No matter how long you’ve been involved in derby or been a fan, you’ve inevitably come across the overdone news article that starts something like “By day, Jane is an innocent preschool teacher. But by night, she straps on a pair of roller skates and transforms into Skaty Perry, a fierce roller derby girl! Gasp!” These articles make us sound like super heroes, which we totally are, but there’s something about them that is sorely mistaken.
I think it’s high time we dispel the notion that there is any real separation between derby and our “real lives”. Anyone involved in derby and their family/coworkers/neighbors/baristas can tell you that derby isn’t something that we just do from 7-10 p.m. a few times a week before returning to our regularly scheduled lives.
We live derby. All the time.
We live derby at work when we answer our coworkers’ seemingly constant questions about derby (we love those questions, by the way) and when we work to meet deadlines faster so that we can get to practice on time. We live derby when we try to recruit new teammates and when we try to sell tickets to our upcoming games over and over and over. We live derby when we try our best to focus on work for 40 hours a week when all we can actually think about is derby.
We live derby with our families when we haul our children to practice and eat dinner on the go instead of sitting at the table together. Our date nights are often spent talking about derby woes, and our derby widows would certainly never agree that derby is a “double life”. It is as much part of our families as it is part of our selves. We make these sacrifices because we believe in our sport and we are in love with this thing we’ve worked so hard to create. And if we’re lucky, our families believe in and love it, too.
We live derby in our free time because derby IS our free time. We spend our down time setting up events, promoting our next games, attending board meetings at weird hours, cleaning our gear, cross-training our bodies, writing blogs and doing derby jobs. Our leagues don’t have a staff; this all applies to derby officials, coaches and volunteers, too. We are the staff, and we spend any spare time we have making sure our league continues to grow and be the best it can be.
Don’t get me wrong. When someone first begins derby and decides to really commit to it, their life absolutely changes. You make adjustments to your schedule where needed to fit in practice and training and rules reading and volunteering and so on. But we don’t take on alternate personas. We take on derby as an empowering and positive new force in our lives, and it eventually becomes the thing that helps make us feel whole. We find new versions of ourselves that some of us didn’t know existed, though it was in there all along. It’s these stories of growth and transformation that are truly inspirational. But they are not separate from our everyday lives.
Derby people live one life. We are real, serious athletes and supporters who are constantly training and working to better our bodies, our teams and our sport. This idea that we are one person by day and another by night is simply not true. The women we skate with and against and the people we share this awesome derby world with were born strong, independent bad asses, and that’s what brought them to this sport. They are strong, independent and bad ass in their jobs, in their families and in their free time. And they are all of these things and more on the track. We are derby in everything we do, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.