Ahh roller derby. It's a sport that brings together people from all walks of life but at the same time often has a negative connotation to the outside world who often think it's just women (predominately butch lesbians - might as well get the stereotype right) putting on skates and smashing the crap out of each other. Personally speaking I still don't know how to effectively hit people on skates and I'm straight and really who cares what one's sexuality is, we're all human and we all love the sport.
From the moment I watched Whip It, to when I watched my first bout, to when I first started training and up until now I've seen and learnt a lot that is the world of roller derby and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface. The more I get involved the more I form an opinion on where I think the sport is heading and where I would like to see it go. Roller Derby literally brings people from all walks of life which I think is a good thing as I'm meeting people with different interests that I probably wouldn't have met if I wasn't doing the sport. It also brings up the challenge of having to deal with a kaleidoscope of opinions and trying to make the sport into something that the majority can agree on. What I'm about to write are my opinions, yeah you may not agree with them and that's cool. There is no right or wrong, it's what you make out of the sport that matters.
I'm one of the majority who first got into derby after watching Whip It. I saw a sport where strategies and tactics reigned supreme, a physical game of chess if you like and it was an advantage to have a big arse - bonus! I saw an actual sport and not a roller disco where everyone got to play dress up's. I'm a tomboy to the extent that it's been over a decade that I've worn either a dress or a skirt so the most I dress up at training is a t-shirt and basketball shorts. When I eventually bout I'll be wearing Skins under my uniform not derby skinz and definately no fishnets, but that's just me. I know derby has the whole 'dress culture' where it's all about expressing yourself and there's nothing wrong with that but it becomes a problem when that part of the derby culture means more to you than putting in the hard yards at training and trying to be the best derby SKATER you can be. I don't believe that the two have to be mutually exclusive, there will always be a place for both especially as long as people continue to customise their skates :)
Ahh the little things, things that don't mean much to me in the grand scheme of things but they could mean a great deal to someone else. We're currently going through picking names and uniforms for our two intraleague teams next year. To be honest I don't really care about all that, I'm more than happy to leave that to those that want to have a say in all that. I'm more concerned about being good enough to get picked for a team and being good enough to be able to bout.
Derby names. A source of constant debate. I often go online to try and read as many derby blogs and articles I can find and I found a perfect one to sum up the name issue. It's from the Derby Life site. The comments below the article covered both sides of the arguement really well. I've come across some clever, witty names and there's others where I thought really? It's another area of derby where people can be as creative as they like, and if you're happy to have your derby name yelled out by a commentator during a bout in front of your family and friend's and it may sound crass or controversial then power to you but you also need to realise that there's other people in the same crowd who might not want to hear it. But, but if they don't like it they shouldn't be going to the bout! Yeah well last I checked none of us get paid to play and without bums on seats and sponsorship it would be hard to continue running a league so perhaps it's something that needs to be considered. The only real issue I have with names are the rape themed ones there's some examples in the article above. I really hate those ones. The guy that went with the name Mr. Ray Pugh gave his reasons behind his choice of name from terms used in the gaming world. I've also seen it used on Liverpool message boards where some posters might say 'We'll rape so and so opposition', sue me but I hate hearing it. We have the term 'skate rape' in derby, I cringe when I hear it and you won't hear me say it but I'm not going to be some sort of derby nun and tell others not to say it, it's their choice.
All this brings me to my next point: public misconception of roller derby. There was a perfect example on Facebook last week when an article appeared from a paper in Queensland titled 'Roller Derby isn't a sport'. Needless to say the guy got bombarded by derby folks around the world. I didn't agree at all with his comments but it highlighted what some people outside of derby think about the sport. Those of us that play the sport know from the hours we put in at training each week and volunteer work in committee's etc in our spare time know that they've got it all wrong but they don't see all that. Maybe there's a way of educating them and help make them see what we see or there might be another option, an option that might not sit well with most derby folk...
Each paragraph has made me sound more boring than the last and this one will probably make me sound like an absolute killjoy but fuck it here goes. I was watching the Derby World Cup that was recently on when I got the chance to and I was struck by how professional it all felt, from the uniforms to the way it all ran, to me that actually represented roller derby as a sport if you were going to show that to someone who was watching derby for the first time. I love the idea of having roller derby as an Olympic sport or even one day being a professional sport. Imagine getting paid to play derby, that would be pretty cool having derby pay your bills. I know, I know I've taken all the fun out of derby, no skateouts, everyone wearing the same outfit, using your own name instead of a derby name like I said killjoy. Yeah but that's completely different to how it started in Texas. It sure is but then what started in Texas is completely different to the original version of roller derby which was an endurance race and you've also got the 70's version which was scripted wrestling style theatrics. The sport is constantly evolving. I feel the sport will continue to change and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a split with those that want to keep derby the way that it currently is and those that want to see the sport in the Olympic Games. I think it would be a good thing because it would probably please more people in the long run and they can pick whichever way they want to go instead of everyone being dragged into a direction they don't want to go. We already have different options with flat-track and banked derby so there's always something for everyone.
At the end of the day just because I prefer the strategies and tactics over what I wear doesn't mean I love the sport any more than someone who likes putting effort into what they wear on the track. I'm just one of the many people who try and play the awesome sport of roller derby to the best of my ability.