Archive for October, 2008
For a while now I’ve been spreading the gospel of the Promise of Derby. It has been the motivator behind me joining a roller derby league and now being one of several founders of a new roller derby league.
Anyone who has any connection with roller derby – from fan to die-hard roller girl – knows that roller derby is a way of life. It permeates us as individuals and communities deeply and permanently. Everyone comes to roller derby for different reasons and finds new reasons to stay.
There are four main aspects to the Promise of Derby: Body, Family, Ego and Business.
For many fitness and the ability to skate on quad roller skates may seem to be the basics of the physical aspect of roller derby. Physical fitness is often a primary motivator for people who join roller derby. The physical demands of roller derby extend far beyond the basics of fitness and train your body – its skeleton, organs, and muscles to work in new and different ways. The body becomes trained to be a well balanced, hard hitting, speed skater.
Hitting and skating in close proximity to other people at speed feeds our personal need to have a physical connection with others. In a digital, broadband age where a person can never seem to get enough touch for survival, roller derby serves up a monsterous portion of interaction.
Finally the integration of all the senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, kinesthetics, and pain – connects us to our world intimately. The pain, usually, is temporary but often comes with outstanding photo opportunities. Other senses, like balance and kinesthetics, are often neglected, powerful senses that become super-senses in derby. As we develop our senses through derby we create powerful connections to our surroundings outside derby as well.
When you join a roller derby league, you are welcomed into a family. While not always about “making friends”, deep and intimate friendships come from the trials of the track. Roller Derby’s society is about community – the community we have with our selves, our team, our league, and the greater derby community throughout the world. Because we share common experiences and language, we communicate and care for others whom we’ve never even met because we share the common goal of derby community.
By expressing pride for the accomplishments of a group we shed the burden of super-stardom and share it with our community as a whole.
While the burden of super-stardom mitigates by being part of a team, the thrill of rock-star status which comes with donning a name and skates still comes with the job. The successful roller derby skater takes this fame humbly and never forgets his or her status as a mortal. Broken bones, torn joints, deep tissue bruises constantly reminded us of our mortality. Egos must be mortal too or teams divide.
To any derby skater who might say “I don’t have an ego!” I say “Oh, yeah? Who ever told you you could skate?” From the freshest of fresh meat to the most veteran of veterans, there must be room in our egos for the team and our communities.
Today’s roller derby is “by the skater, for the skater” which means the skaters own and operate their own teams and leagues. I call this the “open source” sport of the 21st Century. We are semi-professional athletes in that fans pay money to watch bouts and the skaters use that money for the operations of the league. As with any sport, bouts are significant productions and require a lot of intellectual and physical labor. For many skaters, this is a new opportunity to learn many aspects of operating a business. For others, this aspect of derby may be an extension of their current professions. As with all other aspects of derby, the business aspect brings rewards and challenges. Skaters must remember no business operates in a vacuum. We create interdependent, symbiotic relationships with our teammates, league-mates, and other leagues and organizations in the name of derby.
A balanced skater integrates these aspects into her derby career as well as the rest of her life. When challenges arise in any of these areas, the culprit lies in an imbalance of one or more of these aspects.
The Promise of Derby is easy to find. Strap on a pair of quads or attend a bout. You won’t regret it.