Roller Derby Is Just A Thing I Do For Fun Now.
Sometimes I imagine my younger derby self and my current derby self getting together for a little chat. (Over tea, of course.) There are a few things that I can tell you about what type of conversation it would be:
- immensely frustrating for both parties
- riddled with curse words
- a loooooong tangent into strategy discussion
- ended by my younger self slapping my current self in the face and storming out
BECAUSE IF ROLLER DERBY ISN’T YOUR WHOLE LIFE ARE YOU EVEN DOING IT RIGHT!?
I spent the first half — okay, the first 3/4 — of my roller derby career as a “competitive” roller derby athlete. I attended every single practice. I trained nearly every single day. I watched and dissected film. I followed other teams and calculated rankings in my head.
Roller derby wasn’t a thing that I did for fun. It was something that I did to win.
Those players that only came to the minimum number of practices drove me insane. They obviously weren’t as committed as I was. They didn’t care about whether the team won or lost. They didn’t want to climb the rankings. They were just there for exercise or sisterhood or a night away from the kids or whatever.
HOW DARE THEY!?
The truth is that I was a real asshole about respecting other people’s priorities.
I was still stuck in the seething, bubbling, personally empowering cauldron of roller derby. Fully out there in the middle, not clinging to the edge. I could drown out there, but that was part of the fun.
“Sorry, I can’t. I have derby” became my mantra. Not just for acquaintances or work associates. But for my family, friends, and significant other. If it wasn’t roller derby, I didn’t really want to bother.
And I expected everyone else to be the same way.
Now that I look back on it, I feel like I should personally call up everyone that I was a righteous bitch to and apologize profusely. I didn’t know then what I know now. Although I pretended to.
I used to say that everyone should follow their derby bliss. Do derby the way that makes you happy. But also, if it’s not MY way then GTFO.
Feel the #guilttrip.
THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED.
Actually, a lot of things happened. Priorities shifted. I got excited and lit up about things that weren’t roller derby. I realized that my small town probably won’t ever be able to support a truly “competitive” WFTDA team.
I saw life after roller derby. (*gasp*)
At some point, I’ll hop off this insane carnival ride of a sport — and I mean that in the best way — and choose not to ride it again. I didn’t want the day that happened to feel like going over a cliff edge; one second the ground is beneath you supporting your trip and the next you’re in free fall with nothing to hold on to.
I got tired.
So I made a decision.
Roller derby is just something that I do for fun now.
I still want to skate. I still want to be the best possible player I can be. I still want to spend time with my teammates. But I’m not a zealot anymore.
Now I’m the teammate that only comes to the minimum number of practices. I only do the minimum number of volunteer hours. I just want to have fun.
And after YEARS of thinking that those skaters weren’t as committed, I realize that I was wrong.
You can’t play roller derby for any length of time without being committed to it. It’s expensive and time-consuming, even at the most recreational levels. It takes months of practice honing difficult skills to even be able to take contact.
It’s not a matter of commitment. We’re all committed.
When I first started, I was committed to playing (and winning) as much as I could. I was committed to pushing myself to higher levels of competition. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant when I did, I would have committed to commuting 2 hours each way to play for a team in the top 20.
Now, I’m committed to having fun. I’m committed to enjoying the shit out of the people that I get to play with. I’m committed to staying on skates in a way that doesn’t make me hate myself or feel guilty or get horribly injured.
I always hated the distinction between “competitive” and “recreational” roller derby. Obviously those levels exist, but even on a recreational team everyone is there to improve their game. For the love of the sport. For the love of themselves.
If you want to sign up to be the next Bonnie Thunders and that’s where your head is at, GO FOR IT. Skate your heart out and crush it on the track.
If that’s not your jam, that’s cool too.
In the end, roller derby is just something to do.
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