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
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.