Of course there is crying in derby. Why? Well, derby hurts sometimes, for one. And saying there’s no crying in derby is like saying we’re not human in derby. I don’t know about you, but one of the places I feel most human is on the flat track.

All that said, I don’t go weeping back to the bench after every bad jam. Yes, on a few occasions the pure physicality and drama on the track pried loose something from my personal life, unexpectedly unleashing the waterworks. I recall leaving my bench once to sob outside a scrimmage, knowing the magma of frustration, anger and sadness that had boiled up during the course of several jams impeded my ability to play. Because you really need to be mentally present to play good derby, which represents the single thing I value most about it. Derby got me out of my head.

I’ll admit I crawled back up in there a little bit last Saturday, though. It was my second consecutive weekend of a three-weekend junket of bouting. We headed down to a nearby town for an away match against a league we have a fantastic relationship with, who are like our big sisters in derby. Who regularly kick our butts and make us better at what we do and applaud how far we’ve come, just like big sisters should. We brought only nine skaters for most of the bout instead of a full roster of 14, saving the final six minutes when our teammate who arrived late after attending a funeral that day was allowed to join the game.

Courtesy of Damage Control / Throwing a pity party will not help you catch the opposing jammer.

For much of the bout, I wanted to cry. Wtf? Totally not the headspace I plan for bouts. I think it had something to do with going to the box a lot. Four majors in one game — that’s more than usual for me. But I recognized the futility of breaking down on the bench at the time. I held it together. The thing about crying is it mires you in that place in time when the tears started flowing. You’re really no good to your team when you’re stuck in the past. Tears generally also herald a pity party or a cycle of self-recrimination. Why did I go to the box? Was it a bad call or am I playing sloppy? Am I starting to suck at derby? Am I going to become one of those risky players who need to be benched during a tight game? (I actually tried to remove myself from the jammer rotation, but my bench coach shook his head.) Do my teammates feel I am letting them down? Am I letting my coaches down? Will my actions ensure a loss for my team?

The final few jams, I told myself: “I am just going to have a good cry after this is all over.” It was a sort of consolation for keeping on the rails. But something changed in my thinking during the exchange of high fives after the bout, which we lost 190-122. I pictured what I would say to my teammates when they saw me in a hot mess in the locker room area. They’d tell me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, and I was trying to picture how I would actually explain what the problem was. And I had trouble myself identifying what the problem was when I thought about it that way. Every minute I get the opportunity to play this sport is something I’m grateful for. I’m not perfect, so why would I expect every bout to go perfectly? We had lovely hosts; it was a beautiful, young summer night; there was a friendly, energetic crowd; and the first whistle was about to blow on a headlining bout with the Atlanta Rollergirls, who I’d never seen play. There was even a big band rocking on the sidelines.

We faced a tough team with a short roster. No one was injured. I went to the box a lot, but I could recall a few moments of the game where I shined, where I played derby like I want to play always. I’m learning to take it easy on myself, to try my best and accept the outcome, while still carefully considering my legitimate fuck-ups and aspiring to a high standard without beating myself up in the process. Remembering some magnificent moves my teammates made also gave me something to smile about while gearing down. The ten of us fought, fought, fought every minute we were on the track. Was that something to tear up about? It was not. There are some times when it makes sense to cry in roller derby, but there are other times when it makes more sense to get over yourself, grab a beer and join your friends in the suicide seats.