There is a song on the Billboard charts right now that reminded me what a great thing positive body image can do for girls both young and old. "All about that bass" talks about being proud of what you’ve got and who you are. It’s a guilty pleasure pop song that I am willing to admit makes me smile and sits happily in my music library with Megadeath and Janis Joplin alike.
This song reminded me that derby girls (and boys) are fantastic athletes! What is different about us is the fact that we are not all clones of the same person like so many sports. Our ages, shapes, and backgrounds are more diverse than any other sport or group that I have been involved in.
Today’s version of roller derby is a sport that is focused on fitness over a specific shape or size of skater. When you think about “female athletes” you often associate a visual of some girl with 12% body fat and a six pack. While those girls do certainly exist in derby, I would think that in most leagues they are in the minority by a great margin.
Derby is a sport for everyBODY and allows room for ladies (and gentlemen) that might be less traditional versions of fit body types. Roller derby focuses body image conversations away from looks and over to ability. We discuss power and agility and I’ve never even heard someone say there was/is a perfect body for derby.
I like to think of our mix of sizes and shapes is much like the assortment of athletes that form any olympic team. We have tiny, big, strong, fast, agile but what makes them all alike is one thing. Dedication.
Yeah, she squats bro
Part of dedication in derby is the effort skaters are required to put in on and OFF the track. Derby is bringing booty back and its not just about short shorts and fishnets (I have opinions about this but it’s a whole other post). So much of what we need to deliver on the track involves lower body strength so off skates work is critical to growing our fitness for the track.
Years ago a friend told me that the perfect bum was an upside down heart shape. I wish I could tell him today that those bums are everywhere in derby. As a sport for ladies from age 18-infinity when you walk onto the track you might see a girl who weighs 40kg (88lbs) blocking for a jammer that weighs 100kg (220lbs), but the one thing every one of them will have in common is #datass.
Gaining strength and power requires everything from plyometrics to weight lifting and you will find that the best skaters all have an aggressive schedule of cross training. This helps us to avoid injury by strengthening complementary muscle groups and prevents fatigue caused by over training with a single activity.
They don’t write songs about small bums
I know. This entire post has effectively been a tribute to the booty. They are a special gift that we need to acknowledge. It's strong legs and bums that allow us to create those beautiful slow moving walls that all but shatter the opponent’s jammers. It’s those same glutes and quads that help us gracefully knock the opposing team out of bounds and those fast quads and agile feet that help us to recycle them back as far as possible.
Fitness is a lifestyle and so is derby. The sport of roller derby welcomes everyone, does not have a BMI number associated with it, and it certainly does not require a particular pant size -let’s be honest our quads wouldn’t fit those jeans anyways. Derby is a sport for fit, dedicated ladies (and men).
The moral of the story
Positive body image is critical to each and every woman I know. It becomes even more crucial with the young women in our lives (daughters, nieces, friends) that are so overwhelmed by media that says women should be one size or shape. Roller derby presents an opportunity to promote all women as athletes, and with this chance comes the responsibility to represent women as they are: beautiful and diverse.
Not fit? Fear not! If you aren’t fit but have the dedication, awesome coaches in your local league can help you with the fitness. Because, like I said at the start: Derby is a sport for everybody.
P.S. Since I started skating I have lost quite a bit of weight as a bi-product of skating my heart out, but contrarily my bum has become a force to be reckoned with thanks to our awesome coaches at Pirate City Rollers and the thousands of squats and lunges that I do at the gym. Here’s to Fat Bottomed Girls!
"Every inch of you is perfect” Megan Trainor