Trying Roller Derby Unleashed My Inner Badass

Written by Jasmin Bryant

When I tell people I'm in a roller derby recreation league, I get a lot of different reactions:

"Wow, that's badass!"

"Is it like Whip It?"

"Do you just love hitting people?"

I giggle because I am the opposite of badass — I'm a hippie at heart. Peace and love are what I'm about. But I really enjoy derby!

I decided to join the Atlanta Rollergirls recreation league for exercise and to meet people. I'd been in Atlanta for a few years and didn't hang out much with others. Then I went to my first derby as a spectator, and watching was so much fun that I knew it would be for me.

I'm in the rec league's G squad, which for me should stand for "Granny" — I'm probably the oldest skater, but I don't care. The Gs are beginners of different levels. Before joining, I hadn't been on skates for 30 years, so I'm a nervous beginner but I'm getting more comfortable every week. I'm probably years from even getting to the league's minimum skill level of skill, but that's ok. I'm getting more from this sport than the chance to earn an awesome name that strikes fear in opponents.

1. Derby has shown me the value of teamwork.

I've never been much of a team player since I was raised basically as an only child and didn't really learn how to share. My natural state is to fight for myself.

As a member of the league, however, I'm a part of the wheel and we all have to work together to make things happen. One of my favorite drills is pack skating, something that used to terrify me. But in order to move through the pack and not drag everyone down, you have to communicate and work with each other, assist each other and accept assistance. Learning to do this (for my own good, and the good of the team), was huge for me.

2. Derby has taught me the importance of humility.

I'm used to being a superstar, always getting everything right, having all the answers. But at derby, I'm the slowest skater, the worst at nearly every skill and probably the most fearful. (I'm almost 40, I could break a hip!) It means the world to me when I get something right and it's pretty awesome when my teammates cheer me on. I fall down a lot and my head gets in the way of doing drills most of the time, but I get up, dust myself off and skate again with a smile on my face.

3. Derby has given me camaraderie.

This is a group of such amazing and supportive women. When my skates were killing my feet, a rec leaguer loaned me a pair of hers for our session. How fantastic is that?!

On endurance nights when the women on the teams skate with rec league skaters, I'm usually the only G. If I'm the slowest G, you can only imagine what it looks like when I skate with women who actually play the game! But they're always great to me, cheering me on, giving me tips skate better and get around the track faster.

4. Derby has instilled me with patience.

I'm probably the least patient person on the planet. Type A only children control freaks have zero patience. Now, not only am I learning to give up control — because gravity and momentum own me — I'm also learning patience. I know I won't learn a crossover move in one day (heck, I've been at this for 16 weeks and I JUST did one), nor am I going to magically jump over obstacle on the track. But if I patiently and systematically work on each skill, I'll eventually get them.

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