You might think Roller Derby is not for you. No place for someone who believes she’s 26.3 pounds overweight and would look terrible in leggings. No place for a baker, or a painter. No place for someone who loves yoga and butterflies, or to Contra dance and quilt. No place for someone who never kicked a soccer ball, played hockey, or ran track in high school. That it’s not a place for a mom of three little kids. Or two. Or one. Or five. Or for a teacher or nurse or accountant. No place for someone who likes to sit quietly and read for hours. Or for someone’s Nana. Or for someone with a disability. It’s definitely no place for someone who has never even been to the roller rink, right? There are a million reasons why it could never be for you. But you’d be wrong. In my league, there’s a place for everyone
You can join my league and become a tribal skating machine that flattens women left and right for the glory of your team and our league. If you want to do that, then yes, we want you, please join ASAP. But maybe that’s not you…yet. Or maybe that’s not you ever. And that’s okay. You still belong.
Maybe you’ve put your all into parenting–which is an important and respectable pursuit–but now you’re ready for a little you time. Maybe you need a kick start to get some exercise. Maybe you’re looking for someone to dance or laugh with on Friday night after practice, or a chance to run around in a rainbow tutu at a community parade. Maybe you have some pent up frustration toward the older brother who used to make your life hell and you’d love to roll around and crash into people as a way to vent. (Umm, I might be getting too personal here.) Anyway, my league can offer all those things.
We have skaters at all levels, from “Bambis” to experts who’ve played derby for years. We have a new training program for officials who skate and those who don’t. We have members who don’t skate very much or at all, but who enjoy the camaraderie, the committee work, and the community service aspect of membership. I am a trainer for our Derby 101 program. You can join AFA and we’ll teach you how to skate as safely as we can, and we’ll also support you in every step of your individual journey. And we’ll love you for being you and be happy with whatever niche you settle into as a member.
The only people who don’t belong here are those who are not accepting and supportive of every walk of life. They’re the ones who are judgy and demeaning. They might think that girls who play roller derby must come with a master’s degree in beating people up and an attitude tailored toward destruction. They’re mean and intolerant. I’m sure that’s not you, and that’s why you do belong.
We’ve all heard it. Change is good for the soul. Well, I believe that derby comes into your life at just the right moment when you need it. It will provide something for you that you’re not going to find elsewhere. This sport is so unique, it’s hard to explain what happens when you fully embrace it. Scientists have proven that your brain changes when you take on new challenges. New connections and pathways erupt, and all this improves your mental acuity and longevity. Derby is doing that for everyone who joins, and it’s also cutting new pathways in our community. Our fans see what this large group of individuals have achieved–a sustainable, healthy nonprofit league with a board of directors and eight committees that handle everything from training, to bout planning, to community service, for the purpose of fostering “teamwork, empowerment, and community engagement” (AFA Mission Statement). And I believe it’s inspiring to those who want change, not just in their lives but in our world. Yes, if people work together toward a common goal, great things can happen. The lovers and skaters of roller derby have not just jumped out of the box, they’ve stomped it flat and kicked it to the recycling bin. They are a new breed of independence and acceptance, and frankly, I believe we desperately need more of just that.
I wanted roller derby because I wanted to prove something to myself, that I’m strong and capable. And I also wanted derby because I could do this proving of things while roller skating and making friends and smashing into people, which I happen to think is fun. I also might be going through a midlife reinvention, known to some people as a crisis, but so what? What better way to change your life than with an instant horde of companions who’ll push you, and challenge you, and help you, and be there for you?
All those people I wrote about at the beginning, all those people who don’t belong, I guarantee that all of them are or could be playing roller derby. Just like you could be if you’re looking to fire up some neurotransmitters and pave a new path. And personally, I think you’ll look awesome in leggings. Everybody does. And they’re comfortable and practical and stretchy, so who cares anyway? Anyone who gives a fig about your leggings–this is not about them. This is about you.
(AFA will be recruiting new skaters to start in our Derby 101 program, beginning in September. For more info follow our Facebook Page, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)