I started playing roller derby in 2010. Over the past 4 years there have been many twists and turns in my derby journey. There have been good things, the occasional bad thing and really ridiculously awesome things. There have also been experiences that I will keep with me forever to bring out any time I feel sad or useless or scared.
One thing's for sure though, derby has always been there for me when I've needed it the most. It's been there when I have felt invincible and all I wanted to do was skate like the wind. It's been there for me when assaulting a member of the public may have been frowned upon, so I hit my friends instead. It's been there for me when I just needed to skate away the bad and silently wall up with people who didn't even realise they were making everything ok.
I believe that every person's experience of derby is unique. It's not a one size fits all situation. It can grow and adapt to fit exactly how you need it to. And that's exactly what I have done, I have crafted my own personal derby.
Mint Collision’s amazing bottom – sensing a theme here!
Photo courtesy of Shirlaine Forrest
I am the same age as Suzy Hotrod and when I started skating, I pretty much wanted to be Suzy Hotrod. I soaked up everything derby like a sponge. I couldn't get enough of this awesome thing and was a willing slave to the addictive derby monster. Someone once told me that roller derby will change your life if you let it, and it did.
And so I skated. I passed my minimums. I practiced and scrimmaged. I played for the B team, I played for the A team. I travelled and bouted and boot camped. And I loved it. I was lucky enough to go and watch Team England and London Brawling play Team USA. I treasure the photos of me grinning like an idiot standing next to my derby heroes.
I realised I had found in derby something magical and so much greater than the sum of it's parts. Roller derby didn't save my soul, but what it did do was give me the courage to be myself, and the belief that me is ok. Not only that but that there were other people like me, and when we got together we could do great things.
Before derby, the notion that an anxious introvert like me would be transformed into someone powerful and confident on track would have been absurd but there were like minded people who supported me every step of the way. I love the way I am surrounded by so many different people who have all found each other and come together to share this crazy, wonderful thing we are all part of.
Mint Collision, blocking the jammer. Photo courtesy of Psd Photography.
Early in 2013, I found out I was pregnant and gave birth to my beautiful twins in September. After not skating for 9 months and suffering severe withdrawal, I quickly decided that there was no way I could give up derby, so bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I went back to practice. I started over and passed my minimums again and it felt like such an achievement. I was so happy to have wheels back on my feet again.
Now my derby has changed and adapted to suit my needs. Mainly because I have changed. My body has changed, my mind has changed, my entire outlook on life has changed. Derby has become a lot more holistic to me now, I do what makes me happiest, I skate. There is no pressure or expectation, there is just fun and freedom. Having 9 month old twins means life is pretty hectic at the moment. I simply don't have the time or the energy to go to practice 3 times a week.
I am now an assistant coach for our pre-minimums skaters. This is a role that I would never have imagined myself in, not being the most confident of people, but with my newfound mindset of 'I can raise twins, I've got this', I jumped in with both feet and it's turning out to be one of the best things I've ever done. The sheer joy I get when I help people learn to skate and see that spark of derby excitement in their eyes is so rewarding and makes turning up early on a Saturday morning after another rubbish night's sleep so very worth it. It's my small way of giving back to the people and the league that have given me so much.
Derby and twins? Got this.
So that is my derby now, but who knows, when the babies get a bit bigger it may change again and I will return to full time derby, but for now, this suits me just fine.
All I know is that I will never be without my skates. Those 8 little wheels have given me more freedom than I could have ever imagined possible.