First of all. I hate the phrase retirement when it comes to stepping out of roller derby, but honestly I can’t find a better one to fit leaving a sport and a lifestyle that has been my main social and athletic outlet for the last eight years. When people have suggested that I might be addicted to roller derby, they may not have been that out of line.
I’ve struggled with the idea of retirement for the last three years; I know deep in my heart that my body can’t keep up with this sport forever, but there is always another goal, another opportunity to try to get to! The latest two year crusade was to get our team back to Division 2 WFTDA Playoffs, and we achieved it! In my normal derby mode, I’d already have a new and even more interesting goal to scope out on the horizon, but since I know I’m retiring, I’m trying to not go searching for anything that would tempt me to stay in derby.
It’s easy to see why people end up paring down their Facebook friends’ list dramatically after leaving derby; it is tough to read that Team North Carolina is preparing to go back to the Battle of the All-Stars State Tournament next year, and knowing I’ll never be a part of that experience again is almost painful. My calendar, which was once claimed by derby, is now almost completely unscheduled, and the possibilities are almost overwhelming. What will I do with my free time?
“But Q, if you feel this torn, why are you leaving derby?” I’m leaving for so many reasons, and some are deeply personal, but I will share more of the general ones with you.
1. The time suck. Derby has taken so much away from every other aspect of my life, but mostly in time. My teammate, Fairy Brutal, once said that if she had done academics with as much dedication as she did to derby, she would have had her doctorate two times over. Skating isn’t the problem! Weekly practices can make real life a little hectic, but it’s the committee meetings, league meetings, league job requirements, and derby travel which have killed my time.
This year was particularly brutal for my team since we hit three tournaments, and they were all at least eight hours away. People were stretched thin, and even though I had a very understanding boss when it came to taking time off, I had to cut corners when it came time to doing housework, maintaining real life, and even keeping in touch with non-derby people. I don’t blame derby for how much time I gave it; I decided to let it take over my life all on my own, but I still need to take a step back and reclaim some “me” time before I grow to resent something that has made me mostly happy for eight years. Also, I just realized I haven’t been on a non-derby vacation in eight years. Oops.
2. Other people’s problems. Some call it “drama,” some call it “people.” Being around a large group of people for so long and being dependent on them for success in our mutual endeavor has been more than a little tiresome. As in most organizations, it seems like a small core of dedicated people keep the ship afloat, while about ten percent of the group tries to drill small holes into the hull. I am there for my teammates, but sometimes, just sometimes, I’d love to scream out “I don’t care” when it comes to the ones that are constantly in a state of chaos.
I hate chaos and poor planning. I strive to avoid chaos in my life as much as I possibly can, only to turn around and have to deal with someone else’s lack of preparation. It grows old after a while, and although I love and respect my teammates, it will be nice not to have to worry about someone making their practice hours, or their volunteer duties, or if they fixed their skates, or if they remembered the new strategy we have been practicing.
3. My body hurts. We all have aches and pains from derby on a daily basis; I can always tell when I’ve taken some time off of skating and then come back to a particularly vigorous practice. The soreness can be intense! However, I’m talking about the pain and aches from being unkind to your body for a long period of time; my knees grumble at me on good days, and scream at me on the bad ones. My ankle can predict the weather way more accurately than a Doppler radar, and I’m fighting fallen arches due to skating.
Derby has brutalized my body, and I let it happen; I’m starting to realize that what used to be okay at 39 is not as easy at 47. My knees started making creaky noises at age 40, and now the noises are accompanied by some more than moderate stiffness and pain; I’ve never liked to let my body dictate what I was capable of, but the knee issues have been a reality check for me.
4. I worry about head trauma. People have accused me of being too cautious when it comes to head injuries in our sport, but at D2s in Wichita this year there were many, many incidences of contact to the head. Quite a few of my teammates experienced it and had to be benched for 20 minutes or more. In my opinion, and this is ONLY my opinion, derby is going to see a lot more head contact as the game is being played currently.
5. I’ve checked off most things on my bucket list. Derby has given me the chance to increase my goals; when I first started, I didn’t think I had a chance in the world of ever playing on our team’s charter, or being my team’s captain, or representing my state in nation wide tournaments. For eight years I found new and more challenging goals to put on my bucket list; I even started writing a blog and doing a podcast on derby issues, and I am a regular contributor to Derby Central.
I still have a few goals that I didn’t achieve, such as actually skating on a banked track, but the goals that are left grow less important to me as I move along in my derby career. Sure, it would have been nice to teach a class at Rollercon on writing about derby, but that would mean I’d have to actually interact with humans.
I had been planning on retiring last year, but I got sucked back in by opportunities and the potential of our team going to D2s in 2016. It wasn’t that hard to talk me into staying, to be honest. I love derby, and I love going to clinics, learning new strategies, improving my skating and the thrill of working with my team. It seems like women have very few outlets in the “real world” to be able to work together, be competitive without judgement from others, and have physical aggression. I’m not sure how I will find a replacement for it.
It’s something I worry about, but then again derby has taught me to take risks and challenge myself no matter what area of my life I happen to be in. Will I continue to be a part of derby? Maybe. I have thought about reffing or NSOing or even announcing, but I doubt I will pursue any of those roles as fanatically as I have as my skating. I’m going to play retirement by ear and see where it leads me; the one thing I do know is that I will always keep skating, whether it be speed skating, or just street skating. I’ll never give up that great feeling of flying that having wheels on my feet lets me experience. My knees will just have to suck it up and enjoy the ride.
Elektra-Q-Tion has been giving tips to the derby world for years, and now it’s time to give her a few for retirement! Here are a couple submitted by some of her friends, and feel free to add more in the comments.
Punk Blocker – Palmetto State Roller Girls
I know the derby world will never be the same without you, but if you ever miss it give me a call. I will drive up to your house and punch you in the face! You will feel much better afterwards!
Raven Darkhold – Charm City Roller Girls
So, I know I’ve been thinking about what I want to do when I decide to retire. I probably won’t retire completely from derby, but will slowly transition out of it. After playing with and against you and seeing your passion for derby I don’t envision you walking away completely. I think it’d be fun to just go to games, cackle, have some beers, cackle, cheer on your friends and throw banana peels on the track in front of your enemies while you’re cackling…^_^ I think it’d be cool to do some traveling to visit other leagues and maybe even help with coaching in some of the time that you’d be otherwise using for away games and scrimmages with CRG.
Seriously though…do you…Spend time with your family and friends. Maybe try another activity that doesn’t take up as much time. I personally thought about trying rugby (but no pads…yikes!), women’s football (LFL…I’d need to be wearing more clothes…or I could try the local tackle team, Richmond Black Widows…Hmmmm…) or just join the local sports and social club, which sounds more up my alley. I’d get to play various games such as dodgeball, baseball, kickball, etc. as much or little as I want based on my membership level. Maybe that’s something that you can look into down in your neck of the woods so your staying active and constantly meeting new people. It’s not super serious or stressful, but an outlet for folks who either want to stay active athletically or need a place to start building their athleticism. I know derby was supposed to be this type of outlet, but let’s be honest, it’s not always the case for some of us.
I wish you the best in whichever path(s) you decide to take. I’m always here if you need to chat so feel free to hit me up any time. Good luck!!!
Damacia Johnson – Formerly Paris Kills of River City Rollergirls
What I can say is have a plan and stick to your plan. Having an exit plan helped me not wanna unretire. Also don’t over do it. Don’t have so much new stuff on your plate that you don’t actually get to enjoy the extra time you get when derby doesn’t monopolize your time
Watch TV, Play Video games, read and knit But don’t move from your chair and snack while you do it. Naps are great things, so much better than stinky pads and long car rides
Reconnect with those friends who stayed but would hint that they missed you while you played derby. They’ve been waiting to be back in your
Go on a trip you could never afford when you had to pay dues and and other derby expenses. I went to Europe the summer after I retired for 2 weeks.
Also let your derby friends complain to you about derby problems, it will remind you that you no longer have to deal with petty stuff like skater drama. Unsubscribe to all things derby. Unfollow people who only talk about derby, it will soon get annoying as you expand beyond derby.
Q’s Tips is written by Elektra-Q-Tion who is a monthly contributor for Derby Central and also has her own blog, “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Loose Wheel.” If you have suggestions for topics she should cover, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.