By day my daughters are college students who wear blue jeans and comfortable shoes as they tromp across their college campus. They watch an astounding amount of Netflix and can damn near quote the entire series of Boy Meets World. They are good and smart and shockingly wholesome considering I am their mother. However, by night my mild mannered children change their names, put on tights, and strap skates to their feet. My daughters are roller derby girls.
If I am being totally honest, I will admit that I wasn’t overly excited when they announced they wanted to visit a beginner’s camp that was being hosted by the West Kentucky Rockin’ Rollers, a new local derby team. My first thought was that Kiaya has very expensive teeth and had what felt like 5 years of braces and Selena is not the most graceful of children. My second thought was that I didn’t want my daughters to be part of a “scene.” I knew very little about roller derby besides what I had seen on television and checking out another derby team. From what I could tell there appeared to be a great deal of drama, drinking, and women dressed in tiny clothes to make them appear as sexual as possible. I was wrong.
Kiaya and Selena were in love with derby the moment they entered the skating rink. Selena, due to her age, was unable to practice with the team, so she became a NSO or non skating official. She went through the rule book and became familiar with the way the game was played and the rules. Kiaya was able to practice with the team and quickly decided that this was the sport for her. Growing up she had played T-ball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and rowed for a season in college. She never truly felt comfortable in any of these sports and always felt like a bit of an outsider amongst the teams. With roller derby she felt none of this. Immediately, she felt embraced by the derby team. All walks of life were there: married women, single moms, students, tattooed and non-tattooed, young, old, fat, and skinny all skated.
The stereotypes associated with derby left out a crucial aspect and that is that this is a sport. These women play and train hard. The team works hard to make sure that they aren’t just good skaters. The big hits and story lines of the 70s and 80s no longer exist. Now derby teams concentrate on tactics. They practice endurance and strength training. Strong legs and solid cores are beyond important in the derby world. These women drill and scrimmage just like any other sport. The difference is that when you drill for football, you haven’t strapped eight wheels to your feet. Injuries do happen, and sometimes bones are broken and eyes are blacked, but this growing sport has no more injuries than your average basketball game during March Madness.
My original concern concentrated on this being a “scene.” I don’t want my children to be a part of something that has a negative connotation. As a parent I want my children to be above pettiness and sexualizing themselves for attention. With the group that Kiaya and Selena became involved in, this hasn’t been a problem. The team wears a uniform that is probably considered a burka by former derby standards. These uniforms allow the girls to concentrate on the bouts and not whether a breast or ass cheek is making an appearance. This is not to say that these women are not sexy in their derby gear, because they are deeply sexy, but not in the way that society may normally think. These ladies come in all shapes and sizes, and skate with a confidence and joy that you can’t help but to find sexy. A size two and a size 14 are skating together with a common goal, winning. Of course, when you get any group of people together there will be personality clashes, but so far these women have attempted to transcend the common female stereotypes and concentrate on promoting derby for what it is, a female-dominated sport.
Since becoming a mother of derby girls I have learned the lingo that gets tossed around at the house. I know that when Kiaya has a “panty” on her helmet that has a star it means that she is a “jammer” and responsible for getting through the “pack” of girls. If Selena comes home and is walking funny I can now safely assume that she has “skate raped” herself. Let me make you a promise that “skate rape” is exactly what it sounds like and is very uncomfortable. I know what “calling off a jam” is and recognize the motion associated with. Just like football, baseball, and hockey there is a language that those on the outside can’t always understand. Every time I go to see the girls’ bout I feel like I am in a foreign land and Kiaya-kaze and Lena-smack are my personal Rosetta Stone.
I will forever be grateful to flat track derby for giving my kids a sport that has bonded them to a group of women. When they skate I am awarded a chance to watch their confidence grow. When they fall I swallow my fear and wait for them to stand back up. If they do something wrong I watch as the coach yells at them from the bench. I no longer worry about the kids being part of scene, because I have never seen them as confident as they are when they are skating on that track. My daughters are Kiaya-kaze and Lena-Smack and I am proud to be their mother. I am a derby mom and would like to be called Pelvis Costello from this day forward.