Roller derby takes a lot out of you….
Let me start from the beginning…
Working at Starbucks when I first moved to Chicago, I met Kola Loka, a speed skater and at the time, derby player for Windy City Rollers. I bought my first pair of skates and watched “Whip It” twice a week (I wish that were a joke). She would drag me out to speed skating lessons and teach me the basics. I would feel close to death every time until I learned about crossovers. This was my first ‘aha!’ moment with what speed was. Even though I was the slowest out there, I felt like a boss.
I first met the Outfit at Chicago Pride in an alley while ‘Shoot to Kill’ did a photo shoot for the Vagine Regime. This is where the heart, soul, sass, and class of the Outfit hijacked me from training with WCR (sorry gals).
I then met Lemmy Destroyer who was dating a friend of mine at the time. She told me advanced tryouts were a few months away and that she would help show me the ropes. We practiced in the Roberto Clemente High School garden in Humboldt Park and then moved to the tennis courts. We set up a warped illusion of what a derby track looked like and I practiced my 25 laps in 5 minutes.
I am Rude E Huxtable. I joined the family in 2010 and immediately injured myself in an extreme jump roping incident. After 8 months of physical therapy and surgery to repair a partially torn Achilles, I was back on skates, quicker than anyone expected. I got rostered for my first bout but before it could happen, I took a shoulder to the face. Baby’s first concussion. It would be almost a year until I actually played my first bout at the Fleetwood Roller Rink.
Like everyone in their first pair of fishnets, I was totally ready. The adrenaline, the strength, the power and lack of fear once you’re out there I was finally doing it! I was in love. I moved on and up in my skating abilities – even jammed a couple times with both Shakedown and Shade Brigade.
I felt strong and in love with the girls that I met and the sport that had found me. I was Bout Coordinator, Events Coordinator and even served on the Board of Directors for a time. Everything I didn’t understand about the camaraderie of sports in high school made sense now. Negative things I had to say about my body and wearing shorts were put to shame when I met Jackie Daniels. I felt strong, sexy, capable, and worth it.
I had a band of women who encouraged, cried, rejoiced, supported and taught me all there was to know about being and doing your best. Showing up, showing off, and showing out for whatever it is you are passionate about. We have each other’s back. During family drama or derby drama, we fight FOR each other and play WITH each other, build each other up. And we always win the after-party. This was fun, competitive, intense, painful, but fun. And that’s what I love about this league.
The 2013 season had its highs and lows. My mom and dad came to watch me play! We took photos and I didn’t injure myself! A few months later, I went to Ann Arbor and was able to play in front of my family, including my grandma(Hi grandma!), but this is where the low began.
I fell. Not like a fall where your knee pads can cushion you. The fall that would have me off skates for two years. The fall that proved your mother right, and your pride wrong. That kind of fall.
I spent those two years going to the gym and strengthening my knees and quads. Dropping 15lbs and gained 5 back in muscle. I could run. I was a beast. I spent those two years successfully building my photography career. I live in an apartment with both air conditioning AND laundry! I have a savings account and a gym membership. I paid off my car! Basically, I was killin’ it.
Then the itch came…can I play again? I missed it. I healed. I was ready. So I came back and tried out. And I make top 30 and I cry. And I get MVP and I cry. And I get rostered and I cry. And I make new friends, and, you guessed it, I cry.
I forgot how beautifully reckless this sport can be. Through the ups and downs the “is it worth it?”’s and “Did I fill out that health insurance stuff right?” and “Do I HAVE health insurance?” and “Can I afford this?, Can I physically afford this? Does it make sense to take off work!?” For some the answers are: “Yes of course!” And to some it’s “Let me think about it…”
As much as we love this sport, the day to day and existing in the real world, the needing limbs and brains to function at our jobs and with our families, cannot be denied.
So my 100% might look like your 60%
In life, as an artist, a daughter, a teammate, a friend, and a sister, I have to find my balance. We all have one body. We all have one brain. We all have dreams, families, and careers outside of this sport that demand so much of us. We’ve all faced the struggle to sit out one game, to play the last three. We have grown to be these tough, independent, resilient women of the sport…sometimes to a fault.
My heart is full of love with this sport and this league. It has helped shape me into who I am today. My heart is all in even if this body fails me at times. I hope that other leagues have this kind of love story with their team and teammates. I hope the encouragement from the beginning lasts through injury and retirement. And that every skater – present, past, and future – never forget why they joined the family to begin with.
– Rude E