It’s a simple thing. A name. A first name, a last name, a nickname— we all have them. We were born with them. They were chosen for us and it became part of us— it became what identified us. Who we were. How we are known. So what happens when you have to pick a new one?
When you join derby you have a sense of who you are. Your friends and family know you by your given name or your nickname. And then the roller derby bug bites you and you have to create your own name. But how do you do it? How do you come up with your own name that uniquely fits you when you aren’t even sure who you’re going to be in this new, exciting world of derby?
Yep, the naming and numbering of newbies is such a fun time – as long as you’ve already picked your name! For those who are going through this, it can become an obsession. Your list can be long, or worse— completely blank.
You think. You get suggestions. You find clever innuendos and pray no one else has come up with them yet. You search the Internet, you obsess over Google. You search TwoEvils.org (the name registry for derby girls throughout the US & beyond). You look to derby players you admire. You write lists. You wrack your brain trying to figure out what the hell you want to be called and who the hell you want to be. And then you have to stop.
You have to stop thinking about it and obsessing about it. Then hopefully, when it’s furthest from your mind, there’s that moment. That moment when something just clicks. You hear a phrase or the name or you think of it out of nowhere and you just know it’s right. And, you’ve been reborn. Your derby name has found you— much like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, you’ve found your destiny. Your derby life is no longer you being called “Hey! Orange Shorts!” or Q3 or girl in the green socks or stripped helmet or however it was that your coaches & league identified you as a newbie. You’ve finally solidified your derby career.
But once you find it, once your name is picked, you have this greatest sense of relief and joy and pure happiness. Because now— now you know who you were meant to be when you strap on your skates. And every time you put on that shirt—the one that has your derby name & number— you feel pride. Pride because this is who you picked— who you decided to be. This is the person you get to become every time you put on your gear.
And now you just need to get used to it & figure out exactly how it fits. It might feel very awkward to hear your new name. In fact, there will probably be times when you’re at practice and someone will be yelling to you and you don’t answer. You’ll have to “wear” your name for a bit before it gets comfortable. Before it becomes natural and normal to hear and use. For some it might only take a few weeks— for others, it might take them a season or two. And for some, after some time they realize the name they picked wasn’t quite the right fit, so they change their name.
Maybe in your “real life” you’re normally shy, but put on that name & number & gear – and now you can knock people down. You can take a hit & stay on your feet. You can work with your teammates to make walls. You can take whips. You can be aggressive. You can skate fast & stay low & learn to break down your goals into steps and achieve them one by one.
This is the process I’m watching our newbies go through now. These lovely ladies who joined QCRG just a few short weeks ago. These ladies who can skate more laps each week than they did the week before. These ladies that just a few weeks ago didn’t know what WFTDA stood for or what was in an assessment— they are now doing skills with amazing confidence. Seeing them smile after they went up against their first blocking pads and connected and hit— that was pure joy. Watching them fall and bounce back up in less than 3 seconds. Watching the light bulbs go off as they catch on to the new concepts being taught and watching them grow so fast it’s astounding … and such an honor to be a part of it.