I’ve attended RollerCon – the annual summer gathering of derby players, officials and coaches in Las Vegas – for three years in a row. Sadly, this year I couldn’t go (but I’ve already started the piggy bank for RC14). The first year I went, the challenge bouts were outside on Freemont Street. That’s right, roller derby in downtown Las Vegas, in the 100+ degree heat. Plus, there were two indoor tracks at a sports complex. I heard that one year they skated some of the challenge bouts in a parking garage. That sounds so crazy! Yes, it’s a dry heat, but it’s still triple-digit heat.
Eventually, they moved the convention fully indoors to the Riviera Hotel & Casino. There was one track for challenge bouts and four rooms for classes. There, a lot of issues surfaced while trying to put down a sport court on carpeting. The volunteer track crew spent an evening removing the sport court from the plywood underneath it so that an additional barrier could be added to keep the plywood from shifting under the skaters.
Last year RollerCon took over the entire convention center at the Riviera. This meant the addition of more classrooms (on-skate and off-skate), an additional challenge track, a lot more space for vendors and a full-time black and white scrimmage track. It was the biggest RollerCon to date.
Just like any other sport, there are superstars in derby – the men and women you’ve heard of no matter where you live. When you meet those people it’s surprising to realize they are just like you. They practice, they work hard and they have to figure out how to make it all work; family, friends, work, school, derby, non-derby. It’s a juggling act.
The best part about going away is meeting someone you’ve admired and having them compliment you. Those are the moments you want to freeze in time.
When you join a league, you usually have an idol within your league or a nearby league that you want to be like – it could be someone you want to skate like or handle yourself like. And when they recognize you (hopefully not because you’ve followed them around like a puppy or made a complete fool out of yourself by not being able to speak – yes, it’s happened) – you can’t believe it! This person that you’ve admired and tried to learn from knows who you are!
It’s even more bizarre when you meet someone in your non-derby attire and they say, “You look familiar – do I know you?” After a minute or two, you’ve both figured it out: derby! That’s the connection. And you realize what a small world it really is.
But who exactly are you? Your identity is wrapped up in who your parents and siblings think you are, plus who your friends know you are. While that affects and influences who you are in derby, the one thing that usually doesn’t is what you do for your “day job” – the one that helps you pay for your equipment and league dues and travel fees. And all your other non-derby bills too. But what happens when you’re at a crossroads having to make a major life decision? You might be faced with losing a job or deciding to go back to school to earn a(nother) degree or go after that dream you’ve kept locked deep inside and not shared with anyone.
Looking inside you and figuring out who you are is a big part of derby and it affects both who you are on the track and off. Everyone has the ability to be their own hero – cheesy as that sounds, they do. You can decide to be strong and face what seems impossible or you can choose to run away and hide. You can decide to make the right choice or take the easy route. Not everything is easy. Not everything is black and white. Not every choice you make will make everyone happy. But you have to face yourself in the mirror every day. You have to know that you did what was right for you and the people who mean something in your life. Sometimes those choices are obvious and easy. Sometimes those are the hardest things to face. When you’re faced with those kinds of decisions, you’ll be thankful you have your family, friends and extended derby family to support you.