I’ve never considered myself an athlete. In fact, I’ve usually had bad luck playing sports. The first and last team I joined was a local T-ball league at age 7. First day of practice I got a nice shiner trying to catch a fly ball. Any future attempts at sports were relegated to physical education classes with me being picked last and getting hit by various balls. Once in a while I’d have good luck with soccer or floor hockey. I usually spent my time involved with speech or theatre and seemed to have found my niche there. Over the years I felt pretty content with my situation, sure I didn’t fit in with most of the guys in school, but oh well it just wasn’t my thing.
Fast forward to a couple years ago. A friend heard Sioux City had a roller derby team. I’d been watching a few documentaries on roller derby in Texas, so I was pretty excited there was a team nearby. Well into the season, my friend and I finally had a chance to see a home bout. We had NO idea what to expect. I honestly had pictured an auditorium full of people in hipster punk garb, loud and screaming, spilling beer everywhere and throwing trash at the losing team. Oh how wrong I was. Overcoming our nerves, we walked into the venue, and found a seat up high away from any attention. The Dames were playing D3. What an experience! Everything moved so fast, and while I had a basic idea of the game going in, my head was just spinning trying to keep up with the action. The speed and agility of the skaters, all the refs racing around blowing whistles, screaming penalties, watching the jammers bob and weave through blockers. Hearing names like Funsize, PBR, Rainbow Spite, T-Vicious, the soft roar of skates on the court. So new….So exciting…..So…..Different. I’d found something here. We went to every home bout from that point on. The more I watched the more I wanted to be a part of derby. Before I knew it, I was an NSO, right in the thick of it jam timing, scorekeeping and penalty tracking. Pretty soon I had my skates and I was ready to work on getting my stripes.
Learning to skate again has been a challenge, and those first practices were pretty intimidating. Watching the other skaters maneuver with such balance and skill made me constantly question my decision. “Why am I doing this?” “There’s no way I’ll get this!” I had to remind myself these things take time, I’ll get there, don’t give up. One of the lessons I’ve learned skating with the Dames is it’s not how good you are at a particular skill, it’s that you try. Push yourself, if you fall, (and you will fall at some point) no big deal. Get up and do it again. Before you know it you learn that transition, skating backwards with ease, a quick snow plow or mohawk stop. I’ve had the great fortune of skating with very supportive skaters. Even an “off” day still feels like a great day with these players, and my fellow refs have helped this baby zebra continue to grow and learn the fine art referring.
Derby has been one of the most positive decisions I’ve made so far. Skating has been a tremendous stress reliever. I strap on my skates, and all the garbage of the day is merely dust beneath my wheels. I’ve met some great skaters and become part of an amazing, accepting group of people. We all come from different walks of life but are united in skates, E Pluribus Skateum if you will. My journey into derby has just started, but I’m looking forward to a long skate.
I’m Kaiser Wheelhelm, and I ref roller derby.