Sunday, April 13, 2014

Derby is not for Everyone and not at Every Time.

I know that everyone always says that derby is the most accepting of sports, but I absolutely disagree. This sport is not for everyone, at least not at the levels that it seems to be reaching for. Even casual teams who don't aspire to play on the level of Gotham, probably shouldn't take everyone who is interested in derby. I know this sounds counter to the whole DIY philosophy of derby, but hear me out. Derby, is not really for everyone, and certainly not for everyone at every time in her or his life. If you are actively recruiting for your league, maybe you should consider some of these reasons not to play derby before you get all gung ho and rabidly recruit people.

Reasons not to encourage someone to play derby

1. They are the sole provider of income for your household. Look, derby is dangerous. Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. Yes, I know you can hurt yourself pretty terribly in real life, but you're upping your chances when you play derby. Not only have I seen people screw themselves up learning to skate, but I've seen just about every other kind of injury during derby. Spiral fractures, popped ACLs, shoulder injuries, elbow injuries and the ever sneaky concussions are just a few of the possible injuries waiting for you in this sport. It's hard to support your family when you can't do the basic requirements of your job. Some people have amazingly understanding bosses, some people do not, and some people are self employed. It kind of sucks when you're taken off of your feet by an injury, and you're self employed. I understand that people have to make their own decisions, but sometimes people don't really understand just how hurt you can get in derby.

2. They don't have a lot of money to dedicate to the sport. As derby has developed, it's gotten way way more expensive. A good set of skates can cost $500, and wheels can be up to $120 per full set. Now, pile on top of the "start up fees" league dues, travel money, gas money and jersey costs. Derby ain't cheap, and it's just getting more expensive as teams are forced to travel further and further in search of ranked games. Maybe derby isn't the best idea for them at this time. Does that mean forever? No, but it might be something to think about.

3.  They don't have a lot of time for the sport. How long does it take to create a good derby player? I'd guess, even the most talented of skaters take a while to marinate in derby juices until they're at their peak of flavor. Ok, that was gross, but that's how I think about the developing of the derby skater. If your potential recruit is playing another demanding sport, working 40+ hours a week, and has a lot of familial obligations, derby might not fit into her or his very busy schedule at this point. People don't necessarily comprehend the time drain that is derby, and they just can't really dedicate themselves when they do figure it out. Nothing sucks worse than training someone, seeing that spark, and then having them realize that they can't actually commit themselves to the sport.

4. Their fitness level is low or non-existent.  I can hear it now, "But Q! Derby loves all body types!" Of course it does. Who am I to describe what a successful skater looks like? What I'm saying is that if a person who hasn't worked out ever in life wants to join derby might have a long haul ahead of him or herself. I have always said in my blog that you don't play derby to get into shape, you get into shape to play derby. Derby, at any level, is physically demanding. Ankles need to be strong, cores need to be tight, and the leg muscles need to be ferocious. Derby demands a certain level of physical fitness, cardio and endurance, and if there isn't a couch to derby app, someone needs to make one.

5. They don't take criticism well. If your potential recruit is a delicate flower when it comes to feedback, then derby is really not a great place for him or her. Many times derby either gives you too much criticism in unpleasant tones, or none at all. People have to be self directed and self aware to strap on the skates. If the recruit you're talking to is in a delicate and vulnerable place in his or her life, maybe derby can wait for less tempestuous times.

Yes, I know, everyone is a "grown ass adult" but sometimes people who haven't had much experience with derby don't necessarily know everything that goes into it. Be a good guide, and be honest with your recruits.


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  2. I think this is why our level 1, prefreshie group, is so successful. Even tho we explain most of the above in our recruitments, we have a place that people can figure it out. All of our skaters start here unless they are an active skater transferring from a WFTDA league. We break it down further into a, b and c groups. A and b work more or less together, and c group works on the super basics, some of them just learning to skate, on the outside of the track. There are no timelines to acquire skills, and no attendance requirement until you hit a group and are preparing to tryout for fresh meat, or what we call level 2. Do we have attrition? Yes. Do we stress about wasting time training skaters who eventually fall out due to one of the above? Not really, as we expect it and still get a good number of great derby girls out of it. #1 rings true for me right now, and is why after 4 years I'm currently retired.

  3. This is really true. When I first started skating, everyone was chanting you can do it! Except I can't. Not yet. I'm out of shape and overweight, and my basic skating skills are atrocious at best. It took me pushing myself to a major knee injury and ankle break to realize I was really ignoring the screams from my body because I didn't want to disappoint my cheering squad. I've now dialed it back and realize that I'm not physically or financially in a place for derby right now. I'm still working toward it, but I understand the path to get there a bit better now.

  4. Soooooo this post really bugs me because it's partially true and because it hits way close to home. As someone who is still fresh meat and who started when she was incredibly out of shape, I would like to say that derby has done amazing things for my body and I've accomplished things I never thought I could accomplish. Am I bouting yet? No. Will I be soon? Probably not. Do I think I would be bouting already had I been in excellent shape upon entering derby? Probably. Is my league dumb for letting someone who loves the sport learn to skate even though they are out of shape? No.

    I AGREE that in order to be a great skater it's imperative to be strong off the track. But learning to skate and participating in newbie practices and learning the rules of this awesome sport while you're working on those other things off the track as well is not such a terrible thing and I would hate for someone to be discouraged from derby just because they aren't doing WODs 3x a week.

    1. If you have the right expectations to be patient, I think that's great. Most people don't realize how hard it can be, and how long it can take. Being physically prepared helps people get into derby quicker, and so many people get defeated by struggling to meet the minimum standards.

  5. Elektra - Thank you for this post. I couldn't agree more with everything here!

  6. #4 strikes me to the core. My league does love to support me, and to let our FM know that one of our strong league skaters started out at 300lbs, unable to stand on skates, and out of breath by the end of a single lap when I could. It's really nice that I can be used as a goal or inspiration... but...

    Not so interesting is the complete diet overhaul, the 15+ hours in the gym a week on top the 10-12 hours of derby, + speed skating & artistic lessons for over a year, and actual horrifying pain from generally dropping an extra person off of your body. And I'm still not at the fitness level I want to be!

    #4 is not an insurmountable obstacle. But it's definitely a massive hurtle.

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