Growing up, I was never someone who would ever be labeled as athletic. I played softball in little league for a few years, but spent more time doing cartwheels in the outfield than actually participating in the games. I was more interested in books, dresses and heels, playing my saxophone and spinning a flag in marching band.
Fast forward a few years to 2010… I was a fresh college graduate with free time on my hands. Most of my friends moved out of state for various jobs, so I spent a lot of time at home with my best friend, Netflix. Unfortunately, even Futurama reruns weren’t doing it for me anymore, so I took to the internet to find something new and exciting.
My search led me to two things: roller derby or cross fit. Cross fit was quickly out after looking up local gym prices. After learning that the derby league was a non-profit that contributed to the community, I felt like it would be a good way to give back.
Right around the time I made the decision to try derby, Columbia QuadSquad posted on their Facebook page that they were starting a round of fresh meat that weekend. Which, to me, seemed like way more than a coincidence.
I wish I could say that I attended a derby bout before joining the league, but if I did that I would absolutely be lying. I would also be lying if I said that I even attempted to figure out how the game worked at all. What I did do was show up at the skating rink for the first fresh meat practice, tie on those busted up rink skates, and fall on my face. A lot.
It was difficult. My skating experience was limited to a handful of birthday parties, most of which I paid the extra $3 to be like the cool kids and use roller blades. Putting on quad skates and trying to do anything left me sprawling. I even had a teammate tell me I reminded her of a baby gazelle attempting to walk. I’m a fairly optimistic person, but there was no way I could take that feedback and turn it into a compliment.
To this day three and a half years later, I can’t put my finger on exactly what kept me coming back. Maybe it was the idea of finally being able to call myself an athlete (as well as a book nerd who wears pretty dresses and heels). Maybe it was my newfound confidence. It’s an incredible feeling to accomplish something you weren’t able to do a week before, even if you’re just doing a T-stop. Derby has done a multitude of things for me, but what kept me coming back was most likely meeting a ton of empowered women from all walks of life who come together for such a great thing, and being able to call them friends.