|Photo by Joshua R. Craig|
I retired for two reasons, I needed to heal from an injury and because derby was no longer fun any more for me. Derby for me had run it's course. It was fun till the last year and a half. I came into my league as a transfer from a competing league. I worked hard and made the allstar team about 6 months after I transferred in. I rode the bench most of my first year as an all star. I often was thrown in to jam because i was small and fast; I never really got tips or pointersabout jamming and never really got the opportunity to block.
I discovered little events and scrimmages outside of the league, learned and practiced with other
leagues to augment my own league’s training. I was invited to guest skate with a different league
and got my first multiple point jams with that team, which made me sad. That should have been
with my own team, but they didn't know my value. I became determined they would see that I
was worth training, and worth their time.
This was a theme that went on until I retired and they realized what i did for the league.
I was captain of a home team during my first full derby season with my league, and then i got to
be captain of our all star team my second year. I was captain for the following 4 years of the all
star team. I was voted in because i was fair, and I was levelheaded. I tried to always give good advice and I was fully aware of my skill level and pushed myself and others correctly during practice. During those four years, I was also on training committee developing plans, running practices, doing line ups, doing stats, developing ref relations, helping with recruiting refs and skaters, marketing the league, doing outreach with the community and in WFTDA. I wanted people to connect me with my league, especially in the derby community.
During that time I alienated my family and non derby friends, and lost two jobs because
of being distracted by derby and it's workings and not focusing on what was TRULY
I stepped back, I thought, and I reevaluated my involvement and wasn't captain the last part of
my derby career. The training level dropped, the cohesion of the team dropped, but I refused to
step in and stop it. It was how they wanted to run things. Despite the drop in our training, we
were doing well rankings wise. I thought I’d try something new, and worked on interleague
relations and marketing. I was the only one from the league to go to WFTDA meetings each year,
despite asking for support, but I was still able to get my league heard and made valuable
connections for us.
In 2012 I decided that I would start preparing for retirement. I had accomplished a lot of things,
and our schedule for 2012 was good. We would play a lot of great leagues and I would go out on
a high note. During 2012, we got really good, and our teamwork was wonderful. Our practices
were strong and prepped us well. We had a lot of new people things were good and our team was
competitive. I was very proud of where the team was headed and felt confident that they would
be ok without me. It was during the summer that i realized in my heart I couldn't leave yet; so I started looking forward to skating the next year. .
2013 started out well, everyone was focused and ready to work and move up to be at D1
tournaments. It was my goal. I wanted to play at a tournament my whole career, an actual
WFTDA tournament, and it was all within reach. Then, egos got big and the team work crumbled; people stopped working together, and they started focusing on the "super stars." They started to basically take orders from the divas of the team, who were talented but needed to remember they were a part of a team.
During a game, I took a fall on a metal grate and hit my knee just right. I was out of the game for 15 minutes, then back in because the bench coach looked desperate and everyone else had quit. After
that game, I found out I had nerve damage to my knee. I had to stop skating in order to let it heal. Unfortunately, my team was dropping like flies; this person wasn't eligible to skate because of attendance, this person hurt their thumb, this person had cramps, and this person was butt
hurt about another game. I felt I couldn't let my team down by not skating. Plus, in my head I rationalized "it only hurts if I fall, just don't fall." So without fail, I went to the doctor every
two weeks for therapy and played the entire rest of the main part of the season.
I took off in August to rest, and it was that month i fully realized what i had been missing. My
friends and family that were there before derby were still there and EXCITED to have me back
around, and i had fun. I felt important again. I felt valued. I missed that feeling. I realized that I
would need to stop derby in order to keep that feeling, but I was determined to finish out the
main season. During that month, 3 people from the team retired. A lot of the team just assumed that I would do what I did in 2012 and reconsider my decision to retire, even though I had made it clear at the beginning of the year would happen, and that i was preparing people to take
over my jobs when i finished my last game in November.
As November approached, people didn't have eligibility or they didn't pay their dues and thought it was ok because they were allowed a pass before because they were "special." Instead, this time they were not, and instead of being a good member of the team, they just quit. This got me to thinking, "What am i doing? I am hurt, and I've been playing hurt most of the year. I gave up time with my family and friends who cared about me and love me to be here." People on the team didn't put in the effort at practice, they whined about endurance, faked injuries during endurance and miraculously healed in time for scrimmage. They didn't listen during explanations of drills, and then complained they don't know what's going on. They ignored advice from their coaches and trainers, but when a guest skater said exactly what was said weeks earlier they made it their new mantra. They whined about being hit too hard, and practice being too difficult and too competitive. And I was done.
The only reason I had stayed as long as I did, was a sense of responsibility to my team, but my team did not have the same commitment to the sport. I wrote my retirement letter and sent it out the night before the last game. It was positive despite all the feelings of disappointment I had and encouraging. I went out and had fun during my last game which was not the type of game I'd like to end my career with, but I was having fun. I wasn't letting the bickering and egos on the bench effect my last time on skates for the forseeable future. I got MVP, something that rarely came my way in my career and because no one else would do it, I skated the last jam, to a standing ovation. It was great. The next day I laid in bed instead of going to a circular league meeting and thought about the last 8 years of derby. I thought of all the good times, few were moments with my own team, and many with other teams and leagues.
That first week, people didn't realize I was gone. 2 weeks into the new season, I started getting emails asking me WFTDA questions, and other league questions. Later, I found out they had pushed my replacement too hard and she quit. I told them politely that I am retired, and gave them information about people who could help them, and continued on my merry way. They left me alone and it was great reconnecting with friends and family, doing hobbies, finding new ones, and working
with my doctor to get my knee better. Then, I was invited to a derby friend's party. I still liked people in my league, so I was excited to go. I felt a little ambushed by the derby people there, because as I sat down, I was basically told by other derby people who were invited that I just left the league in a lurch, nobody knew what was going on, and how could I do that, and I was an awful person. I realized they hadn't even said Hi.
After that, the barrage of emails started up again, asking WFTDA questions, saying that people that I told them to ask wouldn't help them. I finally had to be blunt and say, "Stop, you ran off the person I trained. It's not my fault no one else knows how to do these things."
Up until the party, I was considering nsoing and helping them by being a bench coach.
Two things stopped me; their lack of respect for people in authority, and the fact that I liked my freedom from derby. I realized I was happier without derby, without the drama constant drama. I was happy being with my family and friends, not having to worry about a teammate getting too drunk at an afterparty and having to babysit her all night, or worrying about someone not making attendance.
I was happy with out the back biting of people who were unhappy with themselves and projecting it onto others. I was happy being me with out having to consider if what I was doing would effect the team or the team diva.
Derby is much like high school, and I hated high school. Once I was done, I was done.
Same with derby. People in derby didn't respect authority; they wanted to be Roller girls and not
a team. They had no sense of self worth and used derby for that self validation. I was already a
well developed person before derby, and remain one post derby. I could not spend my time and
effort watching, evaluating, and giving advice that would be ignored and then getting blamed for
losses because people didn't listen.
For teams to retain retired skaters as coaches or even refs, they have to treat people better and with respect during their time with the league. No one is going to experience freedom from league drama and disrespect, and then decide to come back for it on a volunteer basis.
Again, this is my experience. Sorry it's so long ,but it's something that just comes down to respect,
and valuing your members while they are there. If they don't feel valued, or that they will be
respected or treated respectfully or even listened to, they are not going to come back and help the league. That's a shame, because the more skaters that retire and not come back to help, the more cumulative knowledge and experience the sport loses.