Monday, June 27, 2011

Where to Draw the Roller Derby Line

What kind of rollergirl do I want to be? What kind of rollergirl can I be?

This last weekend I joined 120 other Alaskan/Canadian rollergirls for a boot-camp thrown by the Rage City Rollergirls. Ten gals from Juneau Rollergirls went up. None of us knew what to expect, and with our very first roller derby bout quickly approaching (next Saturday!) we were nervous.

The bootcamp featured workshops run by three rollergirls from down south. Two of whom are some of the most famous rollergirls in the world: sisters Psycho Babble and DeRanged, who led the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls to victory in last year’s championship. Watching them skate was like watching Michael Jordan slam dunk over and over again. Their speed, agility, and power was unbelievable. And here we were, just trying to keep our feet under us.

And when they talked about derby, they talked about a sport of extreme athletes and extreme competition.

For one of our hitting drills I was paired up with one of the other Juneau gals, a gal who is on my team for our upcoming bout. We took a break for water and she said she thought we were doing well, but we hadn’t knocked each other down. I told her that I guessed I didn’t actually want to knock her down - I didn’t want to hurt her before the bout.

“Well I’m hitting you as hard as I can,” she said.

We went back on the track and continued to try and block each other out of bounds, cutting our skates across so that our full bodies slammed into the other skater, thigh to thigh, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder.

DeRanged was running our group of skaters and paused the drill to pull us all in to give us a little pep talk. She told us that we shouldn’t fool ourselves, we’re all here for blood. And if we weren’t there for blood? Then maybe we shouldn’t be doing derby. So when we hit each other, we should mean it. And I thought to myself Not me. I’m not in it for blood, am I? I don’t want to hurt someone.

I don’t know. I really enjoy derby. I like the physicality of it, I like the team aspect, I like that there’s a campy side with the names and outfits, and I do like that it pushes me to be an athlete. I like getting hit and I like falling down. I like it because sometimes I don’t fall down, and when I do, I get right back up. I like the challenge of that. But does that mean that I’m in it for the blood? I wouldn’t want someone to hold back on me, I would want someone to hit me as hard as they could, so why aren’t I hitting as hard as I can?

Watching DeRanged, Psycho Babble and Helen Wheels skate, it was clear that they are skating on a level that I will never achieve, and don’t want to. They’re skaters who have dedicated their lives to derby.

We met several of the Rage City Rollergirls’ skaters as well. Plenty of those women skate on a level that I consider extremely proficient. But watching them skate with the guest coaches, even the best of those skaters was clearly several degrees below them. So do I think I’ll ever skate on a top ten ranked team? Hell no. What about even a team like Rage City’s All-Stars? Probably not. But a B team? A home team? A team in it for nothing but fun and exercise? Yeah. That’s where I belong. Not to say that I don’t have some skill, because I do. This weekend I gained a lot of confidence in my skating and could actually feel myself developing greater strength and agility.

But this weekend I realized that I just don’t have that killer instinct, or that all consuming competitive drive, to become a top tier skater. I’m really looking forward to our first bout and I’m looking forward to continuing to bout, both within our own league and with those other Alaskan and Canadian teams we met at the boot-camp. I’m going to work on my skills, continue to push myself, but at least I now have some idea of where I’m going to draw the line.


  1. Good for you! I feel that way about hockey, its why I love playing on the women's tier. Friendly competition. Good luck at your bout!