Image by Flickr user Gomisan

TIFFANY’S TAKE: Derby

By Tiffany A. Potter

Until two weeks ago, I was a derby virgin. And now, much like my sex life in my early 20s, I wonder what took me so long.

Roller derby is a team skating competition on roller skates held on a flat or banked oval track and its genesis dates back as far as the early 1940s. I can only imagine that while our boys were off to war those women who were left behind to fill in the gap that the men left in the workforce and at home had to expend energy in other areas of their life as well. Enter roller derby in an effort to blow off some steam in a most unconventional way.

A dear friend of mine played derby locally for a time and invited me to watch my first bout with her on a Saturday night next to Full Circle Brewing Co. downtown. They played outside, and I was surprised by how many spectators were actually there (especially given how damn hot it was). My prior limited knowledge of derby was based on the Drew Barrymore movie Whip It (not exactly a thorough representation of the sport I admit). The rules are fairly extensive and complicated, and while I’m still not sure I understand them all it was sure fun trying to.

It should be noted that these are not the “derby girls” that dress up in costumes. Although the teams might wear wild-colored uniforms, they are less interested in “sports entertainment” (think professional wrestling) and more concerned with the athleticism. These women are athletes in the best sense of the word. They aren’t there for show, they’re there for blood (points, actually, but you get my drift). They handle themselves in a way I’ve never seen women do before, and I was beyond impressed. These women are strong, brave and unapologetic of their body type or their attitude. They own who they are unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.

Outside of the track, they are moms, professionals, wives and caretakers and the stakes are high if an injury occurs (and lord knows they do), but they don’t allow that to deter them. And when a fellow skater is injured on the track, regardless of which team they’re on, the world comes to a halt and everyone takes a knee (wouldn’t it be nice if in life we all took a metaphorical knee when a fellow man is injured).

They practice multiple times a week, and true dedication is apparent when you watch them. No one gets paid to play and yet they show up in every capacity. They commit to their team, make this sport a priority in their life, and, like every other competitive sport, you have to earn your place to play. Not everyone gets a ribbon like our culture is currently teaching our kids; instead, you are required to become better than your natural ability and work your ass off in order to get there.

Something so profound struck me that night as I was trying to keep up with the score. In a world where we try almost desperately to empower our girls and teach our boys to respect women, every parent should take their sons and daughters to a bout in an effort to reinforce the teachings of what confidence, passion, teamwork and strength look like in action. In a world where apathy has become as normal as the sun rising, these women are driven by their passion for this sport.

I found myself wanting to be them but knowing deep down that I would never be badass enough to actually do it. I don’t like to fall down much less be pushed, and I’m fairly certain I would take it personally. And I am certainly not graceful enough. Believe me when I say that these women could (and possibly should) rule the world.

Life lesson: When shit gets bad, when you get pushed down by a life that is faster, stronger and fiercer than anything you could have prepared for, you get back up and keep skating. Show it who is boss and add another point to your personal scoreboard. You: 1, Life: 0.

*****

Tiffany is an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and change agent. Find her at www. TiffanysTake.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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