Slash and Burn(out)

As I mentioned in the last blog, it was end of season time at Black n Bluegrass. We start in January and begin practicing, take our yearly evaluations at the beginning of February and play our first bouts in April. We play bouts till October and then have our end of season party at the end of October. Our party this year was amazing, with 500 Miles to Memphis playing, and as I mentioned, I got my jacket! (Please note that I slept in it that night and have worn it every day since. Don’t judge me!) November and December are our “off months” where some people take a much needed rest from derby and spend time with their family during the holidays. During that time, we still have an optional practice, but our mandatory practices stop until January. For some FNGs, including myself last year, it was a question of “why anyone would need a break from derby?” Well, with my first full season under my belt, now I knew why.

Last year, I hadn’t passed evaluations when the end of season rolled around. I was so focused on getting better enough to pass, and I was still in the honeymoon phase, when all I thought about was derby and its wonderfulness. But by the end of the season I was a little burnt out. There is a lot that goes into being on a team in this league that has nothing to do with practicing or bouting. A lot of the Fresh Meat often don’t realize this when they sign up for bootcamp. I had some inkling, just from spending a season NSOing, but I really had no idea the time commitment that’s involved in playing derby. Let me give you an example: At each and every bout there are a number of items to take care of. As I said in an earlier blog, just on the day of the bout, there are a hundred different jobs to do—one reason why we have to get there so early. But the job starts even before bout day. There are tickets to sell, because that’s how we make money to pay for the venue (sadly, they don’t let us play for free, even though they should…). Someone has to coordinate the NSOs—who can be there, who knows how to do what jobs, etc. Someone else has to coordinate the volunteers that help us do other things, like the DJs, the announcers, the photographers. Girls who aren’t skating still have to put their time in manning the merchandise booth, or sitting at the front door collecting tickets.

Throughout the year, we are also doing fundraisers and charity events. We do the Spina Bifida Walk and Roll each year in support of one of our biggest fans, Jeremy Moses, along with numerous other charity events. We do Citybeat events to earn some advertising space for the bouts; we have to hang flyers for each event and fundraiser. And someone has to design those flyers and the programs for the bout. We skate in every parade that will have us, spending hours stuffing little bags full of candy and schedule cards to throw out at those parades. We do interviews with local radio shows, and generally do everything we can to promote ourselves. Fundraisers are another big time consumer. This year we were trying to raise money for a new venue, and I’m ecstatic to say we made our goal (come see us at the Bank of Kentucky Center next season!), but it was really hard work. Everyone was brainstorming, coming up with new ideas and ways to make money: yardsales, volleyball tournaments, reverse drag shows, public scrimmages. It was exhilarating, but also exhausting. As BBRG grows, we have growing pains, and everyone has to step up and take more responsibility, because the executive directors and the captains can’t do it all. All of this stuff is fun, but it takes away time from your family and your friends outside of derby.

Earlier in the season I got an email from a close friend, who accused me of dumping her for derby…and she was right. I did. I stopped being able to hang out as much, because I had so much going on. I cancelled on her at the last minute more than once. I found myself scrambling for babysitting, because I had so much I needed to do, and there were times my son was holding onto my leg, with tears streaming down his face, to stop me from leaving. There is a reason that they call those stay-at-home partners and husbands “derby widows.” I bought my son a shirt that said, “I’m a derby orphan.” It was funny, but sort of true, and I don’t feel great about the time I missed with him. I try to bring him along when I can—he loves being in the parades—but not everything we do is kid friendly. And forget about dating. Trying to date as a single mom is hard enough. Trying to date as single mom who plays derby is ridiculous. Who has time to go out to dinner when you have practice three or four times a week and events every weekend? Relationships outside of derby suffer a lot when derby is in-season. For every new relationship that begins (usually with someone in derby too), there is another that ends, and it’s not fun to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE roller derby. It’s changed my life in so many amazing ways. But there is a reality to all the time and effort that we put in. I may be a better skater, but am I a better mom or a better friend? I don’t know the answer to that, but sometimes I feel like it’s “no.” All I do know is that I was looking forward to the break after the end of season meeting. I wanted to spend time with my son and my other friends. I love my teammates, but at the time, I was tired of looking at them every day. I was weary of asking my friends for money for the team and walking the streets to hang up flyers, dragging my son in tow. It was getting too cold for short skirts and tank tops, and I’ve always been one to get the winter blues. Some of the veterans on my team have told me that every year by the end of the season, they’re just sort of “over it” for the year, and for the first time, I understood why. But they also tell me that when January rolls around, they realized how much they missed it, and by the time of the first bout, their derby love is at its height again. They miss their teammates; they miss the practices; they miss the adrenaline of a good bout. It’s now the beginning of the year, and I’m starting to feel it too. I spent the off season unable to skate because I got cellulitis in my leg from a spider bite. It was frustrating, because I wanted to keep some momentum going, even if I wasn’t going to beat myself up for missing a practice here and there to spend with my son. Instead I found myself not skating at all for almost 2 months, and it’s definitely taken a toll on my body. Holiday binging and sheer laziness have left me feeling pretty pathetic. I find myself itching to skate again so badly, it’s all-consuming. I miss how good I felt last fall from a season of exercise for the first time in my life.

The last season was amazing and getting my jacket was the culmination of a lot of hard work. But everybody needs a break sometimes, and I was definitely ready for mine. Now that January has rolled around, I’m renewed and re-energized, ready to take on some more great teams in spring, and I feel like I’ve gotten a little of my life back. We have a new practice space that we’re working on cleaning and getting ready and our new bout venue debuts in May. I’ve already started cleaning my skates and gear for when practice starts next week. All I can say is that it’s good to be back!