Sass E. Phrass, photo by Chris Switzer
I never thought, in a million years, that I could be a “derby girl”! I was not athletic. I was not thin. I was definitely not tough. Most of all, I was NOT a skater! I had roller-skated only a handful of times in my entire life. All of these times were at birthday parties and all of those times I was about 9 years old! All of these things were stacked against me…all of these things were in my 34 year old brain telling me that I could not do this.
My fist few times skating were as I had expected. I was surgically attached to the wall, slowly inching my way around the rink. I knew I wouldn’t be great to begin with, however, I had no idea that I would be that bad! I almost gave up. I told myself that this was not for me; that I was too slow, that I was too old, that I was too fat… I had a hundred excuses in my head about why derby was not for me.
Then, one day at practice, I did a T-stop… one perfect stop. My body did everything it was supposed to, my foot was in the right place, the pressure was good…it was perfect! And I stopped! And I didn’t fall! It may seem like a little thing to do to other people who have been skating for years, but to me it was HUGE! I realized that maybe, with a lot of practice and some faith in myself, I could totally be “a derby girl”.
Motor City Kitty, Photo by Chris Switzer
Roller Derby vs Family Time… nope…Roller Derby Is Family Time
A working mom who is also taking a full load of college classes might seem to have enough on her plate to try to balance but…. I love roller derby. I was hooked from the moment I joined my first practice. Not skating or being involved in some way is not an option for me. Luckily, I have a supportive boyfriend who is also involved with the team and there is now a Junior team for my girls to skate with. Roller derby has become more than just a hobby or a way to get exercise. It has become a lifestyle and an adopted family for me and my little family.
I love seeing my girls learn from a whole tribe of women. Meeting new faces, learning how to deal with other personalities and how to work together with them has taught these young ones so much already. The adults lift up my girls in such positive ways that I only wish I had an amazing group like this when I was forming how to be an adult. Plus, they get a chance to be a leader in their own group setting. I can see they truly enjoy it as much as I do and that makes me extra happy.
We all talk roller derby at home, over dinner, in the car and everywhere! We look at girls and wonder what position they’d play if they played derby. We watch derby games together with the kids catching missed calls or commenting on great strategy. We crack up when we watch Whip It and make jokes about anything and everything that’s derby related.
So, I do not think of it as one versus the other. It has become a wondrous mix and I couldn’t be happier.
Yooper Suomi, photo by Chris Switzer
Growing up in the U.P. I was very active biking, snowboarding, hiking, camping, ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and many other things. I continued to be active while attending Michigan Tech University taking snowboarding and mountain biking PE classes along with getting out on the trails most afternoons. I moved from the U.P. to Golden Colorado for graduate school and was able to continue being active and actually learned how to rock climb and play ultimate frisbee.
When I graduated something coerced me to move back to Michigan, but this time to the lower peninsula to be metallurgist in a steel mill in Dearborn. I knew from all my trips south growing up that I wouldn’t have as many opportunities to be as active as I had been Colorado and the U.P., but the job was exciting. So I packed up my belongings in February and moved to Michigan.
Less than a year after starting working my life got shaken hard, I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. I had surgery that removed more than 90% of it and then followed with 6 weeks of radiation. A couple months after finishing radiation I went to and adventure camp for young adults with cancer, First Descents, and learned how to white water kayak. What a rush, learning how to do another activity and talking with others about cancer. I joined a local cancer group and made close friends.
One of these new friends knew about Eastside Derby Girls through their head ref. I cannot tell you how we got to talking about derby, maybe we had just watched Whip It, but he told me about EDG and that I should go check it out. He made sure to introduce me to Stan and Stan shared the practice times with me. I showed up at practice and fell in love with roller derby. Derby allows me to get exercise after work, socialize with people that I otherwise never would have meet and help out our local community.