As promised in the podcast episode, a quick (1 min) video explaining how roller derby is played is here. Also, the Whip It trailer because I love it when Bliss says, “I am IN LOVE with this.” (which btw, many of the hits in that movie are highly illegal to the game, but I think they captured the culture of derby really well.)
At the end of 2012 and early 2013, I played roller derby for the Junction City Roller Dolls in Ogden, Utah, skating under the derby name, Veronica Vain. A shoulder injury took me out and I retired from the game.
There I am, on the right with hair flying like Medusa.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about going back to roller derby here in North Carolina (more on that later), and it got me thinking a lot about the game and it’s similarities with life. Derby taught me a lot about fear, and other things, and in no particular order, here’s 6 ways roller derby can teach you about life.
- There is no room for paralyzing fear. You’ll get eaten alive if you stay there. Derby can be scary. Whether you’re showing up for tryouts, gearing up for your first bout, or going up against a player you know is bigger and stronger than you are, for every player at least once somewhere there is an element of fear. Which is actually perfectly normal in any sport and in life.
I remember the first time I realized I was getting better as a player. During a practice scrimmage, I realized I was the smallest and least experienced player out there. For a second, I was scared. Then out of nowhere I pushed that voice aside and tried my damndest to knock another player that had at least 6 inches and 50 pounds of an advantage on me. I can’t even remember if I succeeded or not (I probably didn’t), but that was the shift I needed. Just trying. Just feeling the fear and doing it in spite of it.
In life, there’s a lot of fear. We all have it, no one is immune. The difference between people that go after the badass life they have, is that they went up against their fear. They were scared when they went after that awesome job, or broke up with that person that they just weren’t happy with, or went back to school after 15 years of being out. You’re not unique in your fear. Just do it anyway.
- When you fall down, hurry and get the fuck up. In roller derby, when you fall or get knocked down in a jam, it’s part of the rules that you only have just a few seconds to get back up. No taking your sweet ass time. Plus, you can’t fall down and quit just because you fell down. Well, I suppose you could, but your team would be pretty pissed at you. And think about this– falling happens a lot in derby. A lot. If everyone quit derby the first time they fell down, no one would be playing derby.
How many times do we fall down in our everyday lives? We screw up, make bad decisions, and just plain fail. Everyone eats shit from time to time and doesn’t necessarily feel great about it. Instead of beating ourselves up for the mistake or quitting altogether, what if we just took two seconds to get back up and keep trying? Life goes on, just like the jam does. The world doesn’t stop spinning just because you took a tumble. Don’t quit, just get up and keep going.
- Only stay down if you’re really hurt. If not, get the fuck up. Okay, sometimes, when we fall down on the track, it really, really hurts. We’ve all had that slam on the concrete once or twice where we automatically want to get back up and keep skating, but our body says, “Oh, heeeeell no.” and we stay on the ground. Our fellow skaters help us and we do what we need to get better– whether that’s sitting out for a while or going to the nearest hospital for an X-ray.
And yes, in life there are those moments. We get heartbroken, disappointed, or are in a crisis that just plain sucks and is painful. We can’t push it aside and keep on going just yet. We need help from our friends and loved ones. We need time to heal. To cry, to grieve, to kick and scream, to whatever. Acting like we’re “okay” or “fine” does nothing but eventually make things worse.
- When up against an obstacle, find some way to get through it. In derby, you’ll face obstacles that you need to get around, usually opposing players. You do your best to get through or around them. You don’t just come up against a wall of blockers, throw your arms up and give up…you fight through it. If you gave up, you’d be giving up on your team.
When faced with a life obstacle, do the same. The obstacle might be fear, criticism from others, your own lack of self confidence, anything. But, for you to sit back and give up when faced with an obstacle is basically giving up on yourself. And you’re too awesome for that.
- Choose people to be around that will help you. When coming up against a wall of people you need to pass, in derby you look for what’s called the “friendly side”. When a jammer is coming up on two players– one is her teammate and the other isn’t. Which one is she going to choose to pass next to? Right, her teammate. Her teammate isn’t going to knock her over or out of bounds. Her teammate is her ally, her helper.
In life, it’s the same. Don’t surround yourself with assholes. Don’t keep reaching out to people who continue to disappoint you. Choose people to spend your time with that support and encourage you, that believe in you and help you shine. If you choose people that constantly let you down, or disrespect you, honey- that’s on you.
- Playing is the best way to learn. Before I started playing derby, I was on the sidelines. I went to bouts and watched it endlessly on YouTube. I was excited! But, nothing, I mean nothing compares to actually getting in the game. The very first time I scimagged at practice I remember thinking, “Woah. This is nothing like I thought it would be…it’s BETTER!” You can study the game all you want from an outside perspective, and you can imagine what it’s like, but nothing is a better teacher than actually getting your ass on the track.
You can watch other people live their lives and wish yours was like theirs. You can make up what you think other people have that you don’t and feel badly about that. You can sit on the sidelines of your own life and want more for yourself. You can want a better job, a creative endeavour, a partner…whatever your dreams are. And maybe your hopes and dreams excite you and scare you at the same time. (Because let’s face it- if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough). But, if you’re not going after it, you’re missing out. Consider me that teammate who tells you to get in the game. Gear up, warm up, and go out there and kick some ass.
Because you, my friend, and your life are worth it.