About five years ago, I was a stay-at-home parent with two young children. I was beginning to feel isolated when I heard about a group of women that were trying to start a Roller Derby league in my area. It sounded like something I was looking for: an opportunity to increase my physical fitness, to learn a new skill set, and meet new, dynamic women. It also seemed a little ‘edgy’ and empowering.
As a young woman, I regularly participated in traditional sports like basketball, track, soccer, and rugby. Roller derby seemed like a really challenging and inclusive sport, attracting all sorts of individuals of varying skill levels. It’s one of the few sports where seasoned athletes and complete beginners can play and learn together. It is also the most supportive sport culture I have ever experienced.
Roller derby has given me the opportunity to learn a new set of skills; to be a beginner in a sport, which is quite rare in the adult world. My physical and mental health have improved and I have been given the opportunity to experience play in my life again. As a board member for my organization I also learned about governance of a non-profit society, how to facilitate an AGM, and how to negotiate and balance the needs of a diverse group.
I think it has had a tremendous impact on my two daughters. Since the time they were toddlers, they have watched their mom head out the front door each week dressed in bright rainbow colours with a giant skate bag in tow. They have played on the sidelines of the derby track, watching and cheering for their mom and all the other women in our group.
They have observed the strength of all those women, racing and bashing one another, and then smiling and hugging at the end of intense gameplay.
I’m happy to know my girls see all these aspects of female gender as normal. I’m also happy they see women of all shapes, sizes, and age engaging in physical activity across the lifespan.
I think that derby offers us another chance to know ourselves and one another on our own terms. Derby doesn’t have the same, sometimes negative, history that some traditional sports have for women. Derby is a sport that embraces women of all abilities and normalizes healthy competition, team work and discipline.