Archive for March, 2009

Joining a roller derby league is a pretty serious decision, one that infiltrates life more than one could possibly imagine.

Roller Derby is a “way of life” – one that can have immense rewards, develop strong relationships, push personal limits, and builds body, mind, and spirit. When you join a flat track league today, you are joining a sports team not only as an athlete and skater but as a business owner as well. You’ll be expected to contribute your time and talents to further the goals and mission of your team.

Finding a league that fits you should involve some shopping. Keep in mind that proximity may not be the best reason to choose a particular team/league even though it might seem like the most obvious. If you have a choice of derby leagues take some time to find out about the league’s governance/ownership structure. Get to know the skaters. Usually skaters will maintain MySpace profiles. Facebook is more difficult for shopping and leagues should be mindful of this in their recruiting efforts. Visit the profiles of skaters and see how they present themselves. Then ask your self “Are these the kind of people I want to spend 20-30 hours a month with? Are these people I would like to be in business with? Are these people I can trust with my time, money, talents, and self-image?” If you can say “yes” to those things, then you might have found your self a roller derby team.

Roller Derby leagues are collectives which can be intimidating to the new skater – no matter how strong he or she is. I’ve found if an individual has either ego or skating ability, roller derby can help develop the one you’re weaker on. Derby skaters have huge egos (I doubt any skater would deny this – but if you’re a skater reading this and you disagree, all I have to say to you is “Oh yeah? Who ever told you you could skate?”).Derby skaters come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. A roller derby team needs all types – thinkers, hitters, lovers, fighters, strategists, observers, big people, small people, fast people, strong people and everything in between. You, as a new skater, are needed on a team because you bring something new. The team won’t know what it is you bring right away, but if you help the team, they’ll help you find what that something is.

Shopping is most critical for derby leagues for two major reasons – the newness of the sport and the punk rock / spirit of celebrating individualism dynamic. Roller derby is NOT the McDonalds of sports. One cannot count on even WFTDA teams to be the same from city to city. This is not like joining the APA pool league in a city. Each and every team has its own dynamic, its own priorities, and its own legal structure. The incoming skater will not be able to change it – no matter how much the spirit of empowerment and individualism moves them. Yet every new skater does influence the team as any new group changes when a new member joins – just not likely in any conscious way a new skater might envision.

Once you’ve found a team, it will be important to seek out the existing members who can help you meet your own personal goals. Be clear about what you want and need and realize, as with any learning endeavor, you might need to look outside the team to meet some of those goals. MOST new derby skaters will need to invest time outside of practice to reach personal advancement goals. This is normal. If advancing as a skater is important, talk with your coach(es) about what you can do outside of practice – skills to work on, exercises to do, diet regimens, other skating opportunities – to meet your goals. If business or interpersonal skills are something you want to get better at, be sure to seek out those leaders in your new league and tell them what you aspire to do. Most leaders are eager to have new blood learn the ropes of running a league.

I joined roller derby looking for a team sport to get me in shape just before my 40th birthday. I’m still in derby because I have found something I couldn’t find anywhere else. Its a little hard to explain to someone on the outside. Its about connections. I connect with myself – I can feel changes for the better every day in my body and my spirit. I connect with my team – there are friendships I have now unlike any others I’ve had before, with women and men I’d do just about anything for and who would do just about anything for me. I connect with the greater derby community – roller derby is a movement of empowerment for this century and not just for women, but for everyone who comes into contact with it. When derby becomes a part of you, you become a part of something so much bigger than your self and see the world as such a bigger place it is beyond explanation.

Go ahead. Get to a practice. Get quads on your feet. You won’t regret it!

Excerpted and revised from Bitches’ 10/19/2009 MySpace blog “An Invitation to Derby

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