It doesn’t seem like it’s been 5 years since my cousin first introduced me to roller derby, but it really has. Back then having guys skate with the ladies was unheard of. With that respect, I spent my time studying the rules to become a referee. That has been a great advantage to me since I have since transitioned to skating as a player myself. Back in the winter of 2013 I first got to lace up my skates as a player instead of a referee. Nothing has been the same for me since then.
The ladies of the Southern Illinois Roller Girls have become my newest home. I’ll never forget all the people that brought me up from the West Kentucky Rockin’ Rollers, but as life happens we tend to move on to other things. It still seems like a dream that in March of 2014 I started skating as a member of the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen. We were just a group of guys that wanted to play derby. We spent every Sunday in a moldy, hot building for 5 hours working on getting the basic skills everyone needed to be able to skate. Those days were amazing.
Already having some sort of skating experience is nice, but going back to the basics and building on the skills I already had was more than necessary. Some of the guys saw me and thought “look at this guy. He’s already pretty good”, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was confident in my ability to skate forward, but at that time I struggled with the most basic things. I was still in this mindset of “I’m a ref.” I was timid and quiet on the track. I had the knowledge there of what the roles of each person were, but I had no experience in applying them myself. I was lost. Until this year I wasn’t even able to plow stop. I know “who can’t plow stop?!” Me. I couldn’t at all. The concept was as foreign to me. I had spent so much of my time as a referee that I never got the chance to stop and appreciate the little things.
How does that relate to anything at all? Well, this year I had the awesome opportunity to attend a scrimmage-a-thon hosted by Demolition City Roller Derby in Evansville, Indiana. From where I began to where I was just a few short months ago was a journey I’ll never forget. I had never been in a jammer mentality. I could do it if it was necessary, but never more than a time or two. My coach had faith in me, and I’m fairly certain she somehow had a part in making sure I was going to jam a bunch in Evansville.
Evansville. Those ladies know their stuff. Throughout that day there I had to opportunity to skate with many great skaters. I also had the chance to get their insight on my skating and how I could improve my skating.
The day was a long one. Awake super early, driving for 2 hours to get there at 8am. Waiting was a big part of the day. The anticipation of “this is really happening. I’m really here.” That first game though, everything melted away. All of the fears and anxiety of the day ahead of me washed away as that first set of four whistles ended the jam. I was here. I was where I was meant to be. The star kept getting handed to me. I kept taking it. It was a day where I had to challenge myself to be the very best that I could be. I stepped out of my comfort zone and that has been a world of difference for me. I had skated in scrimmages before, but nothing like this. Here I had a crew of people with varying skill levels all around me. I had the people I needed the most to help me grow as a player. I also had the chance to help other people grow. This place was much needed for me. I found my confidence in myself again. I found people that skated like me and ways to help grow.
Learning how to play, the way I did, gives me something most other guys don’t see much: my hips. In a world where shoulders dominate, I use my hips. It’s not the greatest thing in the world, but it’s something to me. It never lets me forget my roots. Watching these people that I look up to most skate and seeing the way they work makes me want to grow even more. I’m learning now that shoulders are ok. They aren’t going to kill me. My challenge now? Finding my Tao while skating. I want to find that perfect balance of how I block and skate. I want to become my fullest potential.
This October, on the 24th, the Southern Illinois Roller girls are hosting a scrimmage-a-thon that they have named “Brawl-o-ween”. I’m super excited for this. It gives me another chance to help other people out and to find a new way to learn and grow. The day will also mean more to me than just that. That day is also the day the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen get to host their very first home bout. It’s going to be amazing just to be there for it all, for me at least.
In the end, I’ve grown so much in the 2 short years I’ve been skating as a player. I never dreamed I would get the opportunity to learn new skills and grow. I never once thought that I would go to a scrimmage-a-thon and spend almost 10 hours on skates. I couldn’t foresee where roller derby would take me, but I’m glad it did. I’m so glad that I fell into this culture. I have a massive family now of people from all walks of life. For that I am eternally grateful. I love you all. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world. Thank you for showing me a whole new world.
P.S. To those of you it concerns, my glitter is running now.