Joining The Family

Everyone joins roller derby for their own reasons.  After four years of thinking and dreaming about it, I finally decided to put up or shut up and made my way to the Outfit’s boot camp back in November.  After that first night with the talented women of this team, guiding all of us new (and some returning) skaters on the basics of derby and the minimum skills required to play, I was hooked.  I wanted to keep returning to Fleetwood and keep pushing myself until I was making the same sounds with my skates when I stopped and performing the same kind of fancy footwork that the Outfit girls made look so easy.

After five tough weeks and two nights of tryouts, I actually made it.  I was a part of the team.  Joining the family has been a lot like joining a sorority...except with less secret handshakes, more tattoos, and the mutual love of a really great sport. It’s a toughsport though and you have to be able to take a hit as well as give one, but the best part - you’re not doing it alone.  There is a huge support system of women backing you up whenever you need it.  This is the first time in my life that I have been a part of a team sport and it has been absolutely eye-opening.

It’s crazy at first, getting into the swing of practices multiple times a week and learning just how much time derby takes up in your everyday life.  The first month in was a little like starting a new job.  You don’t know anyone that well yet, you don’t know the rules, you take longer at everything than most everyone else, and all you feel like you’re doing is asking questions or getting in the way.  But that’s the point.  Derby isn’t something you just fall into and get good at.  It takes time, work, and discipline.  It’s both an on-skates and an off-skates effort.  What has made it easy though is that everyone, both veteran and new, has been there to lean on for support. Whether you feel as though you’re just not quite getting some kind of move, or for guidance when you’re looking to improve whatever skill it is you feel you’re lacking in.  This is more than just a team, it’s a family.

Seeing how skilled and talented everyone is keeps pushing me to work harder so I can continue to get better every week.  I ask questions when I need to, always take pointers when they’re given, and listen as much as I possibly can.  As a new girl, I know I still have a long way to go before taking my place on the line in my first derby bout, but I keep being told it’ll happen sooner than I think. It’s taken a few weeks and too many falls to count now, but I’m starting to understand and believe it.  Especially when I have such an outstanding and skilled group of women helping me along.  There is such a strong sense of family within this league and it can be intimidating at first, but that only lasts for a few brief moments.  Everyone that is a part of this league are some of the most welcoming and inviting people I’ve ever met. I feel lucky to be involved and a part of it.  I’m excited to see what the rest of this year has in store, not just for me,but for the family.

- Rhonda Swanson