When I started Roller Derby in January 2010 I was one of those people who started with no athletic background. I mean, I had played all types of sports when I was a kid, but never stuck with anything for longer than a year. In my adult years I had more than a few subscriptions to different gyms, but never really had the motivation to stick to any of them. What I definitely lacked, was any experience with team sports. I never thought I would be a person for team sports, but that was mostly because I never enjoyed watching team sports like soccer, football or hockey. I guess it took me finding a sport I actually liked to understand that team sports was something I could get very excited about. Roller Derby is not a sport you play individually, so it was easy to get into being a part of a team. As none of us could play alone, playing together to achieve our goals was essential.
Our team has been built on the achievements we have reached together. We have never really been a team that has weekly hangouts. It’s not that we don’t enjoy each other’s company, but I believe that the city of Amsterdam has a lot to offer to people’s social calendars and next to practice 3 times a week there is not a lot of time left to socialize. For me personally it’s harder as well as I don’t live in Amsterdam. So going to Amsterdam to hang out on nights I don’t have to be in Amsterdam are rare, but even though we might not hang out all the time, we are a very tight knit team.
I believe we truly started to grow as a team when we started traveling to play. Seeing each other for a whole weekend, staying together in hotel rooms and hostels, eating together, having yoga stretching parties in the hallway of a hotel, sharing frustrations, celebrating wins and going to the after parties together. All of these things have united us as a team and have brought us closer together. These people are my teammates, most weeks I see them more then I see my friends and family and I am very happy to know I have friends in my team as well. As I am writing this, I realize I shouldn’t have been surprised that at the beginning of this season (our season starts in September) I had a hard time dealing with the loss of several long-term teammates.
In the past 2 years, our A-team has lost 12 of its members, some of whom had been playing with us since our very first game in Essen in August 2011. They didn’t all leave at once and I guess it didn’t hit me until the last few left. At that moment I realized, that apart from one of my teammates (Dirty Job; who has also been there since the beginning) all of my new teammates were formerly in our b-team (which I coached for 4 years) or were transfer skaters. Please do not get me wrong, I absolutely love our current team, and it is not in any way that they are all newbies or anything like that. They are right where they should be and they do an amazing job in our team, but for me, personally, it has been a process to realize that I was apparently more affected by the loss of my teammates than I could have ever imagined.
Maybe it is because I have never played team sports and I didn’t know you could get that attached to your teammates. It might also be because every time somebody left we would have people fill their spots. But whatever the reason, I am happy to say I have build friendships with former teammates that continue to be friendships after our derby connection. Sadly there are also ones I haven’t seen since they retired. It feels like a part of your tight group of friends just disappears.
The upside to this story is that a team will always be full, therefor losing team members always results in gaining new team members as well. Currently, our team is filled with skaters that are absolutely passionate about our sport. In the past two years our team has played 10 tournaments together and quite a few more bouts. In our last tournament in December, the Dutch National Championships, we really came together as a team, and on a micro level with our line. It was great to feel that we reached a new level of symbiosis as a line and as a team. We have grown into another well-oiled machine. Parts of the machine might be different, but that’s okay. Change is good and healthy, also in a team. And even though I miss all my old teammates, having new people to get to know and become teammates and friends with is amazing.
Thoughts of lack of belonging and retirement of the sport all together have crossed my mind in the beginning of this season. However, it is my teammates that make me realize I do belong and that I am exactly where I should be. My passion for this sport is nowhere near done and I am definitely not ready to hang up my skates any time soon. I have come to the realization that it is okay to feel sad when our teammates retire and it’s okay to need some time to adjust to the new team dynamics. As long as we can open up to welcome new team mates, then we can be a part of an ever changing and growing team that can achieve great things together!
Furrrocious started playing Roller Derby in January 2010 with Amsterdam Roller Derby. She has been involved in all aspects of the game. She has been heavily involved with the training and coaching inside and outside her league with different teams and boot camps. She has been coach for B.ADD, Amsterdams B-team and a coach and line up manager for the Dutch National Mens Team for several years. Furrrocious also went to the second women’s Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas in 2014 as one of the captains for team Netherlands. She is currently involved in several committees within the WFTDA and still very active with coaching.