Men’s derby? Yes. Banked track? Oh yeah. Children’s derby? Yes. Dinosaur derby? Please!? Japanese game show horse racing roller derby? YES.
I believe everyone should wear roller skates. As frequently as possible. Derby Lite, men’s league, rec league, whatever. Just get in roller skates, baby.
Tonight I went to my first junior derby bout(s). I’ve seen these girls around my league’s practice area, so I knew they could skate. But this was the championships for the four home teams. The first bout was close at first, but eventually turned into a 100-point separation.
But the second bout was tight tight tight. Maybe a billion lead changes, especially toward the end. It was a 8-point game, I think. Won by a power jam. Just like big-girl derby.
These girls were 12-17 years old. And, as I said, I 100% support junior derby, but I’m also sort of torn about it.
The pros: We — derby nation — are helping raise strong, fierce, independent-but-team-minded women who can work together and have learned to get up after every fall. They know what it is to win and lose and that no one is a star — they all need each other. And that’s super important and something to be wicked proud of.
The maybe-not-so-pro(????): We are raising the next generation of derby players. Literally. Since derby made a comeback in the mid-2000s, there haven’t been “professional” players. It’s an amateur sport. And that’s why a lot of us love it. A 40-year-old English teacher who has never roller skated (“who the fuck roller skates?”) or done anything athletic in her life can easily join many fresh meat squads around the nation. If she works hard, she can probably be on a B team in a year. The girls who join derby and are instantly good are usually the oddities who play hockey or were rink rats growing up.
How does junior derby change this? Maybe it doesn’t. But maybe it trains a load of women how to play derby and they go into real teams. And then these 40-year-old teachers are now not only competing for a spot on a team with an 18-year-old, but a teenager who is trained to play and has played for literally years. Maybe it takes a little of the “anyone can do it” out of the sport.
OK. Enough of that not-so-nice stuff. What it really comes down to is this: Derby is changing. Has been since day one. We’re getting new rules, new loopholes, new players all the time. That’s another beautiful part of this sport. So if we get all these rambunctious, talented young ladies, the sport will shift — again. And again. And again. Elevating the sport. Arguably mainstreaming it, sure. But is that so bad? There will be B teams and rec leagues and maybe that’s where the “everyone can play” aspect of derby is going. Raising strong young women is more important anyway. We need more of those.
One thing I’m proud of: I left it all on the track today at endurance practice. Three things I’m grateful for: A new teammate who gives me great feedback, my new endurance coach who is firm but supportive and helpful and kind, the chance to do this.