Today I watched my team skate without me. Well kind of, I was doing line ups so I didn’t actually get to see much of the game; it was a bitter sweet feeling, I so desperately wanted to be on that track with them, but I couldn’t and I was really grateful to still be involved.
Let’s back up a bit here. I have a long history of team sports and shit knees. I played hockey, football and ruby throughout high school, always good enough to just make the team but never the strongest, fastest or most knowledgeable- just enthusiastic! I progressed to play for two hockey teams out side of high school and was selected to captain one of them and was a stronger player in the other (always defence).
Then I ruptured my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and tore the meniscus in my left knee. It took years to finally get the operation to fix it and in that time I couldn’t really do anything much.
Finally I had it fixed whilst at University in Edinburgh and after 18 months of rehab and physio I went to play for the University’s hockey team (the seventh team out of 8) and then I tried my hand at lacrosse. As it turns out I was pretty good at lacrosse and was selected in my first attempt to play in goal for the first team (It may have helped that no one else wanted to do it and I was quite happy to let solid rubber balls hit my unprotected flesh at speeds of up to 50mph for the fun of it!) I was good enough in goal to then be selected to play for the Scotland universities team and we were all entitled to free weight lifting and plyometric/cardio personal training- something which has set me in good stead for roller derby.
Then it happened again. Playing a game of hockey my left knee collapsed AGAIN, Now familiar with the feeling I knew this was another trip to A and E.
None of my team mates came with me.
No one popped by to see how I was getting along.
No one asked me if I wanted to help with the kit or making travel arrangements etc. and I didn’t expect them to; that’s just not what you did. If you couldn’t participate in the sport, you had no other role- the coaches were paid for, the funding came from the university, no one fund raised and the only sponsorship we had came about as someone’s dad worked for a very large, wealthy, international company. There were only two roles: play or spectate- that’s it.
(Shortly after this I actually remember seeing a flyer for the Auld Reekie Roller girls recruitment- I spoke to my then boyfriend (now husband btw) and said ” that looks amazing, but there’s no way my knee will stand up to this.”)
Fast forward 5 years.
I’ve been skating for just under 3 years with the Hellfire Harlots. I have found a sport that I am genuinely good at, not just enthusiastic or selected because I can take a beating, but because I am actually good at it. My left knee has been fine, no problems. As it turns out despite being such a high impact sport in terms or contact, it’s actually quite knee friendly as your wheels will slip before your knee is put under too much pressure.
I fell in love with this, I now know what it’s like to REALLY be part of a team, to feel valued and included and to be challenged physically and mentally, to supersede my own expectations and limitations and be part of something much, MUCH bigger than myself.
7 months ago my right knee collapsed after a perfectly legal hit to my straight leg (you know that thing you do when you’re calling off the jam and you start to stand up… don’t do that!)
I went to A and E my team mates offered to come with me.
I went to the physio- my team mates asked how I was doing and if I needed anything.
My leg muscles were so strong it masked the fact that I had now ruptured my right ACL and torn the meniscus (shit)
Long story short(er) here followed 7 months of constant injury and rehab. My team (and other members of the derby community) supported me every single step of the way.
A particular teammate even researched my injury and treatment and recovery time so that she could support me all the way.
I finally had my operation last week.
I have had team mates visit pretty much every day.
I’ve been offered lifts to and from training, even though we live out of everyone’s way.
I was given the opportunity to do line ups for my team at this bout, I was asked to do various organisational jobs to help me to feel involved.
Today at the bout I was overwhelmed by the roller derby community.
I was given so much love and support.
I had a few knowing nods and chats with other derby-goers with ‘crip sticks’.
I got to have a go at announcing and lineups.
I had a great day and I WASN’T SKATING. I had a slight pang of ‘I wish’ at half time. But I felt so included and so involved that I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself and I don’t think anyone in the derby community would let me.
So my conclusion to this rambling sob/love story:
Roller derby really is a sport like no other. It really is a sport that has a place for EVERYONE and ANYONE if you want it.
The roller derby ethos of by us, for us breeds strong bonds between leagues and within teams and ensures that everyone, whether injured, skating, officiating, announcing, spectating, fundraising, admin etc. feels included and valued.
This is the first sport of many that I have truly fallen in love with and I STILL feel as much part of the sport and team off skates as I did on (and will do again).
What other sport can give someone so much choice and opportunity? Really?
A blog by Bunnie Suicide