Reptar Joins The Outfit

reptar05-X2I've spent over 4 months with the Outfit now. If you’re a current member of the Outfit, odds are that I haven't spoken to you much in person yet. I have never been much of a talker but I like writing things sometimes so I decided to write this sort of personal introduction about who I am and where I came from and how I ended up as a member of the team. I grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago spending the majority of my youth drawing, playing soccer, and building blanket forts. After middle school I gave up soccer for long-distance running, which has since become a very significant activity in my life. I had a pretty miserable high school experience full of confusion and self-loathing and was ecstatic to be going to an out-of-state college where nobody knew me and I could just start over. I stayed up until 3 a.m. with my friends playing Super Smash Bros in the dorm common room and eating a pint of ice cream nearly every night. My third year in, I discovered roller derby in the form of the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls of Grand Rapids, MI.

My decision to go to Grand Raggidy's open recruitment was mostly on impulse. I was 20 years old and fairly naive as to how much time and effort goes into becoming a derby skater. I made it through minimum skills but then convinced myself that this sport was just too hard for me to handle and I would never be good enough. I left in the middle of a practice one night, very disheartened and doubtful that I would ever try this roller derby thing again.

For the next year and a half I forgot about derby and trudged through finishing college. I moved back home in December of 2014 with a BA and no idea what the heck I wanted to do. I just knew I needed a break before thinking about big career plans or more school. I worked full time for almost a year at a homeless shelter and support center. During that time I also completed volunteer training's in crisis intervention, domestic violence, and sexual assault victim advocacy. A couple of times a month I volunteered to be an overnight on-call advocate, taking sexual assault hotline calls and going into emergency rooms when a survivor was admitted. I heard a lot of real-life horror stories from the women I helped and from other volunteers who had been doing this kind of work for much longer than I had. All of these experiences helped me come to the vague conclusion that I wanted to ultimately find a career within the realm of helping people in these devastating situations, so I started working on a plan to make that happen.

Sometime in mid-October of 2015, I stumbled across a Facebook post about the Chicago Outfit hosting boot camps for new skaters in preparation for their upcoming tryouts on November 1st and 2nd. My schedule at the time, with two jobs and two community college classes, prevented me from attending any of the remaining boot camps but somehow I got the wild idea that maybe I could dig my old bag of gear out from the deepest depths of my closet and just work on skating on my own before tryouts. I had passed minimum skills once before and thought maybe I could do it again. Maybe...

For a week and a half I skated nearly every day whenever I could. I skated outside along the bike path across the street from my house and practiced 180's and t-stops and whatever other small-scale skills I could in the small cement floor area of my basement. I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of things came back to me fairly quickly.

4 days before the first tryout, I stayed home sick from work with chills and body aches and a stuffy nose. By the time November 1st rolled around I was feeling almost completely well again, although my voice was half gone. I hoped I wouldn't have to do much talking. Even with a normal voice, talking is not easy for me among strangers. I showed up at Fleetwood an hour early, sucking on a cough drop and weaving my way through the crowd of people there for open skate. I must have said to myself a million times within that hour “What the hell am I doing here? I should just go back home.”

But I didn't. I stayed and I tried out under the scrutiny of Nikita and Ice Hurt. At the end of the night I learned that I passed almost 75% of everything that was tested. They said I didn't have to come the next night, but I could if I wanted to. Something about that percentage just wasn't good enough for me, so I skipped class the next night and came to try out again. This time, with slightly more of a voice and dressed for success in my lucky Reptar T-shirt. At the end of the night I learned I had passed every skill.

One big thing I learned from working in social services was the importance of routine self-care, and I think that's probably a part of why I (and likely many other skaters) joined roller derby. In the few short months of being on the team, I am much farther skill-wise than I have ever been before. It might not be saying much but it definitely means something to me. Being with the Outfit, even just for this short time, has been mentally and physically exhausting. There is no doubt about that. However, it has also been overwhelmingly rewarding. I have started taking better care of my physical self than I ever have in my life. I have received significant support and encouragement from mentors and new friends. I am slowly but surely becoming stronger both on and off the track. I find the courage more often to stick up for myself even when it feels uncomfortable and scary.

I've recently been cleared to participate in full scrimmages and was just rostered for my first bout with the Outfit in April. I have a hard time with positive thinking in general and it has definitely shown at practice here and there, but I am still showing up and I am trying my best and I have an amazing support group behind me. So I have to consider that a victory.

-Reptar