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In Defense of Derby Heroes

You've heard it before, "be your own hero!" It's sort of the unofficial mantra of modern roller derby. Anyone can do it and for many who play, this is their first real involvement in team sports of any kind. So we do! We strap on skates and we go around in circles, trying not to die, mostly. It is, after all, a contact sport played on quad skates. We put in our hearts, our determination, our sweat, sometimes our tears, and we try to believe in ourselves.

As a child, it's encouraged to find someone to look up to, to pattern after, to idolize. Super heroes and princesses line the shelves of every toy store. As kids, we find real life inspiration in coaches, teachers, and parents. But as we grow older, we are taught to focus towards empowering ourselves and being proud of our own accomplishments and we move away from having heroes.

I'd like to throw a maybe controversial statement out there, though. Even as an adult, I believe you shouldn't be your only hero. I think we should have heroes and we should be actively working to be better each day. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't be confident or proud of yourself. In fact, the opposite! Roller derby is hard. My point is that I believe you should also find people you respect to learn and grow from. I have a few heroes I'd like to share with you.

First, there is Kill. When I began playing roller derby in 2012, I didn't know much about roller derby at all. I watched the ladies of Cape Girardeau Roller Girls and Southern Illinois Roller Girls and I was enthralled. I watched Laryn Kill, who now skates for Tampa Roller Derby, dance around on her skates and be amazing, even then. I watched this amazing sport I knew nothing about, except that I wanted to play. Now I watch Laryn Kill on my WFTDA feed in D1 tournament play. Kill gave me my first skater evaluation as a fresh meat skater and she wrote a list of things for me to work on and then signed it, "You're AWESOME! -Kill" I still have that note. For a long time, it rode around in my derby bag. Now it lives in my box of derby memorabilia. Kill gave me one of the first real inspirational moments in roller derby that sticks in my mind. Kill coached the first time I jammed, scored points, and celebrated with me. I watch her play now and get excited every time she takes the track. She's one of my derby heroes because, of course, she is great on the track but also because she inspires me to be better.

Second, there is Splatter. When I joined the Southern Illinois Roller Girls in 2014, I was in a transitional period for derby, I had recently returned from having a baby and a ton of things had changed. I wasn't confident in my skills as a skater and I felt extremely defeated. I think this might be a common feeling for skaters who return from injury or pregnancy. It was at this point, I really started to learn from So Ill skater, Splatter. She noticed that I was not attempting skills because, at the time, I just felt like I couldn't do them. She would not accept that I "just couldn't" .. She broke down each skill. She spent time after practice showing me that I was a more capable skater than I knew. She continues to stick with me when I can't find the courage to try new skills and kicks my butt all over the track. She has taught me that giving up is never an option and I feel really proud to be her teammate and friend. I now watch Splatter on my WFTDA feed play with DCRD in D2 tournament play and she has been chosen to play with Team Illinois in December. Splatter is my derby hero because she's a fantastic derby player and because she is a great coach and an amazing friend.

My final hero to share is Kayla Seiber. Kayla plays for the Arch Rival Roller Girls in St Louis, Missouri and is a member of Team Missouri. I have watched her play before but I had the extreme pleasure of being able to play against her in a mashup tournament called The Great Midwest Mashup, recently. She is obviously an extremely talented skater! She was out on the track doing the kinds of things I dream about. I received an MVP blocker that day but she earned MVP for every game she played in that weekend. When it came time for us to play, I was so nervous! I went out there and did my best. I told myself, I would not give up, no matter what. We jammed against each other several times during the game and exchanged some fun back and forth on the jam line. After the game was over, she was awarded MVP jammer. She came over to me and told me she enjoyed playing with me so much she wanted me to have her MVJ trophy. I cried and went serious fan girl. I may or may not have made her sign it. (Okay, I did.. ) Kayla is my derby hero because she's a seriously amazing player but also because she probably had no idea what that gesture meant to me. The lesson that day was that we all have more to give than just skills on the track. It is a moment that I will never forget.

Roller derby, in it's modern form, is an exploding sport of athleticism and strength. Though roller derby may seem like it is about knocking people down, that couldn't be farther from the truth. The people who play this game are some of the best I've ever met. We lift each other up and with the growth of junior roller derby; empower the next generation. I encourage you to find your heroes and do them proud. Find your own Laryn Kill,  Splatter, andKayla Seiber. You're stronger than you know and someday, maybe you'll be somebody's hero too. Maybe you already are..

Sunny D'Sasster #100