Published on November 22nd, 2013 | by Guest Contributor1
Photo: Manish Gosalia
What Is Roller Derby?
By Hermione Danger, Gotham Girls Junior Derby
Not a day goes by where “Oh, well I commute three times a week to play roller derby in Brooklyn” doesn’t make its way into a conversation. I live in New Jersey, I’m going into my senior year of high school, and as a member of the Gotham Girls Junior Derby team I am coached by members of the best team in the world, an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, and a two hour commute that I’ve woven into my tight schedule.
Roller derby. Every single day I explain how it works, where you can watch it, and how lucky I am to be learning from such incredible athletes. And its not surprising how often I find myself explaining it, because I am constantly on a train either going into or out of Manhattan, running from place to place to make it work-to make playing a sport in a different state at 17 work. And it does. It works.
But why do we do this to ourselves? I’ve played field hockey, lacrosse, and even swam competitively all in high school but never have I been so in love with something like this, that I would rearrange much of my life to facilitate it. And I’m not the only one wondering. Everyday the popularity of this sport is growing, and mainstream sports analysts are pondering the question, “what is roller derby?” …not in the literal sense, but instead what it means to the women and men who have created modern roller derby, and what it is about this sport that makes it so incredibly addictive. Derby is unlike any sport I have ever played, but it’s not just the game that makes it unique, it is the dynamic of the team.
It is culture. It is family. It is our lives.
Derby is our friend group; it is our peers, mentors, trusted adults, love life, and a release. It can fill the hours or our social calendars, demanding us to put it before birthdays, time with family, and even homework. But we love it. All the sacrifices that may come with it could never outweigh all that it provides us with (talk about one-stop shopping!), because roller derby is so demanding we find ourselves needing to make it everything, so that it’s okay that we spend so much time at practice, or league meetings because we are also spending time with our best friends, our significant others, our adopted family.
But can relying on roller derby for our friends, significant others, and our family do more harm than it’s worth? Is it more than we bargained for?