Friday, December 21, 2012

The Demise of a League.

Recently, something awful happened in our region; a derby league died.  The Charlotte Speed Demons were trying something new in our area.  "Established in 2010, the Speed Demons are part of the movement to drive roller derby to a professional level sport with an eye on inclusion in the Olympic Games. To promote the athleticism of the sport and create a family friendly environment, its athletes compete using their legal names and wear traditional sports uniforms."  They were a team that was run and owned by a non skater, and in theory the skaters were just there to skate.  A lot of the WFTDA leagues around here weren't sure what to make of it; some of us were critical, because we truly believe in "By the skaters, for the skaters" while others were hoping it would work.  Wouldn't it be great to not have to pay dues to skate?  Wouldn't it be even more awesome to be paid to do what you love?  Either way, it is really sad when a league disappears.  It might be something that happens more often since there are so many leagues around the country and world.  Some people might feel like it's a culling of the herd, but think about those skaters left bereft of a league.  Here is a Charlotte Speed Demon's reaction to the death of her league.

Genea Morfeld Swan wrote:

I am a derby girl without a team. It still makes bile rise in my throat when I think it.

What do you do when your derby team dies? Most people will never know this feeling. Our team was unusual in that it had an owner. Apparently an owner under a lot of stress with no contingency plan if he could no longer keep the team afloat. We had been moving towards more player involvement and had even developed committees like other teams. But our players had been sold on the idea that we would just get to skate and weren’t going to have to spend our time on the business side of things. So when the owner went, we just didn’t have enough dedicated bodies to keep the team going.

Favorite picture of my team.
It was a Friday when we got the email. To summarize, it said: “Sorry, I can’t do this anymore for medical reasons but if you can get it together in 48 hours we can talk about how to transition the team to the players.” We scrambled. We begged for a little more time. We scheduled a player meeting on Sunday but only seven people showed up. I saw the writing on the wall. If people can’t make the time to come to one meeting, how could we ever take over the team?

Those of us at the meeting decided to start a junior team and a rec league -- something Charlotte lacks. A few of us have also contacted other local teams because we can’t imagine life without competitive derby. That’s our attempt at carrying on. But not everyone. Some are still in mourning. They’re not on Facebook. They’re not talking. I am pretty sure all of us might be crying privately. I certainly know I am. Everyone grieves differently.

So many wonderful teams opened up their arms to me and offered me a spot, or practice time, or words of comfort when we made the announcement. I am truly thankful for such a wonderful derby community.

Like many other derby girls, I talked, dreamed and practiced derby so much I was at a risk of having no other interests or friends. Now my very first derby love is dead. How can I open the presents under the tree knowing I have an arm band with my numbers on it and a hoodie with my team’s logo on it? My team is dead. It won’t be back. Players that I worked out with are just friends now. But perhaps without our commonality we will grow apart. We will all focus on our own futures. Different teams, different goals, different lives. We will all carry on.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? If my post college co-ed water polo team had ceased to exist would I have been crying all the time? If my college had dropped my tennis team would I have moped around? I can’t honestly say... but I do know that I didn’t talk about them the way I did my roller derby team. I never went on TV to promote them. I never gave every penny I had in my bag to buy new bearings, a new mouth guard, new wheels.... I was just dating those other sports. I was married to the Charlotte Speed Demons.

And what do we do when someone we love dies? We mourn. But we also carry on. I can’t help but be excited to skate for a new team. To train young upcoming derby girls. The crying may not stop for awhile, but I’m not ready to hang up my skates just yet.


  1. Beautifully written, Genea. I am sorry as I know how you loved your team and the sport with the core of your soul. It is a death and I grieve with you.

  2. Thanks so much ladies. We really do appreciate everyone's kind words.

  3. Genea,

    I quite literally feel your pain. I was also on a Speed Demon team that failed. We were the Spoon River Speed Demons, and even though our league was run by skaters, we didn't have the geographical pull to keep people interested. I joined the league only a few short months before it folded, and I was one of about 4 people who worked for the next year to try and find a solution to make it work. It never did.

    This was a couple of years ago, and just this April I joined another league. It's an hour away, but it's worth it. I hope you find the same resolution.

    And, just because I always have to joke in the face of grief, perhaps the real moral of this story is to not have a team named the Speed Demons. Perhaps it's cursed! ;)