When my baby was born in July 2008, I resolved that one of the best things I can do for both him and myself is to model healthy eating and physical activity. And in the fifteen months since then, what started as bouncing along to exercise videos became twenty-five miles of running each week. Not fast, mind you, but I was logging miles like I never had before. I ran my first half marathon the day before my son’s first birthday. I felt great; so strong and proud of everything my body had accomplished in the past year. I felt so high, in fact, that I decided to take on a new challenge – learning how to play roller derby.
Why, pray tell, would a suburban stay-at-home mom decide that this was the logical next step? Well, I was eager to play a team sport for the first time since high school, I wanted to make new friends (not that I don’t love a good conversation with my mom-friends about poop), and I wanted to punch sum bitches, so I went out and got myself some quad skates. A five week long roller derby clinic with the Bay Area Derby (B.A.D.) Girls was my introduction to the sport. Before this, the last time I had been on skates was my seventh birthday party, but I had the idea that I am an athlete so this will be easy. Holy cats, was I wrong. On the first day of class I could skate in a circle, slowly, and that was it.
Luckily, the first thing we learned is how to stop. The second? How to fall. The third? Derby isn’t about punching bitches. Well, back in the early days of derby revival (2002ish), there was a certain amount of staged fighting in the banked track leagues (think Whip It). But today most leagues play on a flat track and follow the rules set by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Fortunately though, there’s still a bit of camp involved. Many derby girls favor playing in booty shorts and fishnets (an outfit I previously would have died at the thought of wearing), and in most leagues skaters compete under their derby names.
But derby is also about a lot more than that. The B.A.D. Girls operate as a skater-owned 501(c)(3) non-profit that is built on the blood, sweat, and tears of the skaters themselves. Nobody makes a dime, and yet we manage to provide athletic entertainment on both regional and national levels and maintain a commitment to helping other local grassroots organizations. It is about sisterhood and empowerment – the muscle and skill to knock an opponent down and the strength to create something larger than ourselves.
None of this is unique to my hometown league. Derby leagues operate similarly all over the country, and the sport continues to grow. Even if you don’t think you have the time to commit to joining a league, I encourage you to look into introductory clinics. The workout is incredible – think thighs of steel, agility, and cardio endurance like crazy. And if you can’t do that, then come to a bout, drink a beer, and cheer for your local derby girls.
– article by Sara Cohen. Sara is an East Coast native who dropped out of graduate school to do things like move to California, climb mountains, and have babies. She plans to return to the respectability of academia sometime around 2015.