So I quit Roller Derby this week…

Yep… I’d like to say that’s why I haven’t posted in over 2 weeks, and maybe it had a little to do with it because my mind has been pre-occupied, but no. However it has taken me all week to write this, I started out writing my whole sob story and then stopped myself… You’re welcome; you could have been stuck reading this for hours.

I’d like to share my experience of roller derby with you and the reasons why I left. It may not seem relevant to the title of ‘all things health, happiness and wellness’ but you’ll see.

This may come as a surprise to you, but Roller Derby isn’t always fun, my experience has been peppered with insane highs (winning bouts, amazing friendships, dance/jam skating, empowering boot camps, meeting & skating beside incredibly inspiring and talented individuals) and inglorious lows (getting our arses handed to us, betrayals, bitter feuds, infidelities, broken hearts and bodies).

I think sometimes Roller Derby is a reflection of feminine energy, as I’m sure most would agree (unless you’re perfectly hormonally balanced) we all suffer from these highs and lows, maybe a club’s health is decided on our energetic & hormonal health?

My Roller Derby journey started in June or July of 2009 (I can’t quite remember the exact date, as it coincided with a break up that turned my life on its side… In a good way).
I was 22, had recently left a 5 year relationship and didn’t really know who I was. I was intrigued by what I’d seen on TV about Roller Derby and didn’t really have anything better to do.
I immediately fell in love with it! I wanted to be Kitty Von Krusher from VRDL, I was never into following our American counterparts closely, because they are so so advanced and I could relate more to a home grown hero. I still have a picture of Kitty on my vision board at home.

As I joined a very small club (5 members including me), it was all hands on deck and I quickly became the Treasurer, and you know what? Being on a committee of a rapidly growing sports club is tough! But I feel like I learnt a lot from my experience on the committee over the years.
People came and went, we dealt with A LOT of bullshit, like the kind of stuff that you could only dream of watching on the most far-fetched soap opera on TV. Some of the bullshit broke people and it nearly broke me, but something always kept me in the club. I think it was loyalty. Derby feels like another family, but I also think that being a derby girl is a little like being in a bad relationship; The boyfriend (Roller Derby – we’ll call it ROD for the sake of this metaphor). So ROD is an abusive boyfriend, he beats you up, tells you that no one will want you, that you’re never good enough, and then just as you’ve made your mind up, just as you’re set to leave he turns up at your house with a boom box blasting “Baby Come Back”  then you have amazing make up sex and all is forgiven (I’d call this getting your mojo back or having an amazing bout/training session). ROD is demanding, he wants all of your time and he doesn’t care about your friends outside of the relationship, you realise all that your missing out on, and again you try to leave, but all it takes is one good thing, one compliment, one loving gesture and you’re right back in his arms.
It’s like being trapped in a vortex, where for me life has stood still. I managed to study, work and play derby throughout 2011, but my body became so stressed that I developed CIN III (Cervical Pre-Cancer), I had to have LLETZ “therapy” (this is the most un-fun, humiliating, painful, scary experience I’ve had in my life), I consulted my Kinesiologist and my Ayurvedic guru Kester – both my Kinesiologist and Kester agreed that my stress levels were maxed out. As a nurse I research things and a really worrying trend popped up – the relationship between long term stress and cancer! I had to take over 6 months off derby and worked really hard at making myself well again. I went back to derby mid last year and worked my arse off to be back in the bouting level, but it didn’t feel the same. Everyone else’s skills had progressed so much, I was beating myself up about not being as good as them, I wanted to be amazing, I was pushing myself harder than I had ever done before and still I felt like I was getting no where, plus I wasn’t loving it…

This is where I come to my point, unless you’re completely in love with something, unless you can’t live with out it, don’t give it everything you have, don’t sacrifice your happiness on a promise of what could be.

My decision to leave has been really hard, I’ve cried more than I care to admit about a sport which will always hold a place in my heart… But I know my decision is the right one.
I want to be really, truly, bouncing off the walls, shining, vibrantly healthy and happy. I want to be able to commit to other activities, I want to spend time getting to know me and developing myself spiritually, I want to start my tea business and study some more, I want to spend time with the friends I’ve neglected over the years… Sadly ROD won’t let me do those things, so for now it’s goodbye.

– Cass xo –


29 thoughts on “So I quit Roller Derby this week…

  1. wow so glad i read this cos now im seeing it all through your eyes im going to miss you but of course totally get it luv ya

    • This is exactly what I am currently dealing with. Except my LOA was for 2 years (for health problems also, but of the mental type). I had started when the team had only recently begun. The skaters then (now “vets”) all progressed at a similar level and I competed that season fairly well. When I was contacted by the team president asking that I cone back, I felt special and wanted and went back. I’m at the bottom both in rank and in skill — both of which are understood and just reality. But even weeks later, it’s so difficult not to be so hard on myself when everyone else is skating circles around me and I feel like I’m useless to the team.

      I’ve been fighting with myself and going back and forth about whether or not derby should really a priority of mine like it used to be. I began painting during my two year leave and it’s become something I’m really passionate about. Painting leaves me feeling happy and good about myself and my work no matter if it doesn’t look like a beautiful piece of work. I love working to get better and love investingmy money in supplies. With derby… with the costs of monthly fees, grear, equipment, and travel costs, the time commitment and the expectations set on me to be good enough for the team… my confidence is taking a brutal beating.

      My decision to just walk away has not been made. I am thankful that I came across your post so I don’t feel alone in this situation.

      Thank you! 🙂

      • I’m glad this post has helped you 🙂
        It’s funny once you leave derby you realise there is a whole big wide world our there with lots of interesting things that you are also good at & enjoy.
        I’ve recently gone back to derby see:
        Here I explain what it’s been like to go back, but into a new club.
        I’ve also been reading an amazing book called ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Russ Harris, it has helped me to be more mindful and observe my thoughts rather than buying into them and abusing myself over making mistakes/not performing how I would like to.

        Good luck!

    • Thanks Steph 🙂 It’s sad leaving something that is a big part of my identity and has been a huge part of my life for so long, but I know it will be worth it xo

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I just quit derby too and am still feeling quite conflicted about it.

    I miss the people and the *idea* of playing derby I don’t miss hauling myself to training and scrim – it had become a chore – but I’ve been feeling like that was a weakness.

    This is the first time I’ve read something that made me feel ok for quitting and summed up how I’ve been feeling.
    Thanks again.

    • Thanks for reading 🙂
      The people are what makes derby “derby” and it’s hard to leave them.
      I’ve decided to leave derby, but not the connections/friendships I’ve made, I can’t imagine letting everything go.
      I don’t know what your club is like or how your exit came about, but I’ve made a point of not leaving on bad terms and maintaining a presence (watching games, cheering my team mates on etc.), and luckily they’re allowing me to do this, without bitterness.

  3. Leaving roller derby may of been a very hard decision for you but in the end it will work out for the best! when i had those 3 months off i was so happy to be out of that relationship you described so well! but hey look at me now probs in a worse relationship now and in so deep hahah. Your a very strong person my dear and you have done so well iv always looked up to your strength and kindness your an amazing person and will succeed in whatever you do 😀

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  5. Thank you for your post. It’s been amazingly difficult to find posts about quitting derby, which makes it that much harder to do. It’s nice have some role models out there.

    I just finished my second season, my first year being a whirlwind of being drafted to both a home team and travel team. Like a lot of people I fell in love with derby immediately. The instant friendships/family, the challenge of learning something new and finding out that I was actually good at it, the fight it pulled out of me, the glory of hundreds, sometimes a couple thousand people cheering for me as I break through the pack. It’s a pretty intoxicating relationship.

    Half way though my first season, I started not wanting to play or practice and made a lot of “if I make it to next season” comments. I made it through that and then a second season, but thought about quitting almost every day. Though I’d be cheered up by a good bout or practice, eventually the doubt and the gnawing in my stomach would return. A few months into my second season I quit travel team but stayed on my home team season. Sometimes I regret quitting TT, I feel like I lost a part of myself, though I recognize it was my choice. I’ve almost quit all together many times, but then I think about the “potential” I have. I think about my team “needing me” and also wanting me around. I worry about making the wrong decision, maybe I’m just afraid of being successful at it, maybe I just don’t have the mental toughness or maybe I still have hope that “roller derby will save my soul.”

    Home team season should be starting in ernest in the next couple months and I couldn’t imagine quitting mid-season. So, I guess it’s time for me to decide once and for all if I’m going to play this season. It’s a scary thought.

    Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading Slam!

      It wasn’t easy to come to the final decision to leave and like you I really struggled with letting down my team and losing the skills and fitness I had. I’m surprised how much I haven’t missed training, but I do miss playing bouts.
      I feel like the relationships I had at derby have suffered, but my real derby friends have continue to be an important part of my life.
      Since quitting I’m definitely not as fit, but when I strap my skates on I am just as skilled/have as much agility as I had previously. It’s like riding a bike and now I feel joy when I skate, I don’t constantly say to myself “you’re not good enough” or compare myself with others, I just skate and it feels so good!
      All that said I may be moving to Brisbane (~1hr away) early next year and if I do I think I’ll explore joining one of the more established clubs up there, to make friends and to see if things are different for me in a new club.
      Good luck with everything and remember if you leave derby, you can always go back to it, sometimes we all just need a break.

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  7. Thank you for posting this. I am sitting on the fence post with this decision right now. This is exactly how I feel bout derby right now. So thank you, it gives me a lot to think about.

  8. Thank you for writing this. I have a very similar derby background started in 09. Worked my ass off had a baby came back felt inferior. Left the big league moved away started a league of my own. Oh why! I am now a President of a very small league and I basically carry the league. I do everything for these girls and it is still not enough all they think about is themselves and all I am doing is puting myself last! I put up with WEEKLY dramas and then told I “stress” too much. My husband is over it and my family is over it. No one wants to do the work to train and make bouts hapen, but act like it is all going to magically happen. I have tried taking a step back and letting themselves sort it out but can’t cause (even with my guidance) it just ends in me fixing everything last minute and getting stressed. My job is suffering and my relationships are suffering. I want to have another child and I was going to coach//bench, but I can’t help but think of a time when I have time to do other things or have a weekend to myself. Husband says weekly, he wants me to quit, but how can I when I have put all this work in, everyone says the league will fold without me ( and I believe it too as we are so small) All I wanted to do was to bring this sport I loved to my home town, but it seems this is never going to happen or that I will be too stressed to enjoy the moment when it happens!!! What should I do?

    • Oh Jennifer!

      I feel for you. It’s a really difficult position to be in when you feel that everyone is relying on you.
      But truly, they are all adults, you do not need to “fix” things for everyone, this is not your job see: Letting Go
      What kind of support do you have within the league? What is your committee made up of (how many people/roles)? Are you comfortable delegating tasks? And could you step back and not fix things, let whatever happens happen just once?
      Maybe your fellow league members need to learn that it takes everyone pulling together to make a club successful.
      You cannot do this on your own nor should you be expected to. But sometimes you need to put your hand up and ask for help, sometimes people don’t even realise until you let them know that you’re struggling.


  9. It was so great to read this. Your writing has given me further insight into my own situation.
    I’ve been skating with a league in Melbourne for about a year and have become a pretty decent skater. One of the reasons I began roller derby was to try and make some friends and break the patterns of exclusion I’ve experienced for most of my life. Unfortunately it seems roller derby isn’t the answer to my problems.

    I haven’t made one true friend and feel left out of the health social environment that the league has. To my leagues defence I’m not your average derby girl. I’m transgender and this brings with it a lot of misconception and otherness. Honestly I’ve just counted myself lucky to have found a sport I can participate in.

    Anyways enough is enough. I love rollerskating and that is enough for me, I’m not really a competitive person. I’ve left without saying anything and not surprisingly my league hasn’t noticed me missing. Deep down I do hope I find the right league for me one day.
    Hope your enjoying your much deserved rest from derby. Thank you!

    • Hi Pixie,

      I hate how derby makes you feel like high school never ends, the exclusiveness and the cliques… blerg!
      I think sometimes the mistake that a lot of us make is assuming that Roller Derby is going to be the answer to our problems, when really we need to accept we are enough just as we are.
      With or without friends you are always worthy of all the best things in life.
      Since I have left I’ve realised I only had a couple of friends, despite the illusion that derby = friends.
      I think it allows a lot of different people to form connections and usually it’s in a way that makes it easier for people to make friends, team work brings people together. But often the connections are superficial and are confined to the track, which isn’t always such a bad thing because I don’t want some people sharing my daily life.
      I’ve recently skated with a new club, once. There policies are different to my old club and I feel hopeful that they have more integrity when dealing with all parts of derby, the good and the bad.
      I think I’ll go back, but I’m not sure if I’ll be as committed as before, I’m loving the freedom!!

      Good luck on your derby journey, maybe a break is all you need

  10. All of this…. I don’t know if leaving will be the best thing for me. I have all the feels and they don’t seem to get it. My passion isn’t there, I’m bogged down with League responsibilities, and I don’t think they actually respect my opinions. The league asks for advice but never wants to follow.
    I had to physically leave a practice I was upset. I’m really, really lost.

    • Hi Juggs,

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply.
      It’s really tough being stuck not knowing what is best. My bet is you’ll make a final decision soon (if you haven’t already) on what is right for you.
      Remember at the end of the day, you need to do what is right for you and what makes you happy. Sometimes that means taking a break or even speaking up and letting people know that you’re struggling.
      Take care of you xo

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