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Published on October 10th, 2012 | by DerbyLife

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Thoughts On Not Making The Roster…

I was one of the last graduates of the founders of my league. I was a bigger girl, I still am, but over the last 20 months, my derby skinz have transformed from size XXL to L. I can plank for a little longer than any of my five children, Ive knocked some girls down, can leap over downed skaters, and Ive accomplished 29.5 laps in 5 minutes. Those accomplishments make me feel like a rockstar compared to when I arrived at derby, holding the bars along the edge of the rink. I didn’t begin with an athletic background. I started out with too many kids (we all know I don’t really feel this way) and a lot of excuses for why I couldn’t make the time to move my body.

Two weeks before I passed my final assessment, I traveled with my derby sisters to our very first bout. I removed all my carseats from the van and we packed in our gear, creating the first of many “jam van” journeys. Our opposing team invited us as their guests for their debut bout. We were both new leagues. We were both ready to pop our derby cherries together!

Before arriving to the the bout location, our league met up for a pre-bout meal; party of 26. With terrible service and many meal mix ups, we all ended up getting fed, and with the help of my iPhone app, we were able to separate the single bill with a fair tip and leave on good terms with the restaurant with not much time to spare. We caravaned to check into the hotel and then raced off to the arena.

Our hostesses were kind and made us feel at home right away. It was perfect! We all found our designated places. I sat in on the pre-bout NSO meeting. I quickly learned my very simple job of inside whiteboard.

When the first whistle blew, the frenzy of nerves transformed. I watched my derby sisters fight and ripen to red faced derby machines. The score teetered back and forth. I witnessed a new group of women play with my sisters, I saw packs intermingle and play with each other in ways I never knew – so up close and personal. I was right there, in the middle of it, alone in my own world while reporting numbers from inside to ouside.

My feet could feel the vibration of the pounding from the fans as they hit the plexiglass and stomped their feet, I was feeling what my sisters couldn’t because they were on wheels. The arena was packed. Still to this day, of all the bouts I’ve attended, there was not ever another to match this intensity.

Halftime was a mixture of the sounds of the grunge band, tastes of bad beer, hot booty shorts and derby sisters meeting each other for the first time. It was like a long lost family, reunified. This is rare. I knew it was special and I was definitely immersed in every moment. I joined my league sisters in the locker room for the halftime regrouping. The speech given to our girls was spontaneous and delivered by a veteran skater of another league. It was by chance she walked into the locker room and her words were exactly what the girls needed to hear. This was the day roller derby revealed an aspect of womynship I had not yet known.

Minutes left till the start of the second half, I walked amongst my rolling friends and stopped at the center of the rink and they packed together on the other side of the pivot line. In my recollection, I admit to a few choked tears when I didn’t cross the track with them. I knew it wasn’t my turn, I knew I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t skilled and I had genuinely not earned my right to bout.

I also knew that I was experiencing something that they didn’t have the opportunity to feel. They didn’t get to watch. And in some ways, I felt I had the advantage, because I knew what I was missing. I knew what I had to work for and earn for myself. I watched my girls move. I saw their faces, their expressions. I caught glimpses of their fear, weakness, shock, strength and glory as they lapped the track. I got to feel their moments while most of what they would feel would be not much more than a blur at the end of each jam. So, while my face was blank, my energy was very much alive.

The final points of the bout were either team’s win. In fact, it doesn’t matter who won this bout. The score was so closely matched; we all won. We all screamed in joy. We all crashed into each other embracing in sweat and tears of joy. The love of the women this night will always shine as one of my lifetime defining moments. The truth is, this is the event that lit my derby fire. This was the reason I would work my body to be a roller girl.

Months passed and our league teamed its skaters. We didn’t have time in our season to reciprocate our first derby love’s invite but eventually it was scheduled for us to travel back to them on our anniversary weekend. So, there it was. I set my personal goal of getting my name on that roster. Every bout, scrimmage and practice would be a marker for me to earn my place on that roster. And I worked. I noted my own personal accomplishments for myself, I kept myself in check, I communicated with my coaches and I was compliant with every little everything, even during the death of my mother. Derby was my saving grace. Derby is my release and my safety net. Derby is my sanity. Some people refer to derby as a hobby. Scrapbooking is a hobby…. Derby is… Derby.

As leagues grow, teams divide, fresh meat comes in, postions of power change… Energy is dispersed. Anyone involved in roller derby understands this complexity. I grew to learn that a skater should always be fighting for her spot on her team. Practice, endurance and dedication develops a tough shell. You gear up, enter the track and it’s about derby. Period. If you pull crap onto the rink, it’s a safety hazard for everyone.

Each skater creates her own driving force. For me, it’s a bundle of insanely wild reasons that I “play” roller derby. My gold pot at the end of the rainbow has been to be rostered for the bout that first stole my heart.

Two months prior to the bout, it became very clear my “fight” needed to be stepped up. There were a few open spots on the roster due to retired skaters. Of the handful of eligible girls, fresh meat had been chosen to fill available spots. I shed some burning tears and pushed some extra hard laps to rid myself of this heartbreak, but I understand. This is derby. Girls half my age are point scorers. I’m replaceable. It’s ok. I still get to feel the way I choose to feel.

I can let this break me, but it won’t because I’m a derby girl. I can look at this decision any way I choose, but it doesnt matter because its done. I can beleive their place on this roster was awarded. I hope they rejoice in his gift. I thought mine was supposed to be earned…

So, in the end, I’m not rostered for this bout. And this is how derby is for many girls. And… I’m not broken. I’m not going anywhere. It’s just time to imagine a new pot of gold. I’ll let go of the sadness that the roster maker didnt know this bout was a “special one.” I’ll keep my title as I did exactly one year before and wear my “blank face.” As those fresh meat lap the track, I hope they feel the energy of something more powerful than they have ever known. After all, I’m a derby girl. I take hits, fall, and I get up stronger.

“Strong, I land. Love, Quadshot.”

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