Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Derby retirement: Now what do I do?

I love derby: this sport motivates me to watch footage, talk derby, learn new things and increase my skills.   Most of my friends on Facebook are derby related, and of course I write my blog.  A large part of my life is spent thinking and practicing derby.  I think most people feel this way about our sport.

I have met many amazing people in derby, people I may not have met otherwise, and I cherish their friendships.  Some people become true friends outside of derby, but most people will probably remain just "derby folk" in my life, and that's ok.  I understand that everyone will have to leave derby at some point, or at least not be as active in it.  Life becomes demanding, knees give out, and eventually bruises and injuries become too much.  Some people retire gracefully, and some people have it forced upon them, but either way, it can put a strain on the friendship of someone still in derby, and someone who has decided to retire.

I had quite a few of my derby friends and sheroes retire a year ago; I knew it was the right time for them to leave the sport, but it was really hard to go to practice and realize they wouldn't be there lacing up their skates next to me.  When you skate with people for a while, you get used to them being there.  I knew that these people always had my back out on the track, and I really missed them.  At first, I hoped that some of them might change their minds, and then when they didn't, I found myself reminiscing about them to the newbies.  I'm sure that the rookies were like "That's great, but who is it again?" Sigh.  It was a hard transition to make for both the retiree and myself.
Love these ladies!
Sometimes, it's hard to be around my retired friends and NOT talk derby most of the time; derby is a huge part of my life, and I want to share it with people everywhere!  But I do make a concerted effort not to talk about derby constantly with them.  At times, I find myself editing what I was going to say, even though I want to tell them about about that great hit I made on a really badass skater, or how someone lost a wheel off of her skate in the middle of a jam and managed to get lead jammer!  At times, I find myself seriously editing what I say, and that does lead to some awkward quiet moments.  (It's like ignoring a three hundred pound gorilla with PMS stinking up the living room.)

We all muddle through somehow, and even though they aren't active in derby anymore, my friends are super supportive of my derby choices.  I hear them cheering me on in every home game, and I still ask for their input in my blogs and derby life in general.  It takes a fine touch, but I think we have reached a good balance in our social lives.

Of course, most of us aren't considered balanced in our "normal" lives.

 KG Bebe left derby a year ago, and has shared some of her experiences below. 

1. Be prepared for a physical withdrawal.  Endorphins are addictive, and so it may take you a while to re-normalize.

2. You will now have a LOT more free time.  It's a good idea to find something else to fill it so you don't go stir crazy and lose it.  Some of these things should involve other people.  Being by yourself after having been in a large group for some time can make you paranoid and crazy.

3. You may want to give yourself some time before going to games.  Chances are, you're going to want to be back out there.  It's going to drive you nuts when you see people doing stupid shit on the track because they're out there and you're not.  Don't torture yourself before you're ready to handle it.

4. It will be hard to sit there and talk about derby, particularly after you've long run out of stories that are relevant.  It's good to figure out what other topics you and the derby people you want to keep in your life have in common.

5. Don't be afraid to admit that there are people with whom the only thing you had in common was derby, and it's okay to let those people go.  Or in some cases, shove them away with great force.


  1. What do you suggest for people who are ready to stop skating (due to prolonged injury or just can't do it anymore) but don't want to leave derby behind? NSOing? Coaching? Reffing? How do you stay part of the community?

  2. I think retired skaters should coach, ref or announce. Retired skaters have so much knowledge and experience...share it with others!

  3. I've taken 2 breaks that about killed me :( I'll be super sad when I finally retire.

    1. We are all going to have to face that inevitability some day. :(

  4. I recently retired and everything on this list is something that I am going through. Being with people that had your back and a group you once belonged to no longer exists. :( I love the extra time these days and am focusing on my career now which is why I retired in the first place but it's still really hard! Thank you for posting this.

    1. Red Stang wrote a lovely blog post for me of how to treat retired skaters. I hope you read that one too. :)