Heroes and Fakes: A New Girl Makes it Through the Pack


“Hi, I’m Sue Flay.” “Hey Sue, I’m Hero Shima.”

“Oh, I KNOW.”

Dude, I say to myself. Be cool. Be. Cool.

It’s hard to shut down the fan girl inside. She’s been watching these women kick butt and take names for two years. Without having met them, I fell in love with them all. Now, suddenly, they’re peers. Mentors. Teammates. Family. The change happened too quickly for my brain (and my heart) to catch up.

Now, I’m no longer nourishing a girl crush from afar; I’m playing with them at scrimmage. My first time playing the game, I found myself standing in a pack of my heroes. I lined up next to my very first derby crush, Graves. I prayed she wouldn’t notice me skating there, and just how useless I would surely be. The whistle blew and we were off.

That first scrimmage was utter confusion. Everyone was moving and jostling for position, and my little brain could not keep up. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of my clumsiness when picking up my feet. Then, “The jammer’s coming; she’s on the outside. Move to the outside!”

Oh snap. We needed to stop her right? This wasn’t a drill; we were playing a game and I had a job to do. While I looked around to catch my bearings, Graves put her hands on my side and shoved with all her might. I didn’t move an inch. I remember thinking, I wonder what her deal is. Is she trying to tell me something? I looked over at her to see, and WHOOSH! The jammer passed me on the outside.

It’s easy to skate away from situations like this frustrated, disappointed, or angry with myself. Next to these powerful and talented heroes of mine, I’m like a five-year-old trying on her mom’s skates for the first time. Watching them hitting and being hit, running through a pack, or jumping the apex, I can’t help feeling like I’ll never get there. The first couple months of practice, I skated in fear that someone would finally take a good look at me skating, realize I didn’t belong, and nicely ask me to go home.

Of course this didn’t happen. Everyone in our league has been nothing but nice, supportive, and encouraging. Every negative word, every fear, and every anxiety came from me, and me alone. I’ve since learned that the fear of being discovered as a fake commonly affects women. People usually talk about Imposter Syndrome in relation to their careers, but it would make sense that I would become afflicted with it in relation to derby. Derby is the first thing I’ve tried in my life that I haven’t been good at. I’ve had to fight for every skill and every accomplishment.

Along the way, though, I’ve learned invaluable things about how I handle challenges. I’m learning to be kinder to myself, and give myself room and time to grow as a skater. Rather than leave practice thinking of all the wonderful things these women do that I can’t, and what kind of skater that makes me, I think of one thing that I improved while I was there. The same talented skaters I’ve been comparing myself to are the ones encouraging me to use my strength, telling me to use the booty my mama gave me, or reassuring me that I’m doing a good job. I’m trying to listen to them, and be nurturing to myself in the same way.

In the end, these heroes of mine give me something to aspire to and something to fight for. These women—my family—they deserve someone who fights for them, and for herself. So, I will fight. I will fight to be the best skater I can be. That skater is starting to take shape in my head, and she’s not Lola or Helsa or Smashley. She has her own strengths, her own power, and her own way. It’s just a matter of time and practice until I catch up to her.
Sue Flay