Hi, my name is Anna, I live in Lancashire, England. This is blog documents my Roller Derby journey.
In November decided that I wanted to play Roller Derby. I saw a documentary about it on the BBC and was completely transfixed…
I could hardly believe it, not just that I had found this amazing sport, but that I was utterly captivated by it. Me. Anna. Likes a sport! Ha!
It would have been less shocking to discover a fondness for steak (I am vegan) or a strong desire to vote Conservative (I am liberal).
What my blog is about
Learning to skate and play derby is a huge undertaking for me. I am unfit, uncoordinated and have numerous chronic health conditions: but it’s about more than that: I am challenging and rebuilding what used to be my identity.
I want to believe that my body can be just as powerful and creative as my brain. I want to find the courage and self-belief that I lost when I was a teenager. Most of all, I want to enjoy being active again, like I did when I was a kid. Better get my skates on then!
This is my Roller Derby journey: from here to Captain Janerage, the derby player I want to be.
A word about my health
Three years ago, when my derby-journey first started, I was unfit but healthy. About a year into learning to skate, I started to become unwell, eventually becoming so ill that I could no longer skate.
Since then I have been bed bound and house bound for some long stretches and making slow progress for some others. It’s going to be a long road to get my skates on again – yet, derby has been a major motivation for me to pursue recovery.
I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I got sick before I started learning to skate rather than after.
Who is Captain Janerage?
In Roller Derby it’s common for players to have a Derby Name, a fun, spunky nickname, often a pun or play on words, that says something about who they are, how they play.
I haven’t passed my minimum skills yet and so I don’t really have a derby name yet. However, the name Capitan Janerage, which will hopefully be my Derby Name one day, is already really important to me. The name motivates me and reminds me what I am aiming for.
The name is based on Captain Kathryn Janeway, my favourite Star Trek character. She is an intelligent, powerful and cultured Starefleet Captain who, when her ship is lost in space millions of light years from home, guides her crew safely home. Through everything she stays level headed and strong. She is also caring, loving and fun, she likes books, music and art… she is super super cool!
Rumour has it that when her character was first being written, the writers disagreed completely about who she was as a person: half wanted her to be a sensitive, artistic, creative, compassionate woman… the other half wanted her to be a powerful, cool, logical stalwart leader. So ironically, it seems the reason Captain Janeway ends up having such a well rounded, complex personality is that the writers disagreed about which two dimensional kind of woman she should be.
I think she’s bloomin’ awesome and will be honoured to take the derby-fied version of her name as my own one day!
Why I hate(d) sport
My relationship with sport and fitness is a long, complex and, until recently, depressing story. Like most people I was probably never destined to be a professional athlete, but I as a young child I enjoyed running around just as much as the other kids. Reading books was my favourite hobby, but I also rode a bike, played kick about and all the usual “playing out” stuff.
Then came school, and things went very wrong. Bullying, of course, and sports that I found difficult and demotivating. Over time, not liking sport became part of my identity. I am a clever, sensitive artistic type: therefore sport is not for me. I had a few brief dalliances with football, but that was out of gender-related rebellion more than anything.
As an adult, things are frankly a mess. I was pretty depressed and ill in my late teens, and put on a lot of weight, then some time in my 20’s, when I began to focus more on what job I might spend my life doing, I just became… like… solely a head with brains in it.
I started to feel like my physical body was irrelevant, after all, the only bit of me that is useful is my cleverness.
I also really disagree with a lot of what goes on in sport: corruption, money, doping… Owen Jones does a good bit about class and football too. For a long time it seemed to me that sport is just another way to make people unhappy with themselves. Photoshopped adds for protein powers make me super-angry, for example.
But life is not that black and white. All of the above things may or may not be true, hurtful, stupid, wrong… whatever. It doesn’t really matter any more. I just want to have fun and improve myself, and hang the rest of it!
What’s so special about derby
It’s hard for me to put my finger on what got me so enamoured with Derby. It’s taken me a while to trust it, but so far everything in derby-land just seems as amazing as I could ever dream of.
They even have unicorns!
So here is a list of stuff off the top of my head:
- Women made it. This sport isn’t some dumbed down version of a “men’s sport”, with a smaller trophy, less air time, shitty pay and shorter matches.
- It’s not a silly, prissy girls sport either: it’s tough.
- It’s also fun and feminine too: you can wear fun makeup and cute outfits if you like.
- So, you can just be yourself, in all your complexity as a person: you don’t have to pretend to be someone else to fit in.
- It’s creative and theatrical: it’s about more than just winning, it’s about having fun and being free too!
- Not everyone is thin, but it’s not a “fat person” sport either. Everyone is just the size they are and it doesn’t matter at all.
- It’s inclusive: there are role’s for none-skating people too.
- The players own the sport: no offshore banking billionaires can come and rename your stadium after their pay-day loan company or whatever.
- It’s fun: people smile while they play! When was the last time you saw that?
- It’s got a hint of anarchy and non-conformity: I don’t have to sell-out to play, rock’n’roll is allowed!
- Everyone is super nice: I have never, in my whole life, felt so welcome and included as I have been by my local derby team.