A few years ago, my boyfriend Lee and I found out that there was a roller derby event scheduled at the Gardens. Roller derby? How fun, right? We knew we had to check it out. We thought it was going to be all elbows to the head and fake fighting on a banked track. We were completely wrong. It was so much better than all that.

Roller derby had completely evolved from what we remembered seeing on TV as kids. It was fast and tough and REAL and we were immediately hooked. From the moment we saw that first game, we knew wanted to get involved but how on earth does one get involved with roller derby? It seemed to us kind of like running away to join a circus.
While we continued to attend games, life got in the way and we put on the back burner any thoughts of getting involved. But we still loved it, so much so, that we (with a couple of friends) dressed up as rollergirls and ref for Halloween. We even won best costume that night! Then Lee sent our roller derby Halloween costume pictures to the team. I was mortified. I figured they’d think we were a bunch of weirdos or posers or something. Much to my relief, they thought it was funny.
Then last year, through pure chance and circumstance, Lee met one of the Cincinnati Rollergirls (the awesome June with a Cleaver) and she suggested we attend the upcoming volunteer orientation. So we did! I was so nervous meeting all these tough roller derby chicks. I still felt like a huge poser. But they made us feel welcome and filled us in on what was involved in joining CRG, both for skaters and for refs and NSO’s (non-skating officials).
Lee knew from the start he wanted to ref. He even had his derby name “Captain Gorgeous” picked out. I was petrified though! I had never been athletic in my entire life. And what can you do in roller derby when you want to get involved but have 2 ruptured discs in your spine? It meant I needed to figure out what would be a good role for me. Just because I can’t play derby, it certainly doesn’t mean I can’t be a part of it. At first though, I had no intention of ever putting skates on. I thought I’d find some type of NSO position, like stats or penalty box or something. I sucked at roller skating as kid, what on earth would I be like on skates at 38? And I was afraid of falling and hurting my back even worse. So I went with Lee to those first practices after orientation and sat on the sidelines and watched Lee skating with all of the girls. The more I watched though, the more I wanted to skate. It looked like so much fun! So, I borrowed the crappy skates from the rink that we were in and got out on the floor and gave it a shot. And I HATED it at first.
I was so miserable because I felt so awkward and ridiculous out there but I kept at it. I finally got some good skates and practice after practice, I started getting a little better and feeling more confident. I decided then that I wanted to ref. But that brought a whole new level of anxiety. Learning all those rules was so daunting (and still is to some extent). But I learned the rules and passed the test (who knew there would be tests in derby?!) and finally came up with my derby name, “Jennemy of the Skate”. Though I wasn’t yet able to ref any of CRG’s home games last year, I did NSO the games while I continued to practice and get better at my reffing (gaining confidence to make calls and get over my fear of my whistle).
JennemyThis year, while I’m no longer a rookie ref, I’m still green and have a lot to learn and hope to keep getting better. I’m looking forward to skating all of CRG home games this year and hopefully even some away games. My next goal is to get certified so that I’m eligible to ref tournaments at some point.
There have certainly been a few bumps and bruises and quite a few blisters along the way but this whole experience has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. For someone who never had a large group of female friends (though thankfully a small group of truly wonderful ones) I now have this huge group of the most amazing, interesting and talented women that I call friends. And for someone who has NEVER been athletic, I’m proud of how well I’ve done so far with all of the skating. I’ve even been in public in booty shorts! That’s certainly not something I ever thought I would say as I approach my forties. But the best part of all of it is that Lee and I have been able to do this together. We have even gotten to travel with the team and have had a complete blast.
Running away with this roller derby circus has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.