Some people know that roller derby is one of the fastest growing sports in America. What they might not know is roller derby is often so much more than a game to those who play. I found derby as a mother of two small children. I was looking for a physical outlet and I thought if I could make some friends too.. Bonus points! Little did I know, it would be much more than a little exercise and some girlfriend time. Roller derby would change the way I viewed myself and how I viewed life.
The biggest lesson I learned was that you MUST fall down.. and falling is not equal to failing. When I first started playing derby, I did everything I could to stay on my feet. My worry was that if I fell, it would mean I wasn't good enough ..or strong enough .. Derby has taught me that even the best players fall. In fact, the best players are often the ones who have fallen the most. Why? They get back up. Which brings me to my next point.
Getting back up after a hard fall is one of the hardest and most rewarding things in derby. When I began playing derby, we did a drill on skates where we would sprint around the track, stop quickly, drop to the ground, lie down flat, then immediately jump up and do it again. I thought I would die. It took months, but I finally came to a place where I enjoyed it. I could see how far I had come and I was confident that I could get back up. I began to see falling in a different light. This was making me stronger and I really could do it! Falling? No big deal. Why? Because I can get up. Falling is not failing. It is just one more stair step to being better.
Derby has taught me that comparing yourself to others, especially those who have been playing longer than you, is not only unfair, but will most certainly lead to disappointment. I can remember being new and thinking that I would never master certain skills. I would look to players who had been playing for years and think, "why am I so terrible at this?" Duh! I had not practiced this skill. I was not only selling myself short, I wasn't honoring my teammate's hard work. I resolved to compare myself to only me. To push as hard as I could each practice. Did I do MY 100%? If I answered myself honestly with, "yes" then I had done my job.
One universal truth and so very true in derby is there's always something new to learn. Because roller derby is relatively new, as sports go, it is a constantly evolving sport. Strategy. Rules. We are kept constantly on our toes. Forced, often, to step out of our comfort zones and develop a new way, a new "normal." In derby, the team most effective in evolving will nearly always win.
Lastly , the people make all the difference. They say, "Friends are the family you choose for yourself." Derby is made of a diverse group of people . We are professionals, blue collars, moms, dads, single, married, students, young, and.. Not as young .. we are lawyers, nurses, taxi drivers and tattoo artists.. but one thing you will always find with derby, is a sense of community. We will show up when you're hurt or sick and we will help any way possible. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen the derby community pull together to put right what went wrong. I have met some really rad people playing derby and couldn't imagine my life without them now.
So, having said all this, I'll probably not play derby for the rest of my life but I'll take these lessons with me always: Allow yourself to fall down. Then get back up, you'll be stronger for it. Never compare yourself to others. Instead, try to be a better you each day. Always, always be learning. And you can never ever go wrong by surrounding yourself with people who make you better.
Sunny D Sasster