Putting roller derby in the context of life

Note: I wrote an [since-deleted] entry on the Assault City vs Roc City roller derby bout on May 15. It elicited such a warm response from Crazy Diamond, who handles Assault City’s PR, that I asked if I could post it here. These are her words, unedited. —JS

I work in a nearly all-male environment and it’s great to be involved with something that is for women, by women and about women. Sometimes I am in awe when I think about our team and what we have managed to do both on and off the track in a little more than two years. We all use our particular skills to benefit the team. I’m in marketing for my day job, so I do PR and media. Our treasurer is a bookkeeper by day. Everyone brings something to the table. Male involvement is limited to support roles, such as refs and non skating officials. This is not be construed at all that we are man-haters or anything like that. The dynamic when it’s just women is simply different. Our husbands, boyfriends, whomever – who we refer to as our “widows,” are our biggest fans. We cannot do what we do without their support because derby is such a big time commitment. And our widows all get an unofficial derby name too!

Through derby, I’m meeting women I wouldn’t otherwise in my daily life. We’re a pretty eclectic bunch, but we all count each other as derby sisters. And despite what often happens when you get a bunch of women (especially strong, driven women) together, we don’t have a lot of drama. The environment is very supportive and I feel like I have a whole network of people I could rely on if I was in a bad way somehow. People on the team have found each other jobs, attended each other’s weddings, thrown baby showers, whatever. We’ve helped each other through divorces, moves, all kinds of stuff. The support is on and off the track. It extends to other teams as well. If a derby girl visits from out of town, we get an email or call asking if she can attend a practice. High-powered teams hold clinics to assist newer skaters in their development. People send money or gifts when a player is injured.

And thank you for bringing up the role of women in sports and all the shit, as you put it, that’s out there. There are a handful of men’s derby leagues, but it’s almost exclusively a women’s sport. There aren’t many you can say this about. No worries about the men getting top billing. People seem more fascinated by women playing derby than men. However, many people don’t take it seriously as a sport or mistakenly assume it’s fake, and the derby of yesterday perpetuates this myth. You’ve been there – you’ve seen how physical and athletic it is and you know it’s not fake. We train really hard and I would challenge any nay-sayer to get through a practice with us. I consider myself an athlete and want to be regarded as such. Yet I’ve done press and been told ON THE RADIO that my derby name sounds like a stripper name and I feel that mentality marginalizes us as athletes. (The derby name provides anonymity to otherwise normal people; I would be inhibited if my real name was in programs and on the websites and airwaves. There are fans with screws loose out there.) Yes, we wear fishnets and cute outfits; that’s just derby style. But you can be strong and sexy at the same time; be an athlete and feminine; look hot while kicking some ass. If you don’t care about looking hot, then just go kick some ass and that’s totally fine and really more important at the end of the day anyway.

We are evolving into a force that rivals most other local semi-pro sports teams, in my opinion, in terms of our reach, organziation, and economic impact. We rent facilities, have partners/sponsors, sell team merchandise, spend money locally to promote and put on our events, etc. And we do this for fun, not for money or as jobs. All funds go back to the team for development or to charity. Being able to help the community in which we live through our charitable works is just the icing on the cake of all of this. Our next bout benefits the Galisano Children’s Hospital.

Sorry to drone on… Obviously, I have strong feelings for this sport and I work tirelessly to promote it and my team. I’m just glad to see someone pick up on the things that are the best and most unique elements of derby, rather than just another simplistic piece about being a housewife by day and derby girl by night, as though we all live some kind of Clark Kent/Superman existence.

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