Published on September 24th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor0
Don’t You Forget About Me
By Rochelle Allen
I was FINALLY asked to go to prom!
It was the first time that had happened in 30 years, and I think I was more excited about it at the age of 40-something than I was the first time.
For some of you who regularly attend derby proms, you may not think this is a big deal.
For me, as a parent of junior skaters, it was a really big deal. It indicated we had made some headway: We were just starting to be accepted as part of the league we have been involved with for several years.
My daughters proudly skate for a juniors team that falls under the umbrella of an adult league. The league is a great one, and we are big fans and big supporters. As a parent of junior skaters, however, I am hard pressed to define my relationship with the adult league.
Generally, parents of children who play sports believe that sports will improve their child’s life. Sports will add value. And, generally, parents who are involved with their kids want to do anything to help make their child’s experience a good one. Therefore, they can be incredible volunteers.
As a mom, I have been a Girl Scout Troop leader, a room mother, the chair for fundraising on the PTCO (our version of PTA), proctor for testing, bake sale contributor and a community liaison. In other words, I have done a lot of shit and I get a lot of shit done.
Expecting derby to be no different than any other activity our children were part of, I planned to be a “worker bee,” volunteering to do anything needed, and, of course, my offers to help would be met with enthusiastic affirmations and open arms.
Except they weren’t.
The league wasn’t sure what to do with us at the beginning and it’s been an uneasy, awkward dance since.
As parents, almost without exception, we are excited for our children to take part in an incredible sport that can change lives. Our enthusiasm is similar to the excitement of the Fresh Meat.
Despite our love for this sport our children play, I feel that we are eyed suspiciously.
We are not members of the league, and I don’t know if the league members know what we are, or sometimes even who we are.
The adult skaters have been nice to us and really great with our kids. They’ve donated their time to help train our kids week in, week out, and we deeply appreciate all they do.
But we have not historically been embraced.
We have gone through phases of “Don’t speak about anything, you have no say” to “You can’t touch that, you aren’t league members” to “We might let you be involved because we are overwhelmed trying to fulfill our committee duties” to “If you want bouts, you need to plan them.”
Every once in a while, a skater or two will see the juniors as nothing more than a fundraising opportunity. They’ll decide to throw a party “for” the juniors, charging them to attend, and, oh, yeah, bring your friends and their money because our team really wants to go to Rollercon.
It feels really ugly when that happens and those actions leave behind a lot of distrust.
Thankfully, those mercenary moments aren’t as often.
Things have improved as skaters with the league bring their children to the juniors program. There seems to be a less “us vs. them” mentality, because some of “us” are now “them” and vice versa.
For adult skaters who have juniors as a part of your league: Please make them AND their families feel welcome. Get the parents involved. Tell them what your needs are and how they can help. If you don’t know how they can help, ask them what they have done either professionally or as a volunteer. Their experience may be just what your league needs.
There are great resources, not just financial, when families come into the derby community, and I really feel like some leagues are missing out.
I continue to try to do my part, but we still have a long way to go.
Prom was a big step in the right direction. Bonus! I got to drink legally this time.
Thanks for the sweaty-palmed, completely arrhythmic slow-dance, adult league members! Let’s try to dance together more often. I promise we’ll get into a groove eventually.