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Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Raven Von Kaos


Derby: Don’t Do It For The Glory

Oh roller derby! It’s been a crazy and awesome journey thus far. I’ve grown so much and learned more about myself then I ever thought possible. It’s fantastic to see a whole new wave of skaters coming in and joining the ranks to possibly have the same awesome experiences I have.
With this new emerging generation of skaters, I have noticed a common thread. New skaters have this overwhelming desire to play in front of people (friends, family, etc.) before they are ready to bout. Don’t get me wrong, a majority of “Generation: Fresh Meat” is willing to work hard, but there seems to be a notion that they are owed something (team placement, exhibition scrimmages) just for showing up. Something about this expectation has me shaking my head and saying things like “Back in my day…” and “When I was fresh meat…” Listening and taking in their feelings and comments has brought me back to when I was an award-hungry and self-declared recognition-deprived new skater.

It sounds cliché, but if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself some serious heartache.

I have always been an overachiever. I have awards from high school and college and have even racked up some nice recognition for my hard work in my career. The one thing all of these accolades have in common is that none of them have been for outstanding athletic performance. Derby is really my first venture into athletics. Naturally, when I started playing derby, I thought that if I worked my ass off, I would automatically be recognized for it at the end of the year with a nice skating award. Wrong. It was like my whole existence as a skater depended on getting that physical reward for my hard work – like it was owed to me.

Sorry friends, derby does not work that way.

Little did I realize that making it on the game roster and playing with my team was the true reward (and still is). I can honestly say blood, sweat and tears got me in my first game. I had never worked as hard for something before. I don’t think I have ever wanted anything as much as I wanted to play – so I completely understand the yearning of new skaters wanting to flaunt their new-found derby basics.

I understand the burning need to make that first roster and get the privilege to suit up with your team, but I promise it will be that much sweeter if you wait until you are truly ready (not to mention a whole lot safer).

I try to explain it like this:
Let’s say instead of roller derby I decide to take up soccer. I sign up for my local community rec league. Let’s keep in mind I have never played soccer in my life except for a few scaring PE experiences. Now would I really want my friends and family to come out and watch me on a weekend afternoon before I could make proper contact with the ball or even keep up with my team? Not really. And the whole point of signing up was for some self-fulfillment, not to impress my friends and family.

It’s hard to see past the screaming crowds, fishnets, announcers, games on DNN, jerseys with your name on them, travel and all the other exterior things about derby until you are in the heart of it. I feel like once newer skaters realize it’s not about the show and the glory, it’s about connecting with yourself and the skaters around you, then they will be truly ready to play and call themselves skaters.

I don’t want to downplay anyone’s hard work or ambitions. “Generation: Fresh Meat” is working hard and want their just deserts. The skaters of my generation had to not just learn to skate and play derby, but most of us had to help start our leagues, write policies and carve out a spot in the derby world for our teams. Maybe we have made the path seem too easy or perhaps in some leagues it feels like there are too many hoops – I promise in either scenario, your league has put together a timeline that they deem best for you and your growth as a skater.

Congratulations on committing to something that will forever change your life in the best ways if you let it. Don’t worry about what you feel you deserve. Work hard at what you have and most importantly enjoy the ride, because at the end of the day it’s not about people seeing you play or awards you want to win. It’s about the time you have with your team and the adventures and experiences you may get to have together.

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Raven Von Kaos

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