“Why I love roller derby” writing contest finalist:
“The Power of Quads” by Rettig to Rumble
It’s been three years since I stopped actively competing for the Rat City Rollergirls, the league I helped form. I never really got the skating part completely out of my system, so it’s not totally surprising that I was recently recruited back to the sport to skate for the Oly Rollers with minimal arm twisting. While the common reasons women enjoy this sport are likely applicable to me, it’s what this sport gives to others that really makes me love it.
Thinking back to a game I played in 2006 with Rat City, I clearly remember the highlight of my night happening off the track. Just after halftime, my leaguemate Dirty Little Secret and I were asked by a derby volunteer who also worked as a physical therapist if we would take a photograph with a patient of hers. She explained that this young woman was a quadriplegic who had gone through painstaking arrangements to drive roughly 250 miles north from Bend, Oregon to Seattle, Washington with her father just to see a “real live roller derby bout.” We were told that more than anything she wanted to meet a real rollergirl. We knew it didn’t matter which rollergirl she met, and, as it turns out, Dirty and I were to be the lucky ones.
We eagerly said yes and quickly skated over to her. She was young, in her mid twenties or so, and was genuinely thrilled to be meeting us. I could tell she was having a wonderful time. The audience around her happily made way for us to maneuver her wheelchair and position ourselves so that we could pose in the foreground of the bout going on behind us. She was positively beaming as her father proudly snapped a few pictures. We spent some time talking with her about the game and thanking her for her support. Then Dirty and I went back to skate the remainder of our game feeling like superheroes.
During the second half of the game I imagined that I was the woman I had just met and that I had miraculously regained the ability to control and maneuver my body after whatever terrible accident had befallen her put her in a wheelchair for life. I didn’t take one step, not one single stride, for granted. Every booty block I planted and every hip check I gave was harder than the prior one. I was a superhero not for myself, but for her. Even though my team ultimately lost that game, sharing a few moments of mutual bonding over the sport of roller derby with that woman was, to me, greater than any win could ever be.
In real life I’m just a regular old gal who works a day job and has problems like anyone else. But to the woman I met that night, I as a roller derby skater represented so much more: strength, courage, and perseverance. The impact of roller derby is felt beyond its skaters, and, in some very lucky cases, through them. That’s why I love roller derby. And that’s why I can’t give it up.