Monday, July 2, 2012

“It’s Not You, It’s Me” What Retired Derby Players Want Their Former Teammates To Know

This excellent blog post was submitted to me by Red 'Stang of the Circle City Derby Girls.  If you've ever wondered about what it is like to retire from derby and how said retirees would like to be treated, here it is!

Dear Active Roller Derby Players,
Once upon a time, I was just like you: my world revolved around roller derby. Every single day my body and brain were obsessed with practices, gear, strategy, stats, travel plans, committee work, and boutfits. I ate, slept, breathed, and lived derby… it was fitness, fun, camaraderie, and therapy all rolled (pun intended) into one incredible package. Like you, I gained so many valuable things from derby that I couldn’t imagine ever quitting — ever! Then things changed. I retired, and found that derby still had some very important lessons for me to learn. With much love and respect, on behalf of all past and future retired derby players, I’d like to share them with you.
Red ‘Stang, #289 (retired)
Circle City Derby Girls

Red 'Stang!

Things To Remember About Your Retired Derby Brethren
We Needed To Retire
We don’t want to retire! But for whatever reason, we’ve been forced to make that decision. Some of us suffer injuries that prevent us from playing — some so early that we never even get to bout! Others realize that we just aren’t cut out for derby due to health problems, lack of skills, or emotional reasons. Still more just find that life has intervened and needs more attention than derby can allow. Jobs change, babies are born, finances shift, bodies protest in pain. Regardless of our reasons for retiring, remember that we had to make that choice based on our own lives, not yours. We spent long hours reflecting and weighing the pros and cons, and many of us feel guilty for leaving vacancies in the league, especially if we handled a lot of tasks. It hurts — a LOT, physically and emotionally — to say goodbye to such a huge part of our lives. Some of us even retire, return, and retire again. Ever notice that sometimes even big-name pro athletes do this too? There’s a good reason. We’re not trying to be a pain, truly… it’s just such a tough decision to make that we may need the comparison in order to truly commit to retirement. We aren’t wussies or quitters! We’re intelligent people who are aware of our own need to re-prioritize when necessary. Please support us for caring about our own well being, and don’t spread gossip about our reasons for retiring, even if we don’t share them with you.

We Didn’t Quit You
It's not personal. (Well, usually.) Derby demands huge personal investment, and staying on your game safely and skillfully means being able to focus without distraction. There comes a time for each of us when that just isn’t possible anymore. Please don’t take it personally. We miss you! (Sometimes we even miss those we didn’t like, because you challenged us to grow.) Very few of us wish to leave our derby families permanently. If you miss us too (and you know you do!), invite us to skate at public sessions or open practices, call us up to have dinner, a few beers, or just to chat and share the derby love.

OK, Maybe It Was Personal
Nobody wants to admit it, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Shove a bunch of alpha types into a DIY outfit that requires working, competing, traveling and just plain getting along together six or seven days a week while playing one of the most violent sports ever invented and well… shit happens. Not everyone can handle the stress and strain, and people erupt like volcanoes. In extreme situations, sometimes a skater is asked or forced to retire, and that’s hard on everyone. Maybe we’re able to smooth it over and continue contributing in some other way, or maybe we have to remove ourselves from derby entirely, at least for a while. We don’t hate you, and really hope that you don’t hate us. Try to keep league BS to a minimum and prevent this from happening, but when it does (and it will, unfortunately), take the high road. We didn’t join the league to cause trouble, and we’re sorry for how it turned out. Bad-mouthing any player, ref, or league isn’t OK, ever — it hurts us all — and don’t we have enough bruises? 

We’re Still the Same Awesome People

Quickly list the shared traits of your teammates. Did you use the words strong, smart, confident, and talented? Well, guess what? Retiring from derby takes the same amount (or more!) of those traits as playing does, and we are not the sorts of people who make frivolous decisions or allow ourselves to stagnate. Retiring frees up enormous amounts of time that we can now use to attend to things we may have neglected, and also to tackle new and different adventures. We’re proud of our derby careers, and hope that you’re proud of us, too, whether we were MVPs or second-stringers, refs or volunteers. Have your league founders retired? Know that we sacrificed our own time, money, reputation and sanity in order to get those wheels rolling, likely long before you joined. Whatever our roles were, please let us know you appreciate our contributions: list retirees on league websites, give us a shout-out when we attend bouts and events, remember us in league histories. At the risk of sounding trite, respect your derby elders. We skated the same rough trail, and being acknowledged means a lot to us.

We Aren’t “In the Loop” Anymore
We aren’t on the league forums and aren’t privy to what’s going on all the time. We might not be as interested in rankings, scores, or stats as much as we used to be, and probably have other things we need to do besides gluing ourselves to DNN. Please don’t be offended if we don’t realize that you had a bout last weekend or a big event coming up, or even if you got hurt — we can’t know unless you tell us. Include us on the invite lists, and when we can, we’ll come cheer you on. When we can’t, we’ll appreciate the thought. And when you’re laid up in traction while all your teammates are at RollerCon, call us! We’ll bring you ice cream and walk your dog and listen to you whine, because we know what it’s like, and we still care about you.

Sometimes It’s Just Too Painful
If you’ve ever been injured and forced to watch from the sidelines while your teammates kicked ass, you’ve had a taste of what it’s like to retire. Our feet want to duck run, our bodies want to smash, and our brains want to call out strategies to the pack. We yearn to be on the track and sometimes it’s just easier to stay home rather than put ourselves through the agony of wishing we were still out there with you. Please keep inviting us, even if we don’t always show up. We’re your staunchest fans and we’re still rooting for you, if only in spirit. And eventually we’ll be able to attend bouts without wanting to fling ourselves into the abyss… give us some slack, and know that it’s an internal struggle that can last a really long time.

Our Identities Are Important To Us

We all choose our names and numbers with great care and attention to who we are. Some of us love being remembered and called by our skater names, and others need to lay those names to rest. Ask us which we prefer, and respect that. We understand that our names won’t be protected on the master roster anymore, and that new skaters may adopt our old numbers after we’re gone, but those names and numbers were (and still are!) a part of who we are, and we cherish them as our own.

We Like To Toot Our Own Horns
We have piles of derby gear and clothes that we refuse to part with, and many of us still love to wear our old jerseys. Why? Well, they’re practical exercise garb. But really it’s because we miss the feeling of being part of a team, the recognition of fans and the pride of having those logos on our chests. Remember that we earned our jerseys with blood and sweat just as you did, and understand that by wearing them we aren’t trying to pose as active players or disrespect those who are. We’re just proud to have been a part of derby, and like to show it off once in awhile. Besides, it’s excellent marketing — when people see those jerseys, they ask questions, and we answer — in your favor!

Our Game Wasn’t Your Game

Modern derby is still in its infancy, and the rules and strategies will continue to evolve as the sport grows and matures. We played by the rules that were current while we were active, and we may not be up to date on the latest WFTDA revisions. We might innocently yell dumb things at bouts, or ask questions that seem silly to you. Treat us like you would your cool grandma who doesn’t realize that cars now have remote door locks. We don’t mean to be ignorant; we just aren’t as aware of all those details anymore. Please don’t laugh when we make a mistake, and clue us in (gently!) on the new developments if we make a bungle.

We Are Still Skaters

We all get asked, “Why did you quit skating?” Sigh. We know you mean no harm, but the vast majority of us love skating and should still be called skaters. Many of us have skated all our lives, and if we haven’t, we’ve likely gained a love for skating that will never die. We just aren’t derby players anymore. Ask us why we retired, and if we still go skating (unless you know we can’t due to injury or health, please). Let us know when you’re heading to an open rink session or an outdoor trail — we’d love to come skate with you! Some leagues even hold special practice/fitness sessions that are open to retired skaters. If your league has the time and space, please consider doing this! Retired skaters are often willing to sign waivers, keep up their insurance and even pay a little extra for this privilege. We can offer a lot to newbies who need help, and we miss skating with folks who understand our derby love. Ask if we’d like to help coach, or run a skills workshop — we really appreciate being known for our skating skills, and now that we aren’t active players, we might have more time to share them than you do.

We Want To Stay In Shape

We’ve all literally busted our asses to gain the skills needed to survive and conquer on the track. Skating is great exercise! Retired players miss that fitness regimen, and most of us look for ways to keep up the strength, stamina, and hot bods we gained from all that hard work. Derby Lite was invented by players who recognized the benefits that a modified version of derby could offer retirees and those who can’t or don’t want to commit to a regular league. Please don’t make the mistake of labeling Derby Lite or any other sort of skating for fitness as less “respectable” than being on an active roster. Remember that we retired due to lack of physical ability and/or available time to handle all those practices, and respect whatever method we choose to stay in shape post-retirement. And please… don’t tease us if we aren’t quite the muscle mavens we once were. Derby teaches us all to love our bodies, whatever their size and shape, remember? That’s a valuable gift and we aim to keep it!

We Still Want To Be Friends
“It’s not you, it’s me.” A shoddy way to break up with a lover, but it’s so true. It just can’t be said enough: we miss you so much! Derby builds amazing friendships, and we miss seeing our special pals. We know your time is limited (do we ever!), and we understand how hard it is to see outside the derby bubble when you’re still on the inside. But please, make time to hang out with us when you have a few hours. Keep in mind too that we enjoy league news, invites, and even a little gossip, but… you know how your non-derby pals complain that it’s always “derby derby derby”? They’re right. Tone it down a little, and remember that we’re all made of other things besides who we are/were in derby. Foster those friendships in and out of the league so they’ll remain strong long after retirement.

Many thanks to all the retired derby players who divulged their personal feelings in the hope of helping active skaters understand them a little better. Someday you’ll be a retiree too, and I promise you… the impact is no less jarring than being knocked ass-over-teacups by a 250lb stack of Amazonian power blocker. In fact, I think most of us would rather take the hit.
Happy retirement, ladies! You’ve earned it.


  1. Very, VERY well put and well written, Elektra Q-Tion! Thank you so much for sharing what so many of us have felt and experienced. Thank you also for mentioning Derby Lite (that's my baby!) as a viable option for not only retirees, but for all ladies wishing to participate at their own level. We refer to this as "self-regulation"... I don't know how your life & body feels today, so you've got to be the one making the right choices for yourself.

  2. Whoops... meant to direct those comments to Red 'Stang. Altho by virtue of you reposting, Elektra Q-Tion, I love you, too. ;o)
    Barbara "Queen B" Dolan

    1. No problem! Of course i will pass along any comments to'stang!

    2. Thanks so much, Queen B! I love the self-regulation principle! And many thanks to Q (I love her too) for the opp to share this. :) —'Stang

  3. Excellent. I have been wanting to see more posts of this sort out there in the interwebs, as there is such a growing number of us retired folks. It's always so hard to explain the mixed bag of feelings to current skaters, it's like opening a pandora's box of emotionsand trying to talk about an ex lover that changed your life forever.

    I will always love modern derby almost like a child I helped create. Now that it's all grown up, its just awesome to see the wonderful things it's doing in the world. <3

    Kerri/Lethal Chrissy
    Savannah Derby Devils '06
    Naptown Roller Girls '06-'07
    Circle City Derby Girls '08-'10

    1. Thank you so much!! I'd just like to point out that the too-modest Lethal Chrissy co-founded the Circle City Socialites (now CCDG and newly approved WFTDA league!) and worked her little butt off to not only set up the biz, but also skate and then coach when she found herself pregnant. She's been my pal, my teammate, my mentor, and my inspiration, and lately, my landlady. Her coaching helped me make a double grand-slam in my very first bout, and her patience and unfailing belief in me has kept me going many, many times. I'm proud to call you friend, lady. :)

  4. ^^^^^This. All of it.

    Great job, wonderful article.
    After founding a league and actively skating for 6 years, along with all the other administrative duties, it is hard feeling left out of everything. But mostly it's hard to miss seeing everyone that you love on a consistent basis.
    But I do look forward to being old and gray watching derby on TV and telling stories about when I used to play. And I will always be proud as my league continues to grow and do well and to have been a part of flat track derby in its beginning stages.

  5. My thoughts exactly! I moved where there was no derby, and I felt so isolated and alone without my derby friends! I still miss being on a team! I've never had one as awesome as my derby team!

  6. Bravo, 'Stang! Thanks for representing ALL derby skaters, including those of us whose talents weren't always evident on the track. I like to think that there are just a few people out in the world wearing a Circle City Socialites t-shirt who might never have thought to buy a derby t-shirt, but they just couldn't get away from that short, chubby girl with the big mouth. ;) Derby was an amazing part of my life, and I will always proudly be...

    #13 Voodoo Blue (Jen Edwards)
    Circle City Socialites
    '08 - '10

    1. Big mouth, HUGE heart! I love you, Voo! I wanted to include something regarding non-competing league members, but wasn't sure how to do it exactly until you spoke up with your suggestions. Thank you so much for helping me figure out how to give proper credit to you and all the other invaluable league members who may not be scoring points on the track, but definitely raise the rankings of any league!

  7. Thank you for writing this article! I had to retire a few months ago after 5 very involved years due to health issues. Since then I have struggled with feeling like I "left the family". This has really helped put it into a better perspective.

    Malaria #B-54
    Bellingham Roller Betties

    1. Awww, you're so welcome Malaria! I'm so glad it helped you. Hugs to you and good luck finding the balance and peace you need post-retirement. Be well! :)

  8. Great Article! This is exactly how I feel. When I left, my league was tearing itself apart, and decided to have a big meeting to solve all of their problems. I was invited but I wanted to make sure that "I would not be in a room full of alpha females that did not want me there," and of course the term alpha female ruffled some feathers. After some hurtful remarks from my teammates and former Junior Derby coach, I decided not to return from my leave of absence (graduating from high school means that you miss a lot of practices). I miss my team and the sport so much and this article really sums up what life is like after derby.

    1. ps. someone should write an article about the challenges of going from junior derby to an adult league. Although maybe this is not relevant yet, as most junior girls are still pretty young.....

    2. Thanks, Vicious! I'm sorry you had such troubles; I hope you find your peaceful spot with derby and skating. That's a really good article idea, too. We have two junior leagues in Indianapolis, one all girls and one co-ed, and skaters are already moving up from junior to adult derby. I'm sure it's a strange adjustment period with its own particular pros & cons. You should try writing it! I truly didn't think my article would be anything more than a vent, but the response has surprised me and warmed my little black heart. I'm sure there are others out there who would appreciate that article!

  9. It has been a few years for me since I left Derby City Rollergirls and I just sat here and cried while reading this. Thank you for putting all of this into words. <3

    1. awesome. thanks, stang. total nail on total head. miss you guys. loved skating with you all even for just a little bit.

      little snarling #1.618 circle city socialitte '08-'10 +++ till the death ;}

    2. Oh, Red Tash, thank you! That makes me cry too... let's all have a good cry, shall we? :D And SNARLs... I heartchoo bunches and bunches! <3 <3 <3