Roller derby is an emotional roller coaster. Photo by Richard Lafortune.
One of my favorite things is gently correcting well-meaning people who say "there's no crying in roller derby." I get it! A League of Their Own is a great movie and I too look for ways to reference it as much as possible. But it's just not true. I sometimes joke that I've cried more about roller derby than any romantic relationship I've had. That's a bit of an exaggeration (heartbreak, amirite), but if you were to add up all the tears I've shed for this sport...
Roller derby can be frustrating. It can be rewarding. It's physically and emotionally intense. People who play roller derby are passionate about it. We just care so darn much! So tears are a big part of it. Here are some things I have cried about over my last 5 years in roller derby:
I couldn't do a thing.
I couldn't do a thing even after I practiced it a lot.
I got hit in the head and I thought I was injured but it turned out I was fine.
I couldn't get 27 laps in 5 minutes.
I got 27 laps in 5 minutes.
I didn't get drafted to a team I wanted to be on.
I couldn't do a thing even after I practiced it a lot and everyone else seemed to be able to do it.
My teammate got injured and it was scary.
I didn't eat enough and my blood sugar was low and I couldn't do a thing.
A tournament was over.
A season was over.
We changed practice times.
A drill was hard and I felt inadequate.
Someone was nice to me.
I was thinking about what an amazing group of people I've met who love and support and take care of each other and it was just too much.
Here's the thing. Roller derby is place where I can cry, and it's fine. Crying is something I only feel comfortable doing in front of people that I'm close to or complete strangers on public transit. And roller derby people are people I can cry in front of. They will check in with me to see if I'm okay, and they will give me some space if that's what I tell them I need. They will let me go off to the side, have a good cry, and rejoin when I'm ready. And I love being part of a sport where being tough and cool and strong doesn't mean pretending that you have no emotions. No one thinks less of you for crying in roller derby.
I am so grateful to my leaguemates who come to practice and say things like "I'm not in the best headspace today, I'm going to do my best but I might have to leave," or "I need someone to remind me to take my meds halfway through practice or I'm going to be all over the place," or "I am feeling anxious and need some reassurance." Having people be so open about what they need to do to be present makes it much easier for me to be okay with where I'm at and ask for what I need. I've learned so much about taking care of myself and how we can take care of each other. See, now I want to cry again. There's all kinds of crying in roller derby.