up of some of the nicest, most charismatic people I have ever met. They want you to be a part of this league. They support you and want to see you succeed. Wherever this derby journey takes me,  I’m proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone. This is a league that has people from all different stages in life, different beliefs and backgrounds. A league that strives on positivity, growth, and empowerment. If you have had any hesitations or “what if’s” holding you back, I hope I can be your nudge to come check out derby.

I should also add that I can now stop several different ways on skates, and it doesn’t involve slamming into a wall!

Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Derby Love

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.  

Monday Motivation-Avoid the Bench Trap!

By Wild Violet

 

When I joined the Androscoggin Fallen Angels back in spring of 2016 I had no skating experience or athletic prowess to speak of. Sure, I do yoga once in a while and I am pretty flexible. But most of my time was spent sitting on my rump, making art or reading books. I never considered myself an “athlete”. I wanted to change that.

I saw a recruitment post on Facebook about the local roller derby league and attended an info session. While I sat there, observing their practice with info packet in hand, listening as the Angels told us about the league and what practices were like, I found myself wanting to jump right down off the balcony, strap on some skates, and join them. I filled out the paperwork, got my gear and insurance, and felt ready to roll.

A couple of weeks later I showed up for my very first practice, scared out of my mind and thinking to myself that I was insane for showing up and thinking I could do this. Looking around, I could see that I wasn’t the only brand new, “bambi-on-ice” skater. Several others were struggling to stay on their feet as well and I found that comforting. But as practice went on, it became clear that the years of roller skating I did as a kid were not going to translate into picking this derby skating stuff up quickly. This was friggin’ hard!

Practice after practice I showed up anyway. When we did the off-skates workouts, I huffed and puffed my way through. (Wait, what? Jogging!? Burpees!? Ugh, OK.) When it was time to lace up my skates and get out on the track for drills, I wobbled through every one. Yes, I did glance at the clock to see just how much longer I had to endure. I looked at that clock a LOT.

But what I didn’t do, the thing I avoided like the plague, was sit on the bench.

You see, on day one, as I drove myself to that first practice, I made a deal with myself. I agreed that unless I got injured, I was not going to sit my ass on the bench and watch. I wasn’t going to be a watcher anymore, I was going to be a doer. I knew I wasn’t going to be the best skater, I wasn’t going to be the strongest, the fastest, or the most agile. I knew from the get go that roller derby was going to take a lot of falling and failing on my part before I got good at it. But I also knew that I had to make it through that period of falling and failing, and I couldn’t do that while sitting down.

My personal rule was: You have to try everything and you can’t sit out.

And so, week after week, I went, I skated, and I improved. I eventually stopped huffing and puffing so much. I eventually stopped guffawing at the idea that I could be an athlete. I eventually stopped glancing at the clock every fifteen minutes.

And one magical day, the trainers called out that practice was over, and I found myself not only in disbelief that those two hours had flown by so fast, but also wishing that it wasn’t over and I didn’t have to take my skates off and go home. I was having so much fun that the desire to stop never popped up and I never had to remind myself of my personal rule.

Derby magic.

No, Derby Perseverance.

We all have different limitations and strengths. When we start something new, the person next to us might excel more quickly at it, and it may come to them more easily. In this case, it is tempting to tell oneself that we just aren’t cut out to do that thing, or that we aren’t ready. And that bench looks damn inviting. But the bench can become a habit.

It isn’t a bad place. I’ve had to sit there more than a few times when I’ve been healing a sprained knee or a pulled muscle. At those times the bench is a place to observe and do the mental work, learning by watching. The important thing is not to allow the bench to invite you to avoid pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough to grow.

Julie Andrews said: “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”

In order to get to that 20th time, you have to push yourself through the first 19. And that means avoiding that bench.

 

Confession of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Living Out Of Control


One of the few things you can count on in life is that it will change, absolutely and without question. I like to say that I embrace the idea of change and I frequently seek change. But, I will also admit that I fight for control of change, and that is where my wheels usually come off.

I love to learn, and experience, and grow. But I don’t always grasp that it’s the things I can’t control that bring the most profound and valuable life experiences. I’m usually too busy trying to make them stop, or at least force them to submit to my will. Let me share how this might translate into derby life.

You decide to join a roller derby team which means you gotta learn how to skate. You strap eight tiny wheels to the feet that you have navigated for most of your life without conscious thought and then, well, you roll. Simple.

You envision that you’re going to glide smoothly across a glossy slick floor and go from point here to point there. And you’re going to do that in an upright and graceful state.

Suddenly, the feet, legs, butt, and arms that you routinely ignore as you push your cart down the grocery aisle or walk down the stairs are all in a panic, fighting for control. They yell at you to take charge, to use your brain to prevent them suffering some serious damage.

This is when you begin to realize two things simultaneously. A. You’re about to fail. And B. You hope like hell you don’t.

Fear driven determination kicks in and, with clenched fists and gritted teeth, you will yourself to stay vertical. After all, people are watching and your sense of self preservation and dignity is well developed and almighty.

You become acutely conscious of each action. You fight for control of everything. Toe stop down,  gingerly push. Roll forward. Teeter. Wobble. Accelerate. Make undignified whimper noises. Realize that starting was the easy part before you bend your knees, lean forward, wobble some more. Whimper louder and use your toe stop to try to stop. Hope you are actually stopping. Pirouette around toe stop and manage to keep your balance before coming to a tenuous stop. The trainer blows her whistle signaling to everyone to gather around her. Teeter. Thank goodness you happen to be stopped in the right place. Heave a sigh of relief as you stand, vertical status intact, and take a quick glance around at the cluster of women who have all just danced the same dance as you, aaaaand…

Wham! Suddenly, you’re looking up at the legs and butts of those same women. You never even felt it coming. Those sneaky, greasy, lowdown, $@&#% wheels slipped skyward and you found yourself instantly on your ass. You were just standing there, minding your own business and now you’re sprawled on the floor like your drunk Aunt Mitzi at every family wedding. But that’s not all. You’re about to have a derby lesson about the illusion of control.

First, you haven’t experienced that kind of pain on your backside since you fell off the monkey bars in third grade. Second, you may or may not be able to breathe. Third, various body parts are calling you ugly names. But, the worst, most mortifying thing of all, is your timid, wallflower bladder is cowering “Sorry, guys. I just couldn’t hold it!” Are you serious?

Now you have a decision to make about your so called control. You can unlace your skates and hightail it to the ladies and do some bladder damage control. You can pull up your hoodie, throw on your Foster Grants, grab your gear and control yourself right out the back door.

Or, you can stand up, own your uncomfortably moist situation, and make a mental note to be prepared for future episodes of derby PMS (Peed MySelf).

You can accept that falling happens, that eventually you’re going to get hit, and that it’s probably going to hurt. You can decide to look forward to your first derby kiss and hope that it’s a lovely dark purple so you can show all your friends how badass you are. You can decide that it’s okay that you’re not in control. Yet.

Falling on your ass hurts. It’s a complete and utter lack of control. It’s humiliating, but the first time is the worst. It does get better. But if you embrace the pain and the failure you’ll be rewarded with something priceless that comes from inside you.

Falling means you’re pushing, you’re persisting, you’re persevering. It means you’re finding the thrill of the skill every 

time you push yourself off the floor. It means that soon you’ll know what it feels like when you skim over the floor. You will know the feel cool air on your hot, salty face as you push to do your 27/5. You’ll get to feel a body buzz when you nail a killer turn around toe stop in your new, powerful and (dry) upright derby stance. No one can give that to you but you. And no one can take it away.

Life has a way of throwing some pretty brutal hits. You can be standing there minding your own business and then, without warning, you’re on your ass, and it hurts like hell and you wonder “What the hell just happened?” Maybe you need to take the bench, catch your breath, and pull yourself together. You can even hit the ladies to change your shorts. But, then you have to decide, are you going to sneak out the back door, play it safe, try and get control of the uncontrollable? Or are you going to get back up, live out of control and skate?

Workshop Review: Sparks goes to the New Skids on the Block Bootcamp

 

Derby has its own language. That’s probably true for most sports. But I’ve never played a team sport before. I’d also never been to a sports bootcamp before. So I didn’t realize that all of my nerves and doubts would fade into the background as soon as the brace put her hand on my shoulder and we sunk low into the tripod. We were learning new things, but I knew what to do right there in that spot, just then.

 

It didn’t quite start out that way, of course. About 300 times after I signed up for the Montreal Roller Derby’s New Skids on the Block Bootcamp,  I thought “what in the world are you thinking, Sparks? You passed MSRs 4 months ago. You been in 1 ½ bouts. You’re gonna go out there and juke with Miracle Whips or block with Surgical Strike?” Apparently, I was.

 

So, I got myself to Montreal, up bright and early Saturday morning, and went straight to the wrong building. When I finally figured out where I was supposed to be, the locker room was full of people I didn’t know all squished together trying to put on gear with no arm room at all. But I knew they were all derby players and, therefore, my people. I smiled and someone squeezed over even farther to give me a place to sit. Everyone was nervous, I could hear it in the conversations I could understand (a lot were in French, which I could not), I could see it in the way people were having more trouble than usual getting their skates tied just right.

 

We all trooped out there and got instructions for warms ups. Warm ups are nearly universal, they felt like a sweaty but comfortable t-shirt.  And then the first partner drill–but in the language of derby, eye-contact, a raised eyebrow, and maybe a quick point-at-you-point-at-me is usually enough to get a partner. And even in this mixed company, it was still enough.

 

You don’t even have to speak the same language as your partner to laugh together when your elbow pads stick to each other as you are trying to seam up. Or when you trip again trying to skate backwards on the oddly sticky floor. It’s all just derby.

 

I left the 2-day clinic with a lot of new ideas on how to improve my skills and gameplay, but more importantly with a larger view of this derby community of which I am now a part. It’s vast, and growing every day. We all have things to teach each other, so talk derby to me.

Letter From Our President: AFA’s Third Birthday

Three years seems like such a long time when you stop and think about it, yet it flies by in the blink of an eye. One can go through a lifetime of changes in those thirty-six months. This league certainly has.

One cold early spring morning in 2015, I was talking with a co-worker who had recently moved to Lewiston/Auburn, when she mentioned that she played roller derby. I was in awe. Derby girls were inspiring and tough and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. The more she told me, the more I wanted to be a member of her world.

Yet, there wasn’t a local league. While derby fascinated me, I didn’t know the rules; hell, I didn’t really know anything about the sport at all. Plus, I hadn’t been on skates since I was a kid. There was no way that I would be brave enough to drive an hour to Portland and try out for Maine Roller Derby’s Fresh Meat.

It seemed like such a simple idea at first. We should start a league here! We talked to co-workers about this brilliant plan, and within minutes, there was a solid group of seven. If we were excited about the idea of derby–and we were–there was clearly a need for it in the community. We were positive that once others discovered what we were planning that women would be rushing out to join us.

The original seven held their first formal meeting in a second-floor walk-up apartment, most of us clueless about the journey we were about to embark on. We had a vision for the league, friendship, and faith that everything would work out. And the Androscoggin Fallen Angels were born.

For months we worked tirelessly. Creating an amateur sports league from nothing is not easy. As much as we wanted it to be just about roller derby, we were starting our own non-profit corporation. Reckless spent hours working on paperwork, while others began recruiting and spreading the word, and others struggled to find a practice space. We all invested our own money, paying dues months ahead, in order to have funds in the bank. For some, it didn’t feel like we were ever going to get to actually skate, let alone bout against other teams.

Our first recruitment meeting was held in late May, and women and men of all ages and skating abilities crowded into the room, and an excited buzz filled the air. In June, the entire team left their first practice smiling. We had a lot to celebrate; after months of preparation, there was finally a roller derby league in L/A.

That joy was short lived. The only founding member with any derby experience at all moved away mere weeks after that first practice. We lost more members as some decided that roller derby wasn’t for them, injuries pulled people away, and others left because there was too much work. There will always be turnover in leagues, and the saturation rate is typically low, yet we lost so many in such a short period of time that it physically hurt.

As the months went by, we pushed forward. Yes, we made mistakes, like leagues often do early on. It’s important to remember that we did the best we could with the tools and knowledge we had at the time, and always with the best intention for the league as a whole. We made changes to the structure of the organization, created committees, brought on a coach, held our first bout. We lost more members, women I’d adored and loved, and we struggled. There were times I was terrified we wouldn’t survive.

Yet, here we are, turning three. We have The Inferno – a strong bouting team, Derby 101 – where we welcome all skaters of all abilities and teach them the basics of safe skating, and a membership that continues to thrive. Most importantly, we have strong and fierce friendships.Image may contain: 1 person

It hasn’t been easy. I was taken out of the game I love so much, sidelined by an injury no one saw coming, but stayed on to help in any way I could because I was too stubborn, to in love with the game and league, to leave. I’ve lost friends along the way, sisters who will carry a piece of us with them always. Out of the seven originals, only three of us remain, our dedication to the league and respect for each other cementing us here.

It definitely wasn’t always fun and games. However, when you look at AFA and our history, you see a great analogy for any struggling team. The people next to you right now may not be there tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you give up on them or your goal. When you’re down, you dig deep, re-strategize, try a new approach. You keep fighting until you find something that works.

I believe that AFA has finally done that. Our first vision for the league has changed many times over the years, shifting with the needs of the members. However, I know that we will continue to grow and thrive. The best things are still ahead of us.

Wicked Deviant, a founding member, told us once that roller derby finds you when you need it the most. That advice struck a chord with many members. While I don’t disagree that derby helps you find the person buried inside that you’ve been missing, I think it’s so much more.

There’s a passion in derby I’ve never found in other sports. Some love the physical aspects with every fiber of their being; derby is a full-contact sport on roller skates and isn’t for the faint of heart. Others love the comradery and community you find within a league; the sisters who see your faults and love you because of them, always encouraging you to push outside your comfort zone and kick ass.

I love it all. The friends I’ve made along the way who will be in my life forever, the laughs I’ve shared with my teammates, the pride I have when I see the Inferno jerseys on the track. I adore this league as ferociously as I’ve ever cared about anything. We all do. That’s part of what makes AFA so special.

I told someone once that I’ll never forget the first recruitment. In reality, I don’t think I’ll forget a single information session or recruitment night. There’s something magical about seeing the reactions and small transformations of potential members over that few hours. Most come in worried, faces pinched in anxiety, probably chastising themselves and wondering why in the hell they thought they could join a roller derby league. Those are the women I gravitate to. Those are the ones I know need me and this league. When they leave smiling, that first fear conquered, paperwork in hand, vowing to join us for Derby 101, I find my happy place.

Those women, just like the ones who came before them, are the reason we started the league. They are our future. They are each of us.

One thousand ninety-five days doesn’t seem like it’s enough time to change someone’s life as drastically as roller derby, and the Androscoggin Fallen Angels, have transformed mine. Sometimes I have a hard time recalling the woman I once was, giddy with excitement over the idea of becoming a derby girl, yet completely naïve about what it would take to achieve that dream. Other times, I see myself in the faces of a new member, and I smile because their joy is contagious. And I remember that it’s not just the league that has grown; each of us has, too.

I, for one, cannot wait for the next three years.

-Writer’s Block

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