It's obvious to anyone who has ever seen a bout that Roller Derby is unique. People point to many reasons as to why Roller Derby is so different from any other sport:
- Derby isn't just a sport, it's a community.
- Women's Derby is larger and more popular than Men's Derby.
- Bodies of all shapes and sizes are welcome to participate in the sport.
- No prior skating experience is necessary to join many, if not most, Roller Derby leagues.
All these points are true; however, I believe the real, deep-seated reason Roller Derby is inherently different from all other sports comes from players' limited, and sometimes non-existent, experience in sports - especially full-contact team sports.
Roller Derby skaters who have never participated in a full-contact team
sport may have a difficult time with concepts such as:
- Distinguishing between strategic hitting and revenge hitting.
- Realizing the Referees, Non-Skating Officials, and other Volunteers are there to ensure the bout runs as smoothly and as fairly as possible, and that, just like you, they too make mistakes.
- Knowing how to be a gracious winner/outstanding loser instead of a gloating winner/sore loser.
- Recognizing you don't have to win every jam.
(The last point on the list refers to blow-out bouts, which will be the topic for my next Rollin' News article.)
Each of these bullet points relates to sportsmanship, which is a belief or aspiration that an activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, in which players strive for the utmost respect, fairness, ethics and a sense of fairness with competitors at all times. Sportsmanship can't be relayed through a 1-page
article, it takes years of observing, practicing, and self-assessing to become second-nature. Heck, I've been playing
full-contact team sports for 30 years and I still have to take steps to
ensure I don't react to an opponent's bad behavior in a way I would
If you also occasionally find yourself on the
verge of being emotionally out of control, try this simple trick...put
yourself in time-out. Yes, I'm serious. For me, my time-out area is the last
chair on the bench (during a bout/scrimmage) but you can use anywhere
you can sit undisturbed and have a moment to think. I recommend telling
your bench/line-up coach about your designated timeout area so they
know only to call on you if no other skaters are available when you are
in time-out. I've found it only takes a few moments of sitting
undisturbed, thinking about the situation, before I'm able to think of
how to turn the negative issue into a positive one and suddenly feel in
control of my emotions.
After analyzing a few of my recent time-out
sessions, I realized when I'm
overwhelmed/upset during a bout, it's usually due to an opposing player's
unsportsmanlike actions. After further analysis and a little research, I
realized there was a good chance this unsportsmanlike behavior was due to a lack of experience in team sports resulting in a lack of understanding what constitutes good sportsmanship.
According to the Women's Sports Foundation (founded by Billie Jean King), girls have "1.3 million fewer opportunities to play high school sports," than their male cohorts. Those lucky enough to be able to take advantage of sports offered in their area may only have access to non-contact sports such as swimming or track and field, both of which don't involve the type of teamwork required for Roller Derby.
Women who are used to swimming or running in a lane by themselves now find themselves having to rely on 4 teammates. Some skaters will have a tough time adjusting, no matter how athletic they were prior to skating. Former volleyball players have the advantage of working with their teammates on the court in order to bump, set, and spike their way to victory, but they don't physically move their opponents out of the way or have opposing players suddenly hit them off the court. Skaters who have played soccer, rugby, hockey, and similar sports seem to have the easiest time transferring their experience to Roller Derby.
Communicating with teammates on and off the track, having the ability to think strategically and come up with plays involving contact and multiple teammates, and understanding sportsmanship are all vitally important assets when playing any sport. When you have a team full of skaters who take all these areas seriously, you can cultivate skilled players with positive attitudes who will be assets to the team for years to come. However, if a team condones unsportsmanlike behavior such as douchebag hitting (using excessive force to hit less experienced/skilled skaters), yelling/talking back to officials, or not attending an after party because the other team won (yes, this actually happens), the negativity can spread through the organization until only bickering and infighting remain.
Negativity doesn't have to win. Using good sportsmanship as a foundation and making sure to nip any negativity in the bud as your league grows, you'll soon be able to see the results of your hard work, positive attitude and dedication.
Speaking of positive attitude, I asked my loyal readers to share my last post, "Change: What is it good for? Absolutely Everything!
" to be entered for a chance to win goodies from 2N1 Skate Shoppe
and the following wonderful people have won!TrainWreckaBeccaNique Havoc
Rumble Bee Marie
Macon A. Ruckus
If you see your name, please shoot me an e-mail with your derby name (so I can match it with the list), real name/address/phone number (for the shipping label) and what color(s) you like and I'll get some goodies on the way to you.
Since I had such a great response to this giveaway offer, let's do it again! This time, I'll give away some full and half-off coupons to my Roller Derby inspired line of jewelry/unique items known as The ShockerKnot (home of the DerbyPunk Wine/Liquor Bottle Stopper). All you have to do is share this article then post a comment and you will be entered to win!
If you have a topic you'd like to hear me rant about, please shoot me an email at ShockerKhan2N1@Gmail.com. I look forward to hearing your ideas.
Until we skate again,