What Makes Us Dames?

March 29th, 2013 | 0 comments

Roller derby is hard. And not just for the reasons that you think it is. Sure it’s physically and mentally demanding to hit the track for practices and bouts, but it’s also pretty time-consuming off the track. Our organization is entirely skater-run (“by the skaters, for the skaters” is one of the mottos of our parent organization, the WFTDA), which means in addition to our daily jobs as scientists, programmers, nurses, teachers, business-owners, doctors, social workers and a slew of other professions, not to mention additional time spent as parents, volunteers, students, etc., our Dames have to run the league: insurance and paperwork, fundraising, marketing, outreach, finding venues to skate (and you can help!), coaching new recruits, spreading the derby love. One thing all of them would agree on is that being a Derby Dame is next to impossible without the support of family, friends, and co-workers.

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Apple Clobber and husband Bill, whom she credits with encouraging her to start derby.

Give a Dame an opportunity to tell you how she does it and she’ll be quick to point out that her hard work on the track should also be credited to her support network. I asked my teammates to share with me their thoughts about how they do it. Many mentioned their significant others. Apple Clobber remembers how her husband, Bill, made it possible for her to join and encouraged her along the way:

When I was first thinking about trying derby, fresh meat practice was on a night that my husband, Bill, played softball. Since we have kids, one of us would need to stay home. He took a break from softball, so that I could try out derby. Then, for a few weeks in a row, he would gently remind me that I should go to practice. Finally, I tried it and I don’t think I would have ever followed through if it weren’t for Bill. Since then, he has been very patient with how much time derby can take up. He is often the person telling me that I should go to practice and not give up, when I am feeling tired or frustrated about derby. I couldn’t do it without him!

Vixen DeBrawl, half of our one of our derby “power couples” with husband Rex Knightly, loves that derby is something the two of them can share:

Vixen and Rex at Five Stride Skate Shop, owned by Bonnie Thunders, in Brooklyn holding the trophy Gotham won in Nationals (called The Hydra).

Vixen and Rex at Five Stride Skate Shop, owned by Bonnie Thunders, in Brooklyn holding the trophy Gotham won in Nationals (called The Hydra).

I started playing roller derby with the Charlottesville Derby Dames in May of 2008.  For two years, my husband put up with the seemingly endless practices and meetings.  He could never understand what would make it necessary to have so many meetings!  Once our head ref moved, he decided to give reffing a try and he, too, became a Derby Dame.  Reffing didn’t work for him and, with the expansion of our team, he moved onto coaching.  Now he understands why we need so many meetings, and he has even called a few himself!  It has been such a boost to our marriage for both of us to be involved in this activity that has become an all-consuming part of our lives.  I don’t think I could do it without him.  Honestly, you can’t fully understand what derby is about unless you are in it and I am grateful that we are in it together.

Newest member of the All-Stars The Big Bangarang also recruited her boyfriend to the team:

My boyfriend, Christian (Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang’s Bang), has been very supportive in me joining roller derby.  We are both very athletic and competitive people, and he completely understands my commitment to roller derby and the contact-sport side. He can’t really complain as he plays rugby, which involves plenty of time and contact.

He also decided to try fresh meat a few months ago and really liked it. Now he is the All Stars bench manager and is having a great time being involved with the team. It has been wonderful having him so involved with the Dames and allows for us to spend more time with each other especially on away bouts. 

Slam Gamgee and parents at the Debutante Brawl.

Slam Gamgee’s parents were there for her at the Debutante Brawl.

It makes sense that your off-the-track partner would be key to success in such a demanding sport, but they aren’t the only ones our Dames appreciate. Slam Gamgee points to her family as the reason she keeps derby-ing on:

My family has been incredibly supportive of my crazy decision to join derby. My Mom drove something like five hours to see my first bout. When she hasn’t been able to come to my bouts, she texts me before, during, and after the bout to tell me how proud she is of me. My Dad, upon seeing the Blocktoberfest poster on which I was featured, told me that all he wanted for his birthday was an autographed copy of that poster. It now hangs on the wall of his office (he is a Baptist minister), and he proudly tells everyone who asks about his derby-playing daughter. They have even financially invested in my derby career, purchasing workout gear and derby swag for me for all occasions. My sister even got me a custom necklace with a tiny roller skate and “Slam Gamgee” engraved on it! It is always nice to know that I have such a strong support group.

Last but not least, being a Dame sometimes takes the support of those not related to you: Co-workers and friends learn support our crazy schedules too. Bruta Liza made sure to give credit to hers:

This week I was very touched that a coworker of mine changed her schedule to allow me to work different days.  I’m doing 3 derby travel weekends this month and it was seriously impacting my pocketbook and leave bank.  She’s always been so kind, positive and excited about my participation in roller derby, but this month she went above and beyond.  It really helps to have coworkers who enjoy your dedication to the sport instead of seeing it as something that negatively impacts work. Thank you, Caroline!

I also want to acknowledge the love and support I get from my derby wife, MatilDa molish and best friends Alice and Morgan. Alice always reminds me that what I’m doing is incredible–and that she’s proud of me and tells her fancy L.A friends that she knows a derby player.  Morgan will listen to my boring stories and tell me I’m not crazy for caring so much.  MatilDa traveled to our first away game, encumbered by twins and life stuff and cheered me on.  They all put up with me being even worse at calling and keeping in touch than I was before.  They are there for me when I need to get outside of the derby bubble. Thank you.

Dames without you guys, would be Dames at all! (photo by Dan "Jugglenaut" Purdy)

Dames without their friends, families and fans wouldn’t be Dames at all! (photo by Dan “Jugglenaut” Purdy)

And of course, Dames support each other. Bruta went on to note “I know this is an article on how outside people help us do our magic on the track… but I also want to thank my teammates for inspiring and pushing me to be better. And want to thank SparKills in particular for her support.”

Finally, all the Dames want to thank you: our fans, volunteers, sponsors, supporters, and community. You allow us to do something we love that has given us so much: confidence, friendship, strength, creativity, passion. Derby love to all!

Post by Grëtel vön Metäl (who herself couldn’t do it without Mr. vön Metäl
(and her cat Zooey vön Metäl!))

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