Derby Name: Kaio-kensi
Derby Name: Kaio-kensi
I moved to Ottawa in July of 2011 and knew absolutely no one. I needed to make some friends and fast. I contacted the Capital City Derby Dolls to inquire about their Fresh Meat Program, figuring it would be a good way to meet some like-minded people.
Quite honestly I was pretty freaked out about my first practice. I didn’t know anyone who was going—it’s not like I knew someone who knew someone whose cousin was going to be there. But I buried my nerves, packed up my gear and headed to the arena.
My fears melted as soon as I walked in. Everyone was really nice and seemed truly excited to have new recruits there. There were skaters of every skill level: some who’d played hockey and were very steady on their skates and some who had literally never been on skates before. The girls who were coaching were so encouraging. You could tell that they actually enjoyed teaching.
I started attending practices weekly and then twice a week. The faces became familiar, I was slowly making friends and it was nice to feel like I had “somewhere to go” where people knew my name and were happy to see me.
Let me make sure that you understand something about me: I have never been a natural athlete. I have never successfully played a sport. I was not that girl in high school who was athletic, popular and perfect. The idea of joining a sports team was terrifying. I had seen video clips and a few derby games but until I started to play, I had no idea how difficult it was. I was comforted by the fact that no one starts playing derby knowing everything and the cold hard truth is that derby is crazy hard. It may have been a staged sport in the 1950s but today, there is nothing fake about it. It’s football, hockey, soccer and track all rolled into one tight little ball on eight wheels. You have to have the endurance of a long distance runner the strength and speed of a sprinter and the skill of a skater all while getting the crap knocked out of you.
What the heck was I thinking?!
I tried not to dwell on the difficulty of the sport and kept telling myself: “You will get knocked down. The question is, will you get back up?” and get up I did. Over and over and over again. I pushed myself. Go to practice. Learn the basics. Have fun doing it. And what fun it was. In July of last year, I played my first game.
A group of us who came through the Fresh Meat Program were given the opportunity to attend the Fresh and the Furious tournament in Toronto. It was a road trip, it was derby, it was a girls weekend, it was the most fun I’d had in really long time. I remember laughing so hard I cried on several occasions. We were all crazy excited and super terrified but most importantly we were all in this whirlwind derby experience together.
Somewhere along the way—and I can’t exactly pinpoint where or when—derby started to creep into all aspects of my life. I was invited to join the scrimmage committee and started planning the league’s black and white scrimmages. I was asked to help coach the next round of Fresh Meat, I was elected to the league’s Executive Board, and I kept skating and training and falling and getting back up.
Soon it was time to tryout for teams. I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I wasn’t sure I was good enough. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the rejection. Truth be told, the fear of rejection was the biggest thing holding me back but I’d come this far and I wasn’t about to give up now. I worked my ass off for the next two months. I skated three days a week, I pushed myself to the point of puking, I embraced being a sweaty mess, I proudly displayed the multitude of bruises and battle scars, and for the first time in my life I stopped wanting to lose weight and was proud to have hips and thighs and a butt that could knock a girl off her skates (my greatest “ASSets”, as Coach Whips would say) and then… I made the team.
I didn’t think life could get better than that, but it did. I was voted team captain. I was in total shock. For the next three days, I kept pinching myself and asking if that had really just happened. I had spent so much of my life feeling like an outcast, like I didn’t belong, and being totally scarred by my high school years that I just couldn’t believe this was really happening. I was that kid who got knocked down on the playground, I was the girl who was always picked last in gym class. As much as we try to separate ourselves from those childhood experiences, we carry them with us as adults, something I was unaware of until faced with the possibility of reliving some of those experiences. I learned quickly that derby is different. Derby is a place where everyone belongs. Tall, short, skinny, fat, athletic, klutzy, smooth talking, socially awkward: you name it we’ve got it. When you’re here, the only person you have to be is yourself.
Today, I skate three times a week, I run three times a week, I talk to my derby team mates everyday, there’s always a derby girl just a text away, and I know that when I have a bad day or breakdown in sheer frustration with myself over learning a new skill or not “getting something” fast enough, I will have AT LEAST 15 amazing, encouraging, sweating, helmet-clad girls hugging me, supporting me, pushing to be the very best version of myself. I joined this league to find a friend. What I got was a family and a chance to be the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Early in 2011, I’m not exactly sure when, I decided I wanted to play roller derby.
I had recently seen a movie about it and immediately knew it was something I was meant to do. After that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wondered if derby existed here in Ottawa, so I did some research and found that yes, there was indeed a league here. Great, I thought and immediately sent them an email hoping to get some info on how to join and start this amazing sport that I had just discovered. I waited and waited, but never got a response.
I didn’t pursue it, because—as it unfortunately happens way too often—life then got in the way of me pursuing it. That was the year my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away, all in a very short period of time. Taking care of her in those last few months, weeks, and days took a big toll on me, both emotionally and psychologically. I was completely and utterly spent. I just stopped caring after that, and I stopped taking care of myself. Already a little overweight, I was eating anything and everything, because I just didn’t care anymore and I didn’t want to make an effort. All these things, combined with the fact that I was in a very unhappy and stagnant relationship caused me gain even more weight. I wasn’t living anymore, I was just surviving. I was just waiting for my life to begin again. I was in a dark place and couldn’t find a way out.
Sometime last summer, still grieving and at one of the lowest points I’d ever been in my life, I remembered roller derby. I told myself I needed to start pursuing this again. I couldn’t keep going the way I was going. There was no future for me where I was headed. I needed to do something. And yes, roller derby was that something for me.
People start roller derby for many different reasons. Some do it to get in shape or to get active, some for the adrenaline it brings and some do it for the people they’ll meet. For me, it was all of those and more. I can’t explain it really, it just called to me. Something was pushing me towards this sport that I had never even seen in person. It didn’t matter that I was overweight, out of shape or that I didn’t have skates or protective gear. Heck, I couldn’t even SKATE. But there was absolutely no way I was going to let that stop me or slow me down. I told myself that no matter how long it was going to take me to reach my goal of playing roller derby, I was not going to give up. I could not. I had wasted and lost so much precious time not living the life I wanted, giving up on something I wanted to do was no longer an option for me.
So off I went in search again and after some digging, I came upon another derby league in Ottawa—Capital City Derby Dolls—and saw their online poster for an open house they were having for their Fresh Meat program. I contacted them immediately to get details and got an answer right away. The very next day, I went out and bought everything I needed (except for the skates, which I was going to rent). I was ready. I was doing it. I wasn’t backing down. The open house couldn’t come soon enough.
On September 23rd, 2012, I put on my very first pair of quad roller skates. Since I couldn’t skate, I needed someone to hold my hand (or both of them!) while I got my bearings and skated around a bit until I felt comfortable, which took a very long time, let me tell you! I felt clumsy and awkward, but not once did the coaches make me or anyone else feel incompetent or inadequate. They were supportive and offered encouragement the whole time. They first showed us how to stop and how to fall, but the moment that is clearest in my mind is when Bella (aka Delicate Plower), called some of the girls wearing CCDD green shirts over to go skate on the track and told us that those girls were last year’s fresh meat. That they were in the same spot we were when they started just the year before and that if CCDD could teach them to skate that way, then they could teach us too! I watched them skate (and they were good!) and told myself, “You can do this.”
Fresh Meat started just a few weeks later and after that first training session, I was stiff and sore for the next three days. But I’d also never felt better. Now I didn’t pick up staking very easily, quite on the contrary. It took me weeks of training and practice to even skate without feeling like I was going to lose my balance all the time and fall. Some of the new girls seemed to pick things up very quickly and with little effort after trying things out just once. When you see that, it’s easy to get discouraged. But I knew that it would take me longer than most of them to learn these new skills, and that was okay. Every time I fell when trying something new, I kept repeating to myself: “It’s OK, keep going, you’ll get it, don’t give up.” I knew my limits and worked with them. So I wasn’t going to be the first girl to complete my minimum skills test. So what? Did that make me a loser? NO! Was I going to quit? Hell NO! I just looked at it as a way to get more practice and get better. I also remember something that was said (and I remember who said it) about completing our skills test: no matter how many times we needed to do the test before we passed, that they would keep working with us until we did, that we weren’t going to be left behind, that “you’re one of us. Always and forever.”
I’m very happy to say that I passed my skills test on March 23rd, 2013, six months to the day that I put on that very first pair of quad skates. It took me months to get enough confidence to be able to say that I was good. I still think I have a long way to go before I am even close to the same level as those who have been doing this a while. Having recently made it onto a team, even as an alternate, validates all my efforts and hard work. I am proud of what I’ve achieved so far.
Which brings me to another thing I’m proud of. Shortly after joining the wonderful world of roller derby, I decided that in order for me to become an amazing derby girl, other things needed to change in my life. Some of these were that I needed to take better care of my health and of myself. So on top of my derby training, I started training 1-2 times a week (ah, lovely boot camp) and playing soccer once a week. I also started eating better and making better food choices. Though not always easy, this journey has been a reward unto itself because recently I reached a milestone. I’ve lost 50 pounds since October and I’m still losing. Yes, roller derby helped me lose weight. Yes, I have more energy now and feel great! But want to be clear on the fact that I didn’t join roller derby to be skinny (that will never happen by the way). I joined roller derby for the love of the sport. The weight loss and healthier lifestyle were just happy side-effects.
One more thing I must mention, which happens to also be the most important thing, is that this league that I am so proud to be a part of, is full of wonderful, AMAZING people. Every single one of them. They are there at every practice, encouraging us, telling us, “It’s ok to fall! It means you’re trying!” They’re always offering advice and support when we need it. These women (and guys!) who are so good at this sport, who are so generous with their time and teach us, share their knowledge eagerly so that we can be just as good as they are. Their skill level is what I aspire to achieve and what motivates me to keep going. When one of them tells you that you were good and applauds your achievement, you can’t help but want to do more and be even better. Not because it’s not good enough, but because you want to make them proud. These people came into my life at a time when I needed them the most and without doing anything differently and by just being themselves, made me a better person. There are no words that I can find to express how truly grateful I am for everything they’ve done and continue to do.
For those of you who are reading this and are thinking about joining roller derby, but are unsure about the sport or wondering if you can do it, remember this: I was overweight, out of shape and couldn’t skate. But in less than a year, six months to be exact, I learned to skate and play roller derby (and be good at it). And in the process, I also met a group of people unlike any other, one that I now consider family. There is no greater thing you can do for yourself. Stop waiting and do it already. It’s the best decision you will ever make. There’s a saying I’ve seen online a few times which I find most appropriate: Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
One final note: since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve also attached a before and after shot. One from just yesterday and another from one year ago this month. There is absolutely nothing that can compare to the thrill you feel when you achieve something you set out to do. In my case, it was to play roller derby but also, without realizing it, I was finding myself. I also found someone else: her name is Knock’erDown DeeDee and she IS a derby girl. YARRRR!!
By: Andrea Lafleur, aka Knock’erDown DeeDee
At my football game last night, I watched a girl knock a few bitches down. I shouted, “HEY! Wanna play roller derby?” at her and then rammed the CCDD email address into her hand. Do you knock bitches down? Do you wanna knock bitches down? Do you know girls who could knock bitches down or dudes who want to try men’s derby? THE TIME HAS COME. CCDD is recruiting. We’re looking for people, THAT’S RIGHT, PEOPLE, 18 years of age and up, who want to get involved in this crazy ride as players, referees or eager volunteers. Volunteers can be under 18.
But…but…I don’t know how to skate?
Whatever. We spend the off-season teaching you how to skate, then how to play.
I don’t have skates?
WAH! You can rent them from us. We hardly charge for rentals…just enough to keep the skates maintained.
But…um…I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.
That’s a fair comment. Which is why we’re having an Open House. Actually, we’re having two. On Sunday, September 23, 2012, and the following Sunday, September 30, 2012, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., at the Belltown Dome on 2915 Haughton Ave., so you can come and try it out and THEN decide if you could maybe, JUST MAYBE, play derby.
How does it work?
Well, you give us $15.00 ($10.00 if you have your own skates) and we put you through some basics. You’ll be introduced to the people who run the league and to all the amazing coaches who will be physically torturing you, while you have the time of your life. Derby’s a tough, full-contact sport so while we teach you skating fundamentals, we also “gradually” whip you into shape. AND, we offer competitive skating and non-competitive skating, so for those of you who are looking for something different to keep you moving but prefer a house league style of play, we’ve got you covered.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up. Right here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDJBdTJXMm80M2NkWEJDWGNXcEtiQUE6MQ
Dig up your bike helmet, borrow some elbow and knee pads and steal some wrist guards. Fill a bottle of water. Pack your ID and health card. If you’ve got skates, you should bring those. If not…when you registered, you told us your shoes size and there will be skates waiting for you. Wear whatever you want…but if you wear shorts, get some leggings on so that you don’t risk rink rash.
IT’S JUST THAT EASY. No more delays. Bring a friend for moral support…we fully encourage spectators.
For those of you who are all like, “SCREW YOUR OPEN HOUSE! I JUST WANNA SIGN UP!” Well, go right ahead: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFZSak82Um5KU0I1MTN2bXk2Y21DOHc6MQ#gid=0
Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wanna stalk us? Awesome. Here’s how:
Stop thinking…just click on the sign-up link. What’s the worst that can happen? You fall on your ass? Great. I spent all season doing that in front of spectators. So come one out. Have fun. Do something different. And be a part of something totally awesome.
Last Friday afternoon, I hopped in a car with 3 girls in the first steps of an adventurous weekend where we would stare unknown competition in the face—we were on our way to a Fresh Meat tournament in Toronto. Little did I know that I would have so much fun, learn so many new things, meet so many great people and see so much fantastic roller derby!
I was travelling with Wry and Ginger, Sugar and Spite, and Tarawatt, and the general consensus was that we were crazy nervous and a little bit scared…but we were confident. The Dolls and our coaching staff have been training us, working us out, and strategizing with us for months, so we felt like we had the knowledge and training to get out there and give the other teams a run for their money.
If there was a theme to the weekend (other than the tournament theme), it was probably “Find Out How Much You Can Sweat!” It was hot and sunny outside and sweltering indoors. Just standing still indoors made me sweat from places that I didn’t know could sweat…gross but educational. After a quick warm-up and stretch outside, we made our way inside to gear up and pump ourselves up for our first game. At the tournament, our games would only be 20 minutes long each, so we knew we had to be quick and efficient in each jam.
The first game was a blur. We were evenly matched with the GTA Debutantes and we only collected a few trips to the penalty box. The second to last jam was a big point scorer for the Debutantes and we were 17 points behind going into what would be the final jam…we had to pull off something big to win. Before the last jam, I remember hearing the commentator telling the crowd, “Just one jam can change the whole game. It’s not over yet.” Early in the jam, the Debutantes jammer pulled a penalty, putting us in a power jam situation. Perfect! Immediately our Dolls clicked in to strategy mode and started ducking like nobody’s business. Our jammer, Angel Poison, took advantage and sped around the track, racking up an amazing 19 points, winning the game by a 2-point margin! Our entire team smothered Angel with hugs and sweat. We took our victory lap with pride and thanked the Debutantes for a nail-biting game.
Winning this game gave us a ranking of 7th out of the 14 teams who were competing that day and ensured that we would be up against another Toronto team—the TORD D-VAS—later that afternoon. At this point, we knew what winning felt like and we wanted to feel that way again. Getting ready for our second game, we re-outfitted ourselves in our still soaking wet sweaty gear and headed out to the track.
Our second game started out well. We scored a few points and the D-VAS scored a few, but again it felt fairly equal and both teams seemed to be fighting just as much to score and keep the other team from scoring. About 7 minutes in, our blockers started to generate penalties…lots of them. We were consistently short-handed on the track and the D-VAS took every opportunity that we unfortunately gave them. The D-VAS had two incredible jams when we were short-handed on blockers and our jammers just couldn’t get past their solid walls. We continued to fight as hard as we could, but in the end, the D-VAS claimed their victory lap with a score of 69-10. Heading off to our dressing room, one of the D-VAS complimented us on our skills, telling us that our score did not reflect the effort that we put in. Of course we were disappointed that we had lost during an elimination round, but it was also clear on where we had gone wrong during the game and what we needed to do to improve for the future.
After a quick shower and bite to eat, we made our way back to the arena to check out the merch tables and take in some of the final games. Some of the fresh meat talent was incredible to watch. Montreal and Guelph specifically had a very high level of talent on their teams and were impressive to watch and learn from.
Playing with teams that we didn’t know was incredibly enlightening for me. It allowed us to learn about new strategies and to play against people who had hidden strengths and weaknesses.
Coming back to town with this experience makes me incredibly excited to continue training with CCDD. I’m looking forward to pushing myself further and learning more strategy to improve not only my personal performance, but to improve our team effectiveness (especially when faced with challenges on the track).
Thanks to everyone who made this weekend what it was—the tournament organizers, our coaches, the Kingston girls who we combined with to complete our roster, the other Fresh Meat we met up with—and a huge thank you to our supporters at CCDD. Thank you for training us, coaching us, sending us your well wishes and congrats, and offering up some tournament insight. We hope that we made you proud as we represented CCDD in the big city. 🙂
Jen “Elizabeth Berserkley” Jarvis