Today, when I enter the Doll Factory and hear the sound of roller skates on Masonite, I feel like I’m home. This is where the LA Derby Dolls–a roller derby league I volunteer with–play. When I started, we didn’t have a place to put our track, and were skating in a park; now we’ve got an enormous building to host our bouts, a giant fan base (and regular celebrity sightings), and admiration from derby leagues around the world.What won me over about roller derby was that this sport is do-it-yourself: rules had to be written from scratch, women who hadn’t skated since they were in grade school were becoming serious athletes, friends were being recruited to help with whatever needed helping – and it wasn’t always clear what that was – and all the hard work was being done in the name of fun. It was a real community of people doing something they loved, and to me? That’s pretty exciting.
I love that all the players are women, and that the organization was started by, and is run by, women. It’s not a sport for wimps–you’ve got women bashing into you from all sides at high speeds–and I liked that too: the idea that women could be tough and strong and seemingly fearless.
Me and roller derby seemed like a match made in heaven, but, remember that eight-year-old girl inching her way around the roller rink? Yeah. I still didn’t know how to skate. I decided that for once, I wouldn’t let my fears get the best of me. If these awesome girls and women could do it, so could I! I bravely laced up my skates and took some lessons. I’m still not very good (the girls who compete could skate circles around me!) but I’m good enough to not just feel comfortable—but pretty awesome on my skates. And if you show up at a bout in Los Angeles, you just might see me there–I’ve refereed and played other important roles in the league!I’m not exaggerating when I say that signing up to be involved with roller derby changed my life. New hobby, new friends, new events to attend, new people cheering me through grad school (and one who threw me a surprise party when I graduated), and being around powerful, self-assured women (and the awesome men who support us and help with the league in whatever ways they can!) was awesome in itself. I love that we’re all in it because we want to be, and there’s a space for anyone who wants to be involved, from kids to senior citizens.
We have a junior league for girls ages 8-17—and girls 18 or over can join official teams—so if you wanted to, you could be a derby skater, too. It’s a cool sport if you’re looking for something different than what’s offered at school, and well, it’s so much freaking fun.
Oh, and about a year ago, I went back to that skating rink where my friend had her fourth-grade birthday party. Instead of clinging to the walls, I raced laps around the track with my brother and his girlfriend, and laughed about just how far I’ve come.
Do you roller skate or are you into roller derby, too? Tell me all about it in the comments!