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How derby bootcamp saved my life

My dad passed abruptly from cancer last fall.

Now, you are probably wondering why a blog about roller derby bootcamp is starting this way. Well, bootcamp saved my life.

I remember January rolling around after a less than stellar holiday season in the wake of my father’s passing. I expected a shiny new year to lie before me, filled with promise. Nope. Back to work. Back to family rearing. Back to responsibility. Then I came across the call for rookie skaters at the 2018 bootcamp for Classic City Roller Girls. I thought to myself: “Rad. I want to do this.” But I let my self-defeating thoughts talk me out of it, so I didn’t show up to the first Saturday session. Or the following Monday.

After a particularly bummer of a week, I decided I would check out the following Saturday’s session. It was raining. I had never been to our practice rink, Fun Galaxy. There were other skaters and newbies lined up outside waiting to get in and out of the rain. I took a deep breath, and got out of my car.

I was immediately greeted by other nervous smiles. Some of those waiting outside had their own gear, but then I was bestowed a bag by the Rookie Training Committee of loaner wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads, and felt like one of the group. I thought to myself, “this league has its s*@t together.”

Having skated during my childhood, I assumed it would be like getting back on a bike. It was humbling trying to get my legs to cooperate. But after a few laps I had my sea legs back. And then there were the drills. And fitness. Pace lines. I left that first day feeling tired but good. I had also made friends. Friends who encouraged me to try harder. And when I fell, they encouraged me again. Actually, they are more than friends. They are my derby family.

Throughout those Saturday mornings of bootcamp our coach reminded us to “Get low.”  Over and over and over. We also learned to fall. By the end of bootcamp I had undergone a transformation. Somehow, over the past several years, I forgot to have fun. Between my dad’s sickness, having children, and the creep of ever-increasing responsibility, I thought there was no room for fun. Bootcamp saved me. Bootcamp taught me how to have fun. And bootcamp taught me how to let go and fall, and to have fun while doing it.

Contributed by an anonymous rookie