- My name is Tank Goodness. It still feels weird to say sometimes. My name IS Tank Goodness. I try to introduce myself with my new name when I’m around derby girls, but really, I know I’m just Fresh Meat…for now. I’ve been training with Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Roller Derby for almost three months now. I’m not eligible to bout yet, so I volunteer and watch (and grit my teeth) when the girls have bouts. I’ve gotten my fair share of impressive blisters and bruises since I joined the team, but I feel like a derby girl really earns her name when she gets onto the track in front of all those people and represents her team in a bout. Some people may say that I’m ready but, frankly, I’m terrified of what will happen. Not terrified of injury, per say, but mainly of not performing well. That’s my fear I guess. Failure. It’s also happens to be one of the main reasons why I started playing roller derby.
How did I even get here? What made me join a roller derby team? I guess it’s best to start from the beginning. My family and I are from New Orleans. I am the second of three girls. My mom and three of her sisters owned a local dance academy, so my sisters and I were all dancing and doing acrobatics as soon as we could walk. I’ve seen videos of myself being on stage since I was just one year old. I also started playing soccer and softball in New Orleans around the age of four or five.
I moved to Baton Rouge in second grade. I completely immersed myself in every competitive sports I could get my parents to agree to. Before long, a huge amount of time and money was being spent on soccer tournaments, baseball tournaments, basketball games, swim meets, dance competitions, bmx races, etcetera etcetera. That’s not even mentioning that my sisters were also competing in multiple sports themselves! The time eventually came when I had to choose which sport I would pursue full-time. The logical choice for me was soccer.
Slight rewind. When I was in fourth grade, my soccer coach was an amazing goalkeeper. At the time, I wasn’t interested in the position. I thought the best players were attackers and being put in as the goalie was some kind of punishment. I don’t know what he saw in me, but he insisted that I become a goalkeeper like him. By the end of the season, I was just that. I was aggressive, I was loud, I was good, and, I was getting noticed! I was recruited onto a team with some very talented girls, many of which have now played for college teams.
As I got older, I competed at a very high level and every game became “the most important game of your life.” All of a sudden, the people on the sidelines weren’t just my family and friends. All I could think about was not blowing it in front of a recruiter or coach or writer, or maybe not being the kind of player that they wanted me to be. I had worked so long and so hard, but it just became all pressure and no fun. I fell out of love with the very thing I had centered my whole life around!
By the end of high school, soccer had faded considerably out of my life. I played mostly for women’s open teams, stopped training for the Olympic Development Program, and was content with the fact that I’d blown my chance for a soccer scholarship. Really, the idea of getting a partial scholarship that required at least 30 hours of practice time a week didn’t sit well at all for me. What did I care? TOPS was sending me to college for free anyway. I played one season of LSU women’s club soccer in 2006, and it was so horrible I almost swore off soccer forever. I always tried to keep track of the players that stayed with it though. I felt a connection with one player in particular, Robyn DesOrmeaux, LSU goalkeeper from 2001-2004.
Robyn and I were goalkeepers on rival teams growing up. It seemed like every time we’d get to a tournament, tryout, or state championship game, there she was. We’ve gone up against each other in shootouts a few times. I remember that she used to kneel and pray before each shot. Even though we were on different teams, we were a lot alike. We were aggressive and fearless on the field. I respected her for her skill as well as her drive. She loved the game, and she never gave up. Little did I know, I had only caught a glimpse of the determination and fight that Robyn had inside of her.
Robyn was one of the best goalkeepers in LSU history. Soon after her athletic eligibility ended in 2004, she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. The doctors gave her a 10% chance to make it for five more years. She stayed positive, adding her jersey number, 99, to her percentage of survival, giving her “109%.” Robyn died on Thursday, August 27, 2009. It was a real wake-up call for me.
I needed to get back into a sport. I needed to face my fear of failure that caused me to hate doing the things that I once loved. More importantly, I knew I needed to be able to redefine “failure” in my head. I want to believe that failure only happens when you give up on yourself. I hate the way that I was programmed to think. Now I know that there’s much more to winning than having the highest score, and there’s much more to losing than being beaten. I know there’s a way to balance fun and competitiveness, I just have to trust in it.
So back to the original question. How did I get here? Besides curiosity, I don’t remember what motivated me to go to a Red Stick Roller Derby bout last year. The only thing I remember is being there with a huge smile plastered across my face thinking, “This is where I’m supposed to be. This is my chance to start over.” I didn’t know if these chicks were like me, but I definitely wanted to be more like them. It took me a while to take a leap of faith a join the team, but I don’t regret it. My teammates are everything I’d though they’d be and more. I want to be able to honor Robyn’s memory, and love a sport for what it is. Love it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I AM Tank Goodness. Failure is not an option.