Before 2011 I had never heard of roller derby. I was just a miserable, little freshman suffering my way through the horrors of high school like everyone else.
Then, in my sophomore year, my best friend quit our Kung Fu studio to see if she had what it took to play this new sport called roller derby. As a loyal friend, I agreed to go to her first game at the Everett Skate deck.
My life hasn’t been the same since.
My first impression of roller derby was that it was a bunch of girls skating around in flashy skirts, racing and hitting each other. It looked terrifying yet amazing. Little did I know that it went so much deeper.
I joined the next season and officially became part of the Seattle Derby Brats, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young girls learn the sport of flat-track roller derby. I joined hoping to just have fun and learn how to skate. But in the end I learned so much more than that.
Through roller derby and the Derby Brats, not only did I learn about the sport, I also met some of the best people I have ever known. For me, derby was a place filled with like-minded young girls who were interested in being just as aggressive and athletic as I was. For the first time in my life, I found people who were like me and who seemed to get who I was. Some of the people I met in junior roller derby are the best friends I’ve ever had. It helped build my self-confidence as well as give me a community and support group. I have always felt like my teammates will be there for me no matter what, to pick me up when I fall – in derby and in my personal life.
Junior Derby was amazing, but after graduating from Garfield High School, I had to take another step. I was 18, and too old to play with the kids any more. As a freshman at the University of Washington with three years of junior derby under my belt, I packed up my skates to try out for the Seattle-based adult league, the Rat City Roller Girls, in 2013.
At first, stepping up to the adult league was intimidating. Every one was significantly older, and I got called “kid” or “little one” a lot, though always affectionately. I kind of liked that, and still do (don’t tell them that).
In September, after being in Rat City’s training group for a few months, I was drafted by the Derby Liberation Front, which is one of four Rat City home teams. At first I was nervous, because I was younger and smaller than everyone else. I worried that they wouldn’t take me seriously because of my age and would consider me immature. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The community, support and understanding that was with me when I was a junior carried into the adult league. I took a bit of a beating at first because the level of play was different and much harder, but the support was always there. Now I have the opportunity to keep improving my skills and strategies so that I can become an even better player. I get to play at a higher level, and my skating continues to improve and progress.
Last month was my debut bout at KeyArena with Derby Liberation Front, and it was unbelievable. The roar of over 3,500 fans was uplifting, exhilarating and rewarding. I felt I had arrived after all of those years of training. As a jammer, I scored 79 points during the bout. When my team won, it was a proud achievement.
Derby Liberation Front takes on the Throttle Rockets on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at KeyArena.
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