The first time I left a league, it was bittersweet. When you start out as fresh meat, it’s not that unlike falling into a deep teenage love. You shout to the world that you’re a derby girl. You draw hearts and rainbows and skates on every sheet of notebook paper. You write your derby name you’ve picked out in several ways until you find the one that you love best.
Punk in Drublic.
Ms. Drublic if you’re nasty.
Punk N. Drublic.
You pass your skills test and are drafted to a home team. The loss of virginity has happened, and you can’t see yourself loving anyone else than this team for as long as you live. You will skate forever, and you will always, always, see this group of girls as your home. You belong here.
And then the rose-colored glasses are crushed.
You see the cliques. You smell the drama thick in the air, like your wrist guards that have spent too many nights shoved deep in your skates after practice. People you think are your teammates lie to your face. Girls move away, girls quit because of injury, girls quit because of burnout. You get tired of the 80/20 rule, where 20% of the people do 80% of the work. You get tired of being sneered at because you’re one of the 20%. You get tired of feeling like you’re more and more alone as the league gets larger and larger. Sometimes you make your bed, and sometimes you’re just an innocent bystander.
The first time I left a league, I was scared. A few of my leaguemates had made a mass exodus and went on to start another league. And as more and more of those girls that I looked up to for so long left, the more drama stirred up at the league I was a part of. Rumors were going around. Shit was being talked that I knew wasn’t true. The mentality “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” was oozing out of every single girl as we all waited with bated breath to see who would be the next to turn.
When my time was up I knew what would happen. I let my team know at a dinner we were having that I was leaving because of injury. It was true, and I had actually been off my skates for a little while because of a herniated disk. It probably came as no surprise. But I added that I was planning on coming back to the track after I had surgery, however I would be coming back to skate with the other league.
“I know I only have a few more years on my skates left, and I want to skate where it matters,” I remember saying. Where it mattered. As in the fact that I didn’t want to be a big fish in a little pond. As in that I knew that if I surrounded myself with girls that were better skaters that I would become a better skater, too. I wanted to skate where derby was more than just a hobby for the majority of the girls.
That was the last night I spoke to several of those people. My good-bye post to the team filled with encouragement and support felt more like a suicide note, and as soon as I had posted it to the team Facebook group I was removed from it. Over time I’ve noticed how many of my former leaguemates have un-friended me, the ultimate social media bitch slap. I went to one of their practices for a little extra on-skates time about 3 months ago. Girls wouldn’t even look at me. Girls I never had a single problem with in the world. Girls I was under the impression that I was friends with. Girls that still showed up for our season opener and ate the free food at our after party. I didn’t realize just how many people I would lose as friends/’friends’ just because I tried to make the best decision for me. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. But I wouldn’t have done anything differently, because skating with Orlando Area Derby Revolution was the year that I really grew as a skater and I’m forever grateful.
Now that OADR has disbanded, I’ve made yet another huge jump in my derby career. I’ve been skating with the WFTDA league Tampa Roller Derby. It was a heartbreaking decision at first, but I’m also excited to see where things take me. People think I’m crazy because I’m making the 75 minute commute to Tampa. I don’t. Every time I step onto the track and see that 3 of the 4 blockers are Trantrums and the other blocker and jammer are on the Bruise Crew I know that I’m going to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I’m starting to live for that adrenaline rush.
So wish me luck! And since I’m not quite sure what kind of a recipe could possibly follow this, I’ll just leave you with this: