Published on February 15th, 2012 | by Veronica Scars1
Finding The Derbylove All Over Again
Four years ago, my team won the league championship. Even for a small-time league championship battle, it was among the highest of highs in my life. Then one year ago, and a month after I had surgery to repair a torn ACL, I received a letter dismissing me from my league.
It was a pretty big heartbreak that ranked up there with losing a first love, my first dog dying and the one time I made the mistake of watching “Terms of Endearment.” I know. I’m not proud to admit that either. I still remember how my hands shook as I read the misspelled and grammatically terrible letter. And to top it off, I had to keep it all above water while hobbling around on crutches, dreaming of a time I could get back on skates.
When I finally put skates back on my feet, I was like Bambi all over again. I had to reteach my leg how to roll all over again, while trying to stay in the game, stay on rosters, and not give up. But the good part is that we’ve all been there. In the spectrum of a derby career, a lot can happen. Leagues can implode; friendships and derby wives can be destroyed. After all, folks, roller derby can save your soul, but it can also break your heart.
But if you decide to stick it out, roller derby still has love for you. And amazing things can happen. Here’s some tips for getting your heart back after it’s been derby-broken.
1) Set goals: Start small. Want to increase your speed? Maybe you want to improve your footwork and balance post-injury. And when you’re ready, start dreaming big. Maybe playing on your dream team, whether it be your league’s interleague team or Team Legit or Bionic. Set a lot of goals and don’t stop, because it’s going to be these goals that keep you going when things start to go south.
Portia “Frida Beater” Hensley of the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls also gets through moments of exhaustion with this. “I do burn out sometimes, but finding new challenges and goals keeps me motivated,” she says. “I am constantly trying to be the most well-rounded player I can be, so that challenges me.”
2) Hang out with the fresh meat: This group of new girls is just full of love. They’re a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed group of gals who are yearning to soak in all the information they can. They watched and idolized you on the track last season, and now they want to play and hear all of your war stories. And they want you to show them how to get better. It’s a love and new-found passion that is infectious. They think you’re there to help them, but it’s really the other way around.
3) Recognize when it’s time to take a break: You and your family come first. Then your job and friends. Then roller derby. Sometimes it’s a matter of prioritizing life in order to see the big picture. When life happens and it all gets to be more than you can handle, take a break. Derby isn’t going anywhere. It’s strong and resilient, and you’ll be better for it when you come back to the track.
4) Got an injury? Focus on physical therapy: Heather Juska of the Denver Roller Dolls says that after her injury, it was focusing on getting better that kept her going.
“I’ve worked with an athletic trainer/sports medic for the past year to work through my injury,” she says. “He was able to keep me on my skates while I was working through the injury. I kept up my conditioning and really focused on physical therapy and strength training with him.” Getting better is the most important thing, post injury.
Sometimes, we’re so focused on the time we get to skate again that we can skip crucial steps in getting better and taking the time to let the body heal. When I was out on injury, I had Erica “Miss E Vil” McGuire (athletic trainer and member of Tucson Roller Derby) around to yell at me when I did too much too soon and kick my ass when I was ready to get back on the track. And she was one of my biggest fans when I accomplished all of my goals.
5) Don’t stop believin': “What keeps me going is my love of skating,” Juska says. “I grew up with skates on my feet practically, so it’s something that has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve had my share of derby drama, and I’ve managed to make it through four seasons so far. I try to stay out of the drama as much as possible and keep my focus on my team and what our goals are.”
Always remember why you play the sport, and why you love to do what you do. When I was going through the worst of the derby drama, my former teammate Axta Grind once told me, “Do what brings you joy.” And sticking to that mantra, my love for roller derby stays true.