My first practice was so exciting, I felt like I had found my long lost sport. I couldn’t wait to skate again. Many girls who start roller derby have come from other sports or would probably consider themselves athletic in nature, but this is not my story. I had tried many sports throughout my life and never really fit in any of them. I was a cheerleader throughout high school, but the tumbling part was never my forte, I was just really good at being loud.
Part of all of it was my body. Although strong and durable, I had never fit into any of the athletic molds. I could play most sports but never really excelled in any of them or felt confident to take them to a higher, more competitive, level. Mostly because I just never felt my body was up to snuff. Those junior high comments of “she’s pretty in the face” still came back to haunt me, even as an adult, whenever I looked in a mirror.
The last place I thought I would start cementing my confidence in my own body was on a roller derby team. Roller Derby was feeding my childhood dream of skating fast without a rink referee blowing the whistle, but it was also feeding my soul in ways I had never imagined. It whispered with every lap…You are strong. You are capable of learning anything. You have a place on this team. Your body has a place on this team. The echo of each word of praise and encouragement shouted from my teammates rattled inside my body, building me up every time I fell and pushing me to want to do better. For my team. For myself.
And then I realized what made this team feel so good. We were all different. Different careers, different ideas, different ages and different bodies. All sorts of different body shapes and each with a very important role to make a roller derby team successful. And even though we were all so different, out on the track we were a team. We were training. Perfecting. Mentoring. Accepting.
Tall, thin, short, round, big hips, fast legs…they all had a job. And in that moment I realized why this becomes much more than a sport or hobby for many people. For those of us that have been on a team before, who were rounder, or shorter, or taller, or skinnier, and for those of us left as the last choice at recess, we could all play. Every. Body. Can. Play.