Published on September 11th, 2014 | by Ivanna S. Pankin4
Photo: Florian Blümm
Still Loving Roller Derby
Lately I feel like I am apologizing to everyone because I still love roller derby. My feed is full of disillusioned, regretful posts, and happy posts from friends who are thrilled they retired, and a little of the usual barking and whining about rules and how much WFTDA (or USARS, or RollerCon, or slow derby or name your bad guy) sucks, and it makes me feel like an apologist because I still love roller derby, I still get a lot out of it, I still want to play, I still think all the kinds and types and rulesets are cool and the sport benefits from the variety of them. I like USARS, banked track, dude derby, Renegades, slow derby, fast derby, and I really LOVE dynamic derby, when its slow/fast/slow LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing teams synced up like that. I like playing with beginners, my awesome teammates, getting skunked by better teams, and scrimmages with everyone in between. I love playing in a ripped t-shirt at an outdoor cement hockey rink with soccer players on the other half, but I also loved playing at Del Mar fairgrounds with thousands of screaming fans. I’m glad both exist.
I have had the conversation with a lot of my friends lately asking why they’re retiring – and more importantly, from my POV: HOW? Its not that I don’t get the whys, actually. I also hate getting hit in the face, get aggravated by my lack of free time, frustrated that I barely have time to do laundry and I typically eat dinner at 11:30 most nights because practice. I miss my old friends.I have moved past being angry at league politics and now that whole thing mostly just makes me tired. My aches have pains and sometimes the very hardest thing I have to do at practice is manage not to make my aches and pains anyone else’s concern or problem. I’m getting better about not complaining because at this point, the list is getting so long it even bores me. And did I mention how much I hate getting hit in the face?
In spite of that, or because of that, I still get a ton out of playing. Somewhere along the line I got over being mad that no one on my league (save maybe Dish) seems to appreciate the amount of time I put into work for the league. After anger came acceptance. Then after acceptance came the shocking epiphany that I wasn’t actually doing it for them anyway. I probably thought I knew that years ago, but I didn’t really, REALLY get it until recently. I spend a lot of time on league stuff and spreadsheets to track things and forms to gather info and art to make things cool, and posting info so everyone knows what’s going on (that I’m not sure they even read) and the truth is I don’t really do it for them at all. I started working hard for derby because I wanted it to exist so I could play it. I wanted to know how other founders managed to make their leagues work, and help newer founders learn from my mistakes, so I helped like-minded people that also shared my goal and that became WFTDA. I wanted to get good gear. Then I wanted my team to be able to get good gear. That became Sin City Skates. I wanted to see my friends from all over once a year and get drunk with them and swap stories and skate, so that became RollerCon. I wanted my team to be awesome, so I learned how to coach. I wanted my team not to hate me, so I convinced, cajoled, forced and encouraged other people to coach. I wanted to be a member of a great team, so I learned how to shut the fuck up and not always be in charge. Still working on that one, its a work in progress. The bottom line of all that stuff is that I wanted it for me. So martyrdom in the service of it all? Bullshit. I wanted it, I worked for it, and I got a lot of it, and I’m still getting a lot out of it.
I have an art degree and I love painting for a lot of the same reasons I love roller derby: you can always do better. You can always get better. You can always learn something from someone who does some part of it better. It never stops being challenging.
Derby has that, for me, plus additional boring challenges I can’t do anything about except to disregard (like aging), but it also has The Big Challenge: you can’t do it yourself. Or rather, I can’t do it myself. If I had figured out a way to play derby by myself or even just with one other person (hi, Dish!) you’d be reading the words of a pro pairs derby expert right now. But it takes a lot more than two people, and that’s been my biggest challenge and hugest opportunity to learn. When i think about my life before derby, I have to chuckle remembering band fights. 3 people can’t get along? HA. I feel certain I could get along with a band so easily now that I have been in a 20-person band where most everyone gets PMS the same week and we’re all gathered with the goal of knocking the shit out of each other. 11 years of roller derby, let’s see, that makes something like 132 Period Week practices survived and I can’t even remember anything worse than a few tears. Add to that the challenge of figuring out new things – currently working on that straightaway jump pretty furiously – and the endless quest to be the best player on a team with absolutely incredible talent, and even the worst Period Week tantrum can’t last long enough to make me quit. I guess I’ll quit when I have figured out everything there is to know about roller derby. When I am the best player out there, best teammate to my mates, and have no more to learn. But if that miracle ever happened, I could probably just take a break for a month and then I’d have to come back scrambling to catch up. Plus I’d be 10lbs heavier.
But in all seriousness, can we decide on a season now? Like derby runs Feb – Nov so we can have a few months off to heal and re-introduce ourselves to family? Just an idea. Look how excited civilians and fans are about football season. The entire city of San Diego was in blue chargers jerseys last night. Maybe civilian derby fans are just fatigued!! Let’s give them a break every winter and maybe they’ll get super psyched for Spring Derby Season!