Can I just get something off my chest? Roller Derby is the best sport on the motherfucking planet. There. Go home if you disagree. It’s not just great because it’s both physically and mentally punishing and inspiring, not just because of the camaraderie, well kind of. But also because this, my friends -the sport of roller derby- is the next great movement that future generations will read about in the history books. Yes, that’s a fact. Roller derby represents our generations answer to the rights and privileges gained through years of struggle by our predecessors. I picture history books saying, they got the right to vote, the right to own a house …and then… they got dressed up and played roller skates. This is what our foremothers dreamed of- a world in which we could be smart, strong, outspoken, any color, shape or size, gay or straight and fully unapologetic- fists in the air.
I think about that a lot when I uhh… disagree with someone on or off the track. Let’s face it. You spend 3 days a week smelling someone and you may get to the urge to throw a helmet once or twice a year. Or maybe you send a shitty e-mail or five. It’s easy to forget your manners. Below are some tips for saving the drama and navigating the art of sportsmanship gracefully.
For your entertainment- How to: Don’t be a douchebag, Douchebag.
Unity as one, stand together
Before you go attacking your own, remember you’re in good company. You could go anywhere in the world and have a friend on account of roller derby. Remember, we’re all really on the same team- Thee roller derby team.
Choose your battles
Leagues have tons of decisions to make and everyone doesn’t always agree. Before you go full douchebag take a step back and look at the big picture. Is this life altering? Is some stupid shit really worth it? Huh? Whether the end of season party has silver or black confetti? If we have that kind of uniform you hate- do you have to burn the whole place down? Get a grip. If you want a successful group- everyone can’t win every battle. Sometimes you have to take one for the team and shut the fuck up.
Don’t take it personal
Everything isn’t about you. Sometimes it’s just about the facts. If someone says something that ruffles your feathers, picture they said it in a baby voice and everyone thought that was weird. Sometimes things really aren’t all that deep.
Keep a level head
Never escalate a situation. Try to reason out a good compromise without raising your voice. Stay calm and carry on a civil conversation. Showing a little restraint will always work to your favor.
You don’t have to like everyone
There are some personalities that are just not going to mix well. If someone gets on your nerves just get some distance. Don’t be an antagonist. Sometimes it’s a tone of voice or the way they said it. Give your teammates the benefit of the doubt. Repeat the mantra: We’re all in this together. We’re all in this together.
Be a gossip stopper
Every time you hear something negative about a teammate behind their back, say something positive about that person. Not only will it steer the direction of the conversation to the positive- it lets the gossiper know that you’re not on that negative tip.
Say it to my face
Don’t spend a week drafting the most perfectly cutting e-mail. These are your friends. If it’s so important, you need to say it their face. That way you can talk it out and there’s less chance that you’re misunderstanding each other.
When a dispute happens be the first to offer an olive branch. If you show someone that you are willing to resolve an issue they are more likely to do the same. A kind gesture or a simple smile can ease tension. Don’t put it off.
Don’t look back in anger
Resolve a problem with a fellow skater and leave it alone. Don’t think about what an asshat they were- it’s over. This isn’t some acquaintance. It’s your teammate so give them a second chance.
This isn’t ‘Nam, man
There are rules. The rule is you can’t directly curse someone or physically assault them. Not the refs, not the coaches, not the NSO’s, not the players. You got to keep it clean. First off, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Secondly, don’t do it in practice. And thirdly, if you love roller derby- you’ll want to play the game by the rules. The rules define the sport. And in our sport we respect each other. Plus, you can sit in the box or go home for your big fat mouth. But keeping your trap shut in rough waters is easier said than done. Here’s a trick I use: If you want to say something mean first make up something 20 times as vulgar and depraved and say it to them telepathically. Then laugh to yourself because they can’t even hear you.
Respect your opponent
The hardest time to play nice is when you’re really in a pinch. When a player or team has you in a proverbial choke hold take the opportunity to learn something. Sometimes losing is the best training. Appreciate the gift of knowledge and respect a worthy opponent. Always shake hands. Always say good game. No excuses.
Being a poor sport can sour your roller derby experience quickly. Do your part to make derby fun for everyone by not being douche-y, and I’ll do the same.