Archive for August, 2012
Lately the interwebs are all astir with the news of three of the world’s best women’s flat track skaters transferring out of Arizona to Oly. I heard the news of the transfers and I heard the hubbub and, well, I went back to my own skating. If being in derby more than five years has taught me anything, it has taught me what drama is mine to take on and what isn’t. Guess what? I’ve got a huge cloak of apathy on for this one because this transfer is simply not my dog. Excepting for the fact it might come up in chatter when I’m announcing at WFTDA’s Eastern Regionals this fall, it has absolutely zero impact on me – as a skater, my team, the teams I expect I’ll play against, the teams and skaters I’ll be coaching in England and the Netherlands this October, announcing bouts, reffing bouts, and my study of the sport as a strategist.
What amazes me is the cries of foul have not died down. It seems to me there are only three people on the planet with a significant vested interest in crying foul – the three skaters these presumed stars may or may not be displacing on Oly’s roster for Regional competition. I’ve read a DNN comment from one of those skaters and, frankly, she says to the world it has lit a fire under her. Bravo, derby sister. She defines the kind of league Oly is, not the transfers, and I’m not only fine with that, I applaud it.
This all got me thinking about my own transfer experiences. In doing so, I’ve started to peek out from under my apathy cloak to say “Bravo, Arizona! Bravo, Oly!”
Before I tell my stories, let me make it perfectly clear: on the track I am no Atomatrix in skills. I’m sure this comes as no surprise. I do have some things in common. One of my league transfers was because my husband wanted to play derby too – so family “issues” influence where I play. I have 4 leagues about 1.5 hours of one-way travel from where I live and none closer – so geography is a challenge and my league decision is not and cannot be based on travel expense alone. I’ve been skating since the summer of 2007 and I’ve decided I still have what it takes to play this game even though I’m well into my 40’s. While I am aware of my age and fitness limitations, I do still “need” to play and I need a league and coaches supportive of my self-assessment and to provide me appropriate feedback. The biggest thing I have in common with these skaters – the biggest thing 99.9% of everyone affiliated with this sport has in common – is we don’t get paid to play. In fact, we pay to play and we all make significant financial, emotional, and time investments into this sport.
I started derby in 2007 and my initial selection of a league to join was based on Wikipedia, speed of email response, and the fact that Albany was 1.5 hours away as opposed to Pioneer Valley’s 2 hours. To give you a sense of the state of the sport at that time, it took 2 weeks for my name to be approved on Two Evils. There just weren’t that many leagues! I played Albany’s inaugural season with them and, as the second season was starting, found myself kicked off the league with three other skaters. With those skaters and my husband, we founded the Hellions of Troy in the fall of 2008. By February, our interests were diverging. My husband wanted to play men’s derby so he and I left for Pioneer Valley. I remember that time. He knew where he wanted to be. I wasn’t so sure. I had some choices, but not many. Family finances were a really big deal at the time, especially with the cash and resources we’d put into the Hellions. I sat on the sidelines for a bout, but I was fairly quickly integrated into the Western Mass Destruction. With what I’d been through, I really needed to skate – to be part of a league I fit in.
Fast forward three years. My husband had become the Captain of PVRD’s men’s team and on the league’s Board of Directors. I’d been coaching for PVRD for more than two years. I was guest coaching for other leagues for pay and did a fair bit of travel. In that travel, I tried to attend other practices – sometimes with leagues we were scheduled to compete against. As much as three years earlier dictated my husband and I needed to be on the same league, by this point, in order to have any conversations at home that weren’t about derby and keep our sanity, I needed to be on a different league. As a male skater, his options are much slimmer. Transferring to Elm City (Keene, NH), a league I had coached and refereed for over the preceding three years, wasn’t easy. We were all cautious. There was a probationary period between my declaration of intent and my acceptance which included skating in at least one scrimmage. The first bout I played for them, I wasn’t yet a member – but I was also not a member of Pioneer Valley. I had to resign PVRD to even write my letter of intent to Elm City and start my probation. It took a lot of risk and faith on my part that my new league was a good choice for me and for them. It took a lot of faith on their part to allow someone with my history and experience a chance when they’d all only been members of Elm City.
There are things I missed and still miss about every league I’ve been a member of. With each change I’ve grown and become a better skater and participant in derby. I’d like to think I’ve left something positive behind with each league as well. I know many people decide on the league they’ll be involved with based on geography, but we’ve grown enough in numbers that even that isn’t always a forced choice anymore – certainly not like it was in 2007 or 2008.
When I look at my story, and then I read the vitriol around the move by three skaters from Arizona to Oly, I think – PEOPLE! Stop making drama where there doesn’t need to be drama! Stop caring so much about how this is going to destroy the fabric of flat track derby and focus on what you can do to make derby better. What if the derby world had applied this “you have to be with a league a whole season before you can play” to my transfers? What if the teams I left made it even harder for me to leave so I couldn’t make positive change in my derby career? Who would actions like that help? What if the teams I came to said “the derby world will be pissed if we let you play before you’ve been a season away from your other team”? Well, I’d have to find another team sport, I suppose.
All three of these skaters were recent transfers to Arizona. Each, like me, has her own story – her own family obligations, financial investments, time investments, and skills to bring to the sport and to her team. When I look at my story, I applaud these skaters, Arizona, and Oly, for creating an environment where derby can be better for everyone involved. Kudos to Arizona for giving them a home, but also for letting them go when the fit wasn’t working anymore. Kudos to Oly for being the team that everyone will now want to beat because of the transfers. I know the level of these players will raise the level of competition from all of their Regional and possibly Championship competitors. Kudos to the transfer skaters for doing their best in balancing their personal lives with the sport they so dearly love and through their passion, inspire us all to be better and love the sport more.
I suspect the time these skaters spent in Arizona did a lot for that league that will affect those skaters long after they are no longer on Arizona’s charter. Leagues competing at the level of WFTDA Regionals in 2012 are far beyond reliance on any one, two, or even three skaters. Oly’s charter will be enhanced by these skaters, but there will be at least 11 other people on the roster at any given time from Oly who are not these transfers who make the team as much of what it is as the transfers. Three skaters can’t even make a pack, much less a team.
Change is good. WFTDA is still amateur. We are too young a sport to stifle growth and advancement through skater change and transfer.