It all started pretty innocently for me.I had taken my other half to Edinburgh to go clothes shopping for her birthday.She was looking for a top and not having much luck,”let’s try in here” she said,pointing out a shop that had a million tops and t-shirts in the window.
So we went in and had a look around,off she went into the changing room to try something on and then came one of those moments when fate laughs in your face and plays its trump card.Emerging from the changing room with a Auld Reekie Roller Girls flyer she asked the shopkeeper what this Roller Derby thing was all about.I could see that during the quick explanation that followed,it was already something she was interested in,”I might go and have a look at this”,she said as we left the shop.
That was in 2009.Since then there have been many changes,compromises and learning how to best support a rollergirl as she ventures into the world of Derby….that and learning to keep my mouth shut and letting her get on with it.
It’s all a bit bewildering in the beginning,learning to understand the sport itself,the made up names,endless excited talk about people you don’t know and haven’t met.Then theres the fact that you don’t see your other half as much as you used to or want to,having to make alternative travel arrangements for work as there’s no way you can use the car on a practise night,the alarming costs of kit and fuel.There’s also the changes to routine,the rushed meals and the boredom.
So when your other half discovers Roller Derby and you become a Derby widow,what do you do?
There are two main bits of advice,the first is just to roll with it.When the Roller Derby bug really bites,it bites hard and it hangs on.This isn’t a passing fad,or something that will tail off after a few months,this is years of commitment.The second is to support her all you can,Derby can be a rocky ride,with emotional ups and downs,be like a rock,a universal constant against the times when she doesn’t make the team,feels she played badly or gets injured.
Learn the sport.Trust me,the sooner you know what the hell she’s talking about the better.It’s not a difficult sport to grasp the basics of and although some of the more intricate rules and strategies take a little longer,it will be worth the effort.Learn the jargon too,remember that every rollergirl and every fan were newbies once,no question is too stupid.
Stick with Derby names.Meeting new skaters,referees and NSO’s increases exponentially over time.It may seem a little odd to begin with,but it’s easier than trying to learn dozens of real names as well as the Derby ones.
Derby is all-encompassing.Roller Derby sees no differences in people,any colour,any creed any size,any shape,any ability,any sexual preference,all are welcome.Leave any preconceptions you have at the door and just enjoy it.
Rollergirls have Derby wives.Get over it,it’s going to happen sooner or later.It’s all part of the camaraderie and shared experience of playing Derby.And it’s definitely not weird.
Say goodbye to your car.If you share a car,it now belongs to her.League practises,attending bouts and scrimmages all over the country,social nights out,fundraiser events and more all conspire to steal your beloved car away.Roller Derby will add thousands of miles and increase the wear and tear beyond the scope of your nightmares.Not to mention the alarming amount of fuel being burnt.Most uses you had for this vehicle are now of secondary importance when compared to Roller Derby.On the plus side,if you now have to cycle or walk to work sometimes,then you might as well get to enjoy it,a bit of extra exercise may go down well.
Make use of your new free time.Chances are that a couple of nights league practise a week,along with social nights and scrimmages are going to leave you with some free time.It’s easy in the beginning to feel left out,nights that you may have spent with your other half doing something together in the pre Derby days now have to be reorganised or abandoned.It’s also easy to spend that time doing something close to nothing or sleeping the time away.Catch up with those books you have been meaning to read,visit friends,go to the gym,hell,you could even spend that time learning about Roller Derby!
Go to bouts.As many as your time and job allow,cheer her on,have a t-shirt with her number,be her number one fan,go down to the trackside at the end to high five both teams.Get to know her team mates and her Derby wife and her partner.See the guy at the after party hanging about uncertainly with a league t-shirt on?,he’s probably a fellow Derby Widow,go and say hi at least.
Get involved directly.Leagues are always looking for all kinds of people to be involved.You could strap on a pair of skates yourself and train to be a referee,or be a non skating official.You may work or have a skill in something that can be of use to her league,photography,printing,advertising,announcing,the list is endless.
Me? As time went on from that day in the shop in Edinburgh,i began to want to contribute something,to give something back for the good i could see had been done to my better half through being involved in Derby.So i started this blog.