Published on August 22nd, 2011 | by Elle Beaux1
What Happens After The Final Whistle?
I’m a rollergirl. No, I don’t skate on a team anymore, nor do I go to practice anymore, but when you cut me, I bleed derby. I always will. And if you cut me, get ready to have your ass kicked, because you just cut a rollergirl.
While not an active Atlanta Rollergirl, I am part of the ranks of a very special group: The L.O.R.D.S. We are the Loyal Order of Retired, Distinguished Skaters. We don’t have any rules, no membership requirements, and our “meetings” usually involve boxes of wine. Bonus points if we can find a pool.
Two years ago, I was a rollergirl in my 5th season, and I was ready for retirement. I had suffered 2 concussions, a partially torn MCL, 2 sprained ankles, and lots of other common derby injuries–hematomas, fat lips, etc. It still feels like I’m sitting on a bag of rocks. I spent my derby career rocking the pivot position, but for my final jam, my team proudly gave me the jammer star. (Thank god we were winning!) The jammer whistle blew, and I promptly cut the track (or something), and I spent my final moments as a skater in the penalty box. Quel apropos!
After the final whistle, I did what any derby girl would do: I rehydrated. I hugged and high fived all the skaters, I may have cried, I stretched, and I had a motherfucking beer. Because I deserved it. For the next few weeks, I acquainted myself with an old friend I hadn’t seen in about 5 years: FREE TIME. IT WAS GLORIOUS. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t anymore.
Retirement is hard, y’all. It took a huge adjustment period. I missed the camaraderie, the inappropriate language, and the Jager shots. I missed my bodacious ass. I missed being strong. I missed being an athlete. The gym is no replacement for taking out your aggression on 60 of your closest friends three times a week.
Now, let’s have a chat about 60 of your closest friends: when you don’t spend 2 hours, three times a week with them, you grow apart. No matter how much you love each other, when you stop skating and they continue, your worlds get more and more separated. It almost feels like you’re a derby creeper after a while. But then you have to remind yourself, “It’s ok that she’s got new friends to count on during a dance-off. She still loves me.” This was the hardest part. Not being in the center of everything. Having to hear the latest gossip days and weeks after it happened, instead of being part of the immediate situation.
I’m taking a trip to Tender Town for a second, and tearing up as I write this. I’ve talked for years about how much derby impacted me, but I didn’t fully understand it until this moment. I still miss it every day.
Derby taught me about a very important part of life- you keep skating, you keep pushing and you keep fighting until you hear the final whistle. It doesn’t matter if you are winning or losing by 200 points, or are losing by 3 and just need a few more to eke out the win. In my professional life, I have wanted to give up so many times. Then I remember that I gotta keep on moving, and give it everything I’ve got until it’s over. It’s painful. It smells bad. But that sweet, sweet feeling you get when you’ve pushed as hard as you can is worth it. So what happened after that final whistle?
I kept pushing. I took all the things I learned in derby and started living the dream. I finally accepted the fact that I’m not going to be happy unless I’m performing and making people laugh. I’m lucky enough to be a part of a thriving arts and comedy community in Atlanta, which means all the time I used to spend at practice, in meetings, and recuperating from afterparties, I now spend acting like an asshole on stage, being hilarious, and performing up to 5 times a week. I allowed myself to fall in love with an amazing man (We’ve been together for over a year. In derby time, that’s like we’re at our 50th wedding anniversary!) And I never would have gotten there without derby.
My advice for recently or soon-to-be retired skaters: throw yourself into the things you love. You’re going to get depressed–everyone does after they retire. Find the things that make you feel like a rock star and DO them, unapologetically, fully and passionately. Don’t forget to hold on tight to the friends you made. Get together with the other retired skaters, and take pictures of yourselves enjoying a bottomless Bloody Mary bar while the active skaters are at practice. Put those pictures all over Facebook. Go back to practice once in a while to remind yourself that you’re still pretty bad ass–you won’t be nearly as bad as you think.
The life of a L.O.R.D. is tough. I’m on my way to a “meeting” to “discuss” the Rocky Mountain vs. London bout we just watched (online, while at work). My bet is that we get too drunk to take “minutes.”