Live to Skate, Skate to Live

I love roller derby.

The camaraderie. The sweat. The hellish warm-up drills, in which I am not quite to the point I can do 15 push-ups in skates and full gear. The rock pouring out of the speakers, keeping time with the pace as we languidly lap each other around the track, laughing and playfully smacking each others asses. The snark. The sisterhood of the skate.

My girls are strong, and strong minded. They speak their minds, and aren’t afraid to chew someone out or offer an encouraging word in the same sentence. They are mothers, sisters, daughters. They work, some two or three jobs at a time. We meet here, at the rink, and become something greater than ourselves, three nights a week.

We go through the growing pains of a new-found league; trying to form our structure, make sure all the positions are covered, place people where their talents will be best utilized.
Our numbers fluctuate wildly; a girl is out for surgery, another goes through a bad break-up, yet another studies for an exam. They know we welcome them back with open arms.

We’re a ragtag bunch, most with ink decorating our flesh and metal protruding from various orifices. It’s been decided we are the outcasts, and wear our outsider status on our sleeves as proudly as the wristguards and elbow pads we don before practice. We also have decided we accept anyone willing to put in the effort to join us, and seek out big personalities instead of the best skaters. We can teach you to skate, we assert; but we cannot teach you to have a personality. And personalities we are, indeed. We are small, large, tall, short, buzz-cut, long-haired, quiet, loud, dark, pale, a beautiful conglomeration of womanhood.

Hip-checking, flying around the rink, yelling through our mouthguards, we all meet the floor in various ways throughout the course of the night. Our bruises are medals of honor and we show them proudly to whomever will look, taking pictures and posting them on our website like mothers pinning up crayon drawings on the family refrigerator.

After the night is over, we peel off the pads, the layers, the persona, and go back to our homes, our families, take hot showers, crawl into our beds…and dream of yelling fans, thigh-high striped socks, and the glory and defeat play out every night when we close our eyes.

Long live the skate!

-Jumpin Jess Flash