What has consistently surprised me about roller derby is the low student population on teams and in the Fresh Meat program. Roller derby is unique, feminist, welcoming, has some wild parties, and doesn’t require previous athletic experience. Overall, it is theoretically very appealing to students. Considering that Halifax has five universities, the lack of student participants truly makes no sense! I’ve been involved in our league for three years, and have only met ~3-4 other active undergraduate students participating in Fresh Meat. So how is this possible?
I feel as though there are misconceptions about both students and derby that prevents what should be a beautiful pairing.
Roller derby takes up too much time! Sure, roller derby can take over your life, but only when and if you want it to! As a student, having two scheduled hours a week that I have paid for (if there’s any incentive for a student to do anything…) that is dedicated to me, my wellbeing, my physical health, and my mental health and is completely unassociated with school has been the difference between successfully passed exams and breakdowns on my living room floor. We all deserve breaks from our academic vocations, and derby is the perfect opportunity to shut the rest of the world out and maybe hit out the frustration of being unable to make that 2500 word limit.
Students are flaky! This is often a fair judgement. Corralling students into doing anything is essentially like herding cats. But that doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause! Many campuses in Halifax have a large commuter population who don’t flee to Toronto come April 22nd. Students are often young and able-bodied, and worth the risk of recruitment. Besides, if they don’t stick around to play, that doesn’t mean they won’t patronize games and grow the sport in both Halifax and their own provinces!
Roller derby is unaffordable for a student! This is also a fair concern. Roller derby does involve some large start-up costs. But, other than paying dues, you’re set with your gear for quite a while! Dues, which are paid monthly to maintain rental space and league costs, are the equivalent of a cheap night downtown.
Derby leagues and students should give each other the benefit of the doubt! When balanced properly, derby can be an incredibly rewarding and non-overwhelming part of a student’s life, and students can be a valuable part of the league.
Abbey getting in the zone. Photo credit by Richard Lafortune.