I can say that roller derby holds significance as a grande metaphor for life, and when something is your life, it’s just that; triumph and devastation, success and rejection, celebration and utter heartbreak.
What derby has taught me over the last three years could be perceived as a compacted learning experience. It could also be that I was becoming a full-fledged grown-up and derby just happened to be around when I joined the league at twenty-one. Growing up, you might believe you will have it all figured out by the time you hit your twenties, which would always seem so far off into the adultsphere. Though what can take a lifetime to experience, being part of a large sporting league has a way of forcing such integral lessons upon you. You are thrown into a close-knit melting pot of women and have to deal with personalities, relationships, wins, disappointments, challenges, and personal victories, to name a few. How you go about dealing with and accepting this is greatly based on your character and every obstacle is an opportunity for growth which directly translates back to “the real world”.
As I grew up playing an assortment of sports and being hyper-active, I always sought competition but never found something to full submerge myself into. Coming off of gym class in elementary school, I didn’t make the high school volleyball team and my athletic ambitions tapered off. I did not have anything I was overly passionate about other than altering the uniform of my preppy suburban high school. Going through family issues and battling depression unbeknownst to me, I physically and mentally could not find anything to motivate me during these wonder years.
I would continue to struggle with commitment and follow-through. But when the opportunity arose to attempt this thrilling new roller derby endeavour, I went into the training program solo; which in itself was a stir fry of nerves and anxiety. I joined Toronto Roller Derby in 2011, at the height of rollergirl sensationalism via Drew Barrymore’s ‘Whip It’. I was drawn to the physicality of the sport (and at the time, the hint of theatrics). It felt like a small victory, though I had no idea how invested I would become — a level of committment I had yet to experience.
One of the biggest challenges of the engagement one makes for the love of derby is overcoming personal challenges that may plague you outside of the game. Three years, some torn ligaments, a mild concussion, and broken ankle later, I’m still at it. There have been major ups and downs over this time, injuries aside, that have led to physical burn out and emotional defeats. Checking your baggage at the door and lacing up skates is a way of relieving stress, but there is a variety of obstacles that may emerge from within the track boundaries. Not landing a dream job, going though a breakup, or having your life’s structured plan be derailed in an instant is akin to losing a championship game or not making a team that all your blood and sweat and broken bones had been leading up to. Aside from physical endurance, the large mental aspect of this game we adopt as an identity can lead to one’s own success or defeat. Having a positive outlook during practice or on the game day bench contributes to performance, even if immediate surroundings attempt to stifle that.
Stuff and things will happen that might cause you to question your abilities, even yourself. You must rise above the criticism and pain. Play the game for you; both roller derby and life.
‘Tis a ToRD affair…
– Lexi Con