February 28, 2013

Coming out of the Roller Derby Closet

My parents are wonderful.  They’re incredibly kind, supportive, and have made huge sacrifices for me in order to help me succeed.  I love them so much, but I will be the first to admit that they are 10 times more conservative than me.  No, they’re not members of the Westboro Baptist Church, but there are certain things that make them uncomfortable; like loud music, piercings, and tattoos.  Roller derby contains a lot of counter-culture, so I knew telling my parents was going to be a big step.

My sisters are both experienced athletes will skills ranging in soccer, volleyball, basketball, and track.  I was always the odd one out; singing in the school choir, acting in school plays, or doodling all over my notebooks during class.  I loved the arts and sports always made me want to die.  I actually remember faking sick and hiding behind the park restroom when I was a teenager in order to skirt my out of a kickball game.  Kickball.  Quite possibly the easiest sport ever.
So when I started roller derby I knew that I wanted to succeed in it.  But how?  Don’t you have two left feet, Skank?  Don’t you hate it when people watch you?  Aren’t you perpetually out of shape from eating too many cupcakes?  Yes.  But I was determined to overcome my obstacles and become the person I have always wanted to be.  I came to practice, worked hard and after 6 months, my chance to bout finally came.  Then it hit me; do I tell my parents about this?

When I picked up the phone to call them that familiar feeling of imminent dread consumed me.  Couldn’t I just live this secret life where my parents don’t know how cool I am?  Can’t I live in blissful anonymity?  It seemed incredibly enticing.  I was a second away from hanging up when my mom picked up the phone and I knew my fate was sealed.  I decided to tell her with confidence and poise but I still found my voice to be a little shaky.  She found it surprising, but was excited for me.  I think she knew how much it meant to me that I had found a sport where I wasn’t the clutz of the team and wasn’t looked down upon for not being as good as my sisters.  She had also noticed that I was losing weight and smiling more, and was proud of me for trying something new.  I felt relief rush over me.  Why didn’t I think my own mom would understand?  She’s my mom.  Frankly I felt kind of stupid for being so worried. 
When my dad got on the phone I got a very different reaction.  He seemed utterly bewildered that I would even think about doing something like roller derby. He kept huffing and puffing and I could just see him shaking his head all the way from Denver.  His exact words were, “Roller derby? That’s - not you.  That doesn’t seem like something you would do.”  My immediate thought was, “Dad, you must have no idea who I am.” And it was so heartbreaking to realize that this was true.  My father had this perfect idea of who I was and anything that didn’t fit into this persona he had simply chosen to ignore.  It was hard to know that my own parent hadn’t really paid attention to who I was in years.

Well, because telling my parents had been so successful, I decided to tell them something even more ridiculous; that were coming to one of my bouts. Ha! Boy, do I have a sense of humor. The funniest part is, they actually ended up coming.  Seeing my parents try their hardest not to stare at short skirted, tattooed ladies in fishnets was totally worth it.  My mom found it interesting while my dad found it out of his realm and a little barbaric. I didn't know if they were going to come back.

It was a year since my first bout that I had really realized all that I had accomplished. My parents had come to every single one of my bouts and as I took the track for my first jam I heard my dad yell, “Go, Skank! Go!”  When I turned around I saw him wearing a SkankBank t-shirt, waving a cowbell around and cheering.  He had shown up, without my mother, ready to get loud for me.  That year I had sweated and toiled into becoming a real roller derby girl, but what I actually accomplished was changing the way my father saw me.  I forced him to see how strong and determined I was.  I made him see me the way that I see myself; as someone who doesn’t live life with her head down.  Telling people that you do roller derby will spawn all sorts of different reactions.  Some people will judge, snicker, be impressed, or not even care.  Whatever reaction you get; stand tall.  Your parents, friends, teachers, co-workers; these people will think that you’re crazy for playing roller derby, but you know better:) You would be crazy if you ever let them stop you.

The Original Skankster

February 21, 2013

Struggling to Maintain

So there I was, going to through my gear bag, looking at all my tools, extra black and white shirts, broken laces etc. and asking myself if I needed to have all that stuff in there when it hit me. The gear stink. It washed over me and, though I enjoyed it for a second, I quickly got my wits about me. I threw the lot in the washing machine and starting thinking about what all that pad stink means. It wasn't quite a "questioning the motivation of the universe" moment but I did consider that there was very likely a lot of bacteria reveling in all that salty, warm sweat I leave behind after practice. That bacteria is probably the cause of a lot of that smell and as I thought more about it realized the backs of my hands had been rather dry and itchy lately...

This epiphany lead me to do a couple of things last weekend. First, I went SHOPPING. I got some pad stink spray and a new mouthguard. OK, fine, I got a cute t-shirt too. But I was using a giftcard I received for my birthday so I had to get something that was fun too. HAD TO. But that is a story for another day, isn't it? Second, I researched gear maintenance. Here is what I learned:

Mouthguards:  According to the ADA (American Dental Association), one should clean their mouthguard after every use. Uh... oops on that. Historically, I just popped that sucka out and put it in it's special case. Other than picking a curiously errant cat hair off it once in a while, I didn't really think much about what else needs to happen until... well, I don't wanna talk about it. Anyway, I got a new mouthguard. And this bad boy is gonna stay all clean. That means that I will wash it after using it and probably with something stronger than water (like mouthwash). Also, I will brush it with a toothbrush as they encourage and in a year or so, buy a new one instead of hoarding an old nasty one as if I were the Gollum of mouthguards. My teeth need to be a little more "precious" than I have been treating them.

Pads: While my wrist and elbow pads have sustained me for a long time, the one thing I need to commit to changing more often are knee pads. They take a licking and keep on ticking, but I could to be nicer to my knees. They're the only set I have and my knees came into this sport a little damaged, so if I don't want my first knee replacement to be sooner rather than later I need to stay up on that. It seems to be recommended that new knee pads should be purchased every year at minimum and more than that if needed. There doesn't seem to be a good, clear indicator of how to know when it's time, but if you take that fall and think "wow, that was more jarring than usual" it may be the right time for replacements.

Helmets: Your helmet needs to meet certain standards before you even hit the track. Plain and simple. It should be able to take an impact of uh.. I dunno, a lot. Read more about Wicked Skatewear's testing here. I didn't do the research, but I did read it, and I am sold. Protect the noggin. One of our skaters recently fell, and even with her helmet on, got a concussion. She waited the requisite amount of time and as she prepared her gear for her next practice, noticed that there was a flat spot on her helmet from the fall. She didn't mess around with this. The structural integrity of the helmet may have been compromised and that is really all the reasoning that one needs to get a brand-spankin-new helmet.

Yours truly with her beautiful custom jobbies.
Antiks. Worth every penny.
Skates: There are boots, bearings, bushings, plates, wheels, and laces to worry about here. Long story short, learn how to grease 'em up, tighten 'em down and everything in between because it's the most expensive part for the package. But, that is a story for another day. Yowza. Unlike my mouthguard, skate maintenance has been at the top of muh list since the beginning.

In conclusion, be reasonable with your gear. Your mouthguard shouldn't have a smell or taste unless it's toothpaste. Your knee pads should have cushion enough to take many a digger before they start to go. In my research, one player said "I know it's time to get rid of them when I can't wash the stink out anymore." Sage advice I think. Also, protect your brain. Always. Really all I am saying is, like a good bout-day ritual, there needs to be a method to the madness of maintaining your gear. Think about it once in a while and show it some love off the track.

Derby Love,
Mollytov Maguire

February 14, 2013

All You Need is Love (well, derby love)

Derby love is unlike any other, and there's PLENTY of it to go around.  We have funny ways of expressing it, and if you aren't apart of the roller derby girl culture you have no idea what you're in for.  Luckily, I have included this step by step Guide to the Derby Galaxy that will answer all of your questions (and possibly fulfill your fantasies) so you don't wander into the derby life without a proper map.  First...

The Derby Sister

Starting in this sport can be daunting.  It's slightly overwhelming to walk into a room surrounded by a bunch of women who are totally badass.  You slide in quietly with your skates and soon realize you have a lot to learn if you’re gonna rumble with these ladies.  Having a derby sister is instantly having someone who will stand up for you, give you pointers, and encourage you to keep pushing. She helps you assimilate to the culture of the league, make new friends, and teaches you the ABC's of derby all the way from skate maintenance to bout day rituals.  It means a lot to have a big sis looking out for you, and the role of a derby sister is not one to be overlooked.  If you have the privilege to be a big sis, make sure you don't forget the most important part of all; simply being a friend.  Having someone in your corner on the first day of school makes you love derby even more. 

The Derby Crush

Remember back in 4th grade when you sat across from that really cute guy or girl that made your heart go pitter-patter?  They would look at you, ask for a pencil, and you suddenly found yourself soaring through the clouds on a magic carpet made of rainbows?  This. This is what it feels like to have a derby crush.
We are apart of an incredible sport that challenges us every day.  It's tiring, exciting, satisfying, and sometimes even heartbreaking.  Every once in a while another player comes along that is just fabulous. They are strong, confident, skilled, exciting, and they can do all the things you can't do.  Their body moves in way that is unparalleled to anyone else-and they look GREAT doing it.  You can't stop staring, your mouth drops open, and you find that you have that familiar feeling of soaring on a rainbow.  
Now the very best thing about a derby crush is that they aren't Beyonce, 3,000 miles away, completely unreachable, and surrounded by enough security personnel to occupy a subway train.  Derby is such a grass roots, local phenomenon that your new derby crush is usually 10 feet away from you and you if you so dare...you can actually TALK to her.  I actually ambushed Addy Rawl at The Riviera pool that last summer and she was so nice to me I almost died.
But the derby crush is not just someone to gawk at, they are the close-up hero that inspires you to train harder, learn more, and go the extra lap.  If you can emulate you're derby crush by working hard, then who knows? Someone might get all weak in the knees talking to you one day:)

The Derby Wife

Although "Derby Wife" sounds silly to those outside of the sport, it's no laughing matter.  Close friendships develop while playing this high intensity sport and when you find that special someone you’re like two peas in a pod.  Your derby wife is in short; your derby soul mate. This girl came out of the womb with a destiny to skate with you.  You both healthily compete with each other but greatly appreciate the others talents and skills.  Judgements never come from your derby wife because she is always there for you; from bad calls on the track to bad calls at the after-party, and when you’re throwing up in the bathroom after too much party, she's the one who holds your hair back.
Derby wives have often been described as, "she's the first to bail you out of jail, but she also might be the one that got you there in the first place."
So although you can’t file your taxes together, this girl will always have your back.  Now I know what question you’re going to ask and the answer is YES.  Derby girls can have multiple derby wives but it’s not considered taboo, or that you’re cheating on each other.  Derby love goes all around, so before you judge someone for being a derby polygamist, just realize that we all do this in the name of love:)

The Original Skankster

February 7, 2013

I'll Be Seeing You in all the Old Familiar Places

How do I love thee, roller derby? Let me count the ways. I get to be a part of an international community and network of THOUSANDS of incredible people from all walks of life. I am continually inspired by the people around me. There are supa fun boutfits involved and after-parties galore! I use my talents, carefully honed by years of experience both professionally and academically, for something I am crazy passionate about. I receive the benefits of wonderful, challenging workouts with loads of variety designed to make me better, stronger, and faster several times a week. I get to be a friend, a mentor, a peer, a teammate, and a STAR to people who are sometimes total strangers to me. My confidence is stronger, my body leaner, my energy more focused and those are just the first few things that spring to mind when talkin' derby. But, there are things that are awkward on their best days and we tend not to talk about them. Things like when one of those amazing people that I mentioned chooses to move on. That is... well, sucky.

In my head, I know their reasons and I understand them; whether it is because of retirement, moving to a more competitive league, or just plain change of environment. So why is it so hard for my heart to accept that this isn't about me? That their choices are not a reflection of mine? That though I would love to stay with those people forever, they don't want to stay with me? I hate seeing people leave. It's hard to watch someone you've trained with, shared sweat with, and been mentored by decide that the choice they helped you make is no longer their choice.

I love these skaters. They helped shape my opinions, they "raised me" and contributed to the culture of my league. Without them, FoCo Girls Gone Derby would look and feel different. I like to think that it is different for the better because of them. I KNOW that I am better because of them. I can remember talking to one of my dear derby sisters, then still a comrade in arms, who told me that if she didn't give me her whole ass (literally and figuratively) that she would be cheating me out of getting better and that I should be proud that no one was "taking it easy" on me. This was a lesson that didn't ring true in my selfish, sad little heart at the time but now, as I begin to talk the talk and walk the walk of a veteran, these words of wisdom find resonance within me.

Seriously though.
Don't you forget about me.
I like to think that I am not saying good-bye to these women because wherever they are and whomever they roll with, we will always be derby sisters. I hope that I see them both on and off the track (and SOON) but I know that it will be different. I am prepared for this reality. But it still hurts my little derby heart just a little that they won't look at me on the line and say "It's you and me, OK? Stick with me." And that is a big 'ole suckfest. There is a line and I am on the FoCo side but they're not anymore. That is the cold, hard truth of the matter. My hope is that we can skate down this line together, that they can be one their  side and I will be on mine and we will share mutual respect for the fact that currently, THIS league is the one for me, and some other league is the one for them.

At one time in my life before derby, I was talking to a very dear friend about why people seem to come and go. She gave me some sage advise that I will share with all of you here. She told me that you can't begrudge the person who isn't there with the same regularity they were before and that you do need to celebrate and be glad for the time that you had with them. Meaning, some friends are there for a specific time in your life but instead of being sad and missing them you should be glad that they were there at all. So cheers to the past, present, and future of FoCo Girls Gone Derby!

Derby Love,
Mollytov Maguire