Life In The Flat Track

I’ve been playing roller derby for about a year now, and recently decided that I should compile the strategies and things I’ve learned via a blog.  This way I can retain information just a little bit better and practice writing, which, sadly, I’ve gotten quite a bit rusty at over the years.

One year ago I bitch slapped my anxiety into submission and showed up to practice at a graffiti’d, fenced in, blue doored warehouse in a downtown German city.  I came in not knowing what to expect save for the little information I’d gathered from one bout and a few emails with the person in charge of membership.  A year later I’m a proud, albeit novice skater rostered on a WFTDA apprentice league.

Most of people’s expectations of the sport seem to involve lesbians, violence, theatricality and drunken debauchery, which is a pretty clear result of the televised roller derby of the 60’s and 70’s. It seems like it was largely a sport in that sense that the WWE is a sport.  Meaning  it’s not.  In its televised infancy, roller derby was a scripted show that played to the audience’s expectations for violence and drama, showcasing staged intra league conflict and physical altercation.  This is the form that most people know, and the base for a lot of the questions we get as derby girls.

As for the lesbian stereotypes, it’s not hard to deduce where the stereotypes come from.  It’s a sport with strong women in fishnets who have to be able to take a beating and keep on rolling.  Women who can’t handle those hard won and surprisingly frequent derby bruises (or derby kisses, for those of you familiar with derby terminology) or  the occasional, accidental skate rape (when a player falls and the wheels of the skate make hard contact with  … you know) need not apply.  Strong women in empowering positions usually deal with negative stereotypes, particularly when it’s a position that’s physically oriented, since physicality is often seen as a masculine trait.  Despite the perceptions, though, we are not all lesbians.  Most women I know in the sport are wives, mothers, 9-5 job workers who’ve had the good fortune of finding their passion in life.

Additionally, we’re not hard and fast living drunkards looking for fights on and off the track.  The lifestyles that Ellen Paige and her movie Whip It portray are incompatible with the physicality of roller derby.  Skating around in circles may not sound hard, but even when we’re blocking and idly rolling we’re doing perpetual squats to stay low and tough.  The professional derby trainers I’ve been trained by have some of the thickest asses I’ve ever seen outside of apple bottom jeans, and roller derby’s intense physicality is the reason for that.  The drinking, partying lifestyle is for players who aren’t serious about derby or the necessary workouts that come along with it.

What I’ve come to find out in my year on the flat track is just how all encompassing roller derby is.  We have team practice anywhere from 3-5 nights a week, depending, and independent workouts every other day.  We have weekend boot camps, home games and away games, team meetings and committee meetings.  Our league exists because it depends on the participation of all members.  We, quite literally, do everything. We set up venues and coordinate with other teams, we run concessions and ticket booths, we run our own PR campaigns and fresh meat training camps, we volunteer as and train our own NSO’s and referee’s, and any other aspect of a bout you can think of.  This week I’ll be painting happy meal toys and washing barbie hair for awards at an upcoming bout.  Washing barbie hair isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I opened those huge, ominous blue warehouse doors one year ago, but it means being able to play a sport I love.  Every derby girl puts everything she can in because roller derby is a sport we fall in love with.  It’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle for us.

I’m hoping that this blog will serve as an effective way for me to archive the different aspects of roller derby as I evolve as a player.  I want to learn and record game play strategies, dietary aspects, effective workout routines, and anything else than will help me on the track.  So if you’re reading this, I hope you either get something out of it or have fun tagging along.

Write ya next time,

Stein

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