I started roller derby at 36 and I turn 42 next month. It’s been an interesting experience moving from my 30s into my 40s playing an organized sport full of diversity. With over 4500 members in the ‘Derby over 40*’ group on Facebook, it’s wonderful to see ageism not be an issue. That being said, combining 40 years of life with roller derby can result in a different outlook compared to someone in their 20s or 30s.
It’s difficult to determine if the lessons I’ve learned in roller derby come from over 5 years in the sport, or come from life experience. Regardless, here are some of my own observations as I’ve come-of-age in roller derby. Have some of your own wisdom to pass on? Share in the comments!
*There are over 350 members in the ‘Derby over 50’ group! Amazing!!!
You’ve seen ALL the derby drama and can spot it coming
Isn’t it funny how derby drama comes and goes in waves? A league may be drama-free for weeks at a time. Then one minor incident creates a ripple effect that lasts for another few weeks. If you’ve come-of-age in roller derby you’ve likely surfed the derby drama waves often and maybe even been pulled in by the undertow. But your experience in your regular life and league life has taught you how to spot the currents that rip leagues apart and you know how to stay the hell away from them. Or encourage communication to stop the drama before it starts.
Being everyone’s friend in the league isn’t on your list of priorities
I don’t need to say much about this because Elektra Q Tion already wrote about the difference between friends and teammates (check it out here). Making friends in roller derby is pretty awesome and I’m happy I’m still close friends with people who have left the sport or moved to other leagues (shout out to my bestie Betty Believit). Truth-be-told, I used to be one of those skaters who wanted to be close friends with all my teammates in the early days. But experience has proved that it’s better to play with teammates than friends. I value and respect every teammate I skate with on the track. I also value the bonding experience that happens during away games or at tournaments. Would I hang out with any one of my teammates if they wanted to go for coffee? Absolutely. But do I have a deep friendship with everyone on my team off the track? No. And that’s okay! It took me a while to learn that.
You live the mantra “age is not an excuse,” even when you actually use it as an excuse every once in a while.
I know I’ve uttered the words ‘I’m getting too old for this’ on the track during practice and games. For whatever reason, it brings me some self-satisfaction that I AM doing ‘this.’
You smile inside when you out-endurance the 20-somethings
Because age is not an excuse.
You get jealous inside when 20-somethings pick up skills at a much faster pace than you ever did
Because you wish you had roller derby in your 20s.
(But a 40-something will also have the confidence in themselves to not hold someone’s success, skill and talent against them.)
After parties aren’t as essential
This may be the case for anyone who’s been in the sport for over five years, regardless of age. However, in my 30s I made a point of staying for all the after parties. I even made it to a couple after-after parties. In my 40s, the shine of it has rubbed off. I usually make an appearance, chat with a couple people, then ghost. If I started roller derby in my 40s would I be enthusiastic about after parties? I doubt it.
You attend board and committee meetings for fun. You also read the minutes.
You know you’re in your 40s when you make a point of reading league minutes. You may have to do it out of necessity because you have to plan your life months in advance. Meetings are where the preliminary plans are hatched. But taskers and planners under 40 will also do this!
Overcoming injuries requires a bit more effort
For the most part, I’ve been loving my 40s and the health benefits roller derby has brought. But sometimes the physical part of growing old sucks. Did you know your muscles start aging at 30? And your bones start aging at 35? Once you reach a certain decade, your body is going to start working against your efforts. Add injury into the mix and the road to recovery takes much longer compared to someone in their 20s. A big lesson here is to understand your limits if you are injured and have a graduated plan to get back on the track. For fun, check out this article that lists other parts in your body and when they typically begin aging.
You wonder if menopause will improve your aggression on the track
I haven’t reached menopause yet, but I’ve seriously thought about this. I really hope so. On that same note…
You wonder if hot flashes will make you wither and die on the track
BUT you can still win MVPs like a boss
Because age is not an excuse.
If you’re lucky enough to be still playing roller derby when you hit 40, be sure to join the Derby Over 40 Facebook group! It’s a closed group so someone who is a member that knows you will have to vouch for you in order for you to be added!