Brief interviews with derby girls
Posted on September 5, 2013
We caught up with [name redacted], a skater with a roller derby league in [city redacted] who is on the cusp of finishing her fourth season on the flat track. [Name redacted] writes a blog about her experiences with derby, but we haven’t heard much about her season or the specific games her team played this year, so we were thrilled to connect for a recap.
Interviewer: I’m glad I could catch you right at this moment, after the conclusion of your home bouting schedule, with just a single match remaining before your off-season. It seems like a good time to review some of the highs and lows of your derby experience this year.
Skater: Absolutely. I mean, I’m not sure why you might be wanting to hear about my experiences particularly, but I hope I can provide some insight that will pique the interest of your audience.
Interviewer: Thank you again for agreeing to speak with me on such short notice.
Skater: Of course.
Interviewer: So let’s start with the question of what’s your proudest accomplishment from this season?
Skater: This wasn’t a season of dramatic accomplishments for me personally. I made progress on some goals and so did my team, but there are really no watershed moments to point to, you know? Last year we beat a team that had always kicked our ass in prior bouts and it felt like a moral victory. This year we beat them even more soundly, but it just didn’t have that same quality of excitement the first win had. Does that make sense? The year before we won a whole tournament at the end of our season. That was my first year as a jammer, too. The year before that was the first time I ever bouted, first as fresh meat and eventually on the A-team. Lots of milestones.
There was something quiet about this season as a whole. Maybe my proudest achievement is that I became more of an athlete this year. I started cross-training in earnest, running and attending boot camp and just generally being more serious about fitness. It wasn’t some kind of a lightning bolt, though, [but] more of a gradual shift that gelled as the months went by. Can you tell that I’m searching for something more profound to say here? I’m really mixing my metaphors.
Interviewer: No, no, your answer is fine! Don’t feel the need to create some kind of dramatic tale of it for my benefit. It was what it was. Your response is great. Sorry, I hate that expression — “It is what it is.” Really despise it. But I say it all the time.
Interviewer: So, err, then, on to the flip side. Any big disappointments from this season?
Skater: I think the disappointment is that I didn’t do more. That we didn’t do more. But I try not to dwell on it. I’m done with that part of my life where I beat myself up for things in the past. That said, there were a few specific moments of disappointment, sure. We had a frustrating away game early in the season. It was against a team that we had beaten before, narrowly, and we really wanted to beat them again, but we couldn’t seem to get our shit together, and my game felt off personally. I remember near the end of the bout, my coach took the star from me. He intended to give it to another skater outside our primary jammer rotation. I definitely wasn’t having my best game. But, there’s something about having the star taken from you. It’s like I only want to give up the star on my own volition, you know?
Interviewer: [….] Yeah, totally. I mean, I don’t play derby, so I don’t know exactly. But I can picture what you mean. You’re used to jamming, you’re used to doing fairly well at it. [.…] And, so, like, someone says: “Hey, give me the panty” and it’s like they’re saying they’ve lost confidence in you or something. I mean, I’m not necessarily saying they did lose confidence in you specifically, but that you could interpret it that way, given what you describe. It could make you feel that way. Especially, you know, on the bench during a tense game.
Skater: I think you’ve sort of basically got the gist of what I mean. I should clarify that I wasn’t mad at my coach or anything. I was just disappointed in myself. I let myself down. If I had to distill my disappointment from the season into one moment, it would be me on the bench right there, starless.
Skater: I don’t mean to be a drag or anything! There were lots of great moments from the season, too. Two months later, I played what was probably the best game of my derby career during another away bout. I felt like I was on fire every jam, like all the training I had been doing for months just came together and allowed me to be the kind of player I want to be all the time.
Interviewer: That’s awesome!
Skater: Oh, and I got a cape!
Interviewer: A cape?
Skater: Yeah, they gave me a cape for MVP jammer. And I felt like I earned it. That was cool.
Interviewer: It sounds like maybe that game was your proudest accomplishment from the season…?
Skater: Maybe. I don’t know. It didn’t come to mind when you asked me the question earlier. But maybe I’m being too hard on myself. That’s a thing I do. [….]
Interviewer: So, what advice would you give to a newer derby skater based on what you learned this year?
Skater: Don’t be too hard on yourself! [Laughs]
Skater: I’m joking! Or maybe I’m not really joking. That’s almost always good advice for anyone at any time. We need to be kinder to ourselves. That’s something I’ve learned through playing roller derby. I used to be very self-critical all the time. I used to have a dialogue of negative self talk playing in my head constantly. “You suck at this skill.” “You’ll never make it through the pack.” “You’ll never get this strategy.” “People think you look like an idiot.” “You’re useless on the track.” “You’ll never be any good at this sport.” How would I have ever gotten better if I continued to talk to myself like that? That’s some completely demoralizing bullshit!
Somehow, some day, maybe a year into playing derby, I had this kind of epiphany in which I realized I needed to stop doing that. I needed to let myself just try. Just try. And not turn my little failures into big tragedies. Just be nice to myself and not worry about making mistakes so much. And you know what happened?
Skater: I immediately started to get better at derby. Once I gave myself permission not to be perfect, I began to improve in leaps and bounds. Fortunately it’s been something I’ve been able to apply to other areas of my life as well. So, yeah, that’s what I would say to newer derby skaters — be kind to yourself. This is not to say that you have to go around telling yourself you’re awesome all the time. That probably wouldn’t be true either! [Laughs] Just don’t tell yourself you suck. No one is good at this crazy complicated sport immediately. Be compassionate to yourself, just like you would to a skater who is newer than you. I promise, it works.
Interviewer: That sounds like good advice.
Skater: I mean, I don’t know. It worked for me.
Interviewer: In any case, that “be kind to yourself” message is probably a good one to end on.
Skater: Yeah, it probably is.
Interviewer: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today and share your thoughts on your experiences with derby so far this year.
Skater: It’s been my pleasure, really. Thanks for listening.
[Name redacted] will play her final bout of the 2013 season on September 21 in [city redacted]. For more information, visit [redacted].