Growing up, I never played team sports. My older brothers both did, but I wanted to do something different from them, as most of my life has been spent trying to distinguish myself as my own person rather than so-and-so’s younger sister. I did run track and cross country throughout middle and high school, where I was totally reliant on myself for my time and place in the race, but that was it.
I joined the Charlottesville Derby Dames in November of 2013, and became an official member in January of 2014. My first bout was September 27, 2014, against the Kill Devil Derby Brigade. I had no idea what I was doing and so Rex, the beloved Belmont Bruisers coach, had me jam because blocking requires playing well with your teammates and understanding game strategy. As a jammer, as long as you pay attention to your coach’s signals and understand that you need to get out of the pack ASAP to score as many points as possible, knowing strategy and being able to play with your teammates is less important (or at least it was for me as a new roller derby player). I continued to primarily jam through the last games of the 2014 season and again throughout much of the 2015 season.
I decided I wanted to start blocking around the middle of the 2015 season. Jamming requires a kind of confidence that I don’t always have. You are the person who is responsible for your team’s points during the jam when you’re on the jammer line, star on helmet, waiting for the whistle. Don’t get me wrong; I can do it, I just don’t enjoy it (some jammers do). To become a successful blocker, I had to learn to work with my teammates. I had to learn to stay and block with SparKills instead of going up to block the jammer by myself. I had to let Maven grab my hips to do some blocking with me as her anchor. I had to let Nacho and Swift grab my forearms and upper arms hard enough to bruise in order to hold me upright as I blocked a jammer. I had to become part of a team, I had to rely on others, and I had to let them rely on me.
Teamwork is what makes or breaks a roller derby team, both on and off the track. The jammers need to be able to communicate with the coach and the blockers, and the blockers need to be able to effectively communicate to utilize strategies for the game. The more we play together and the better we communicate, the better players we are together and the more effective we are as a team. No one is on the track alone, and no one skater makes the difference between a win or a loss. We all make that difference.
Roller derby is more than the teamwork our fans see on the track. There is much that goes on behind the scenes to make CDD an awesome league. We are an organization of strong women and men who work together for a common goal: to make CDD a competitive roller derby league that has fun while being part of our local community. I am glad I finally found my team in the Charlottesville Derby Dames.