As we reach a landmark anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on how far the Lansing Derby Vixens have come. We are kicking off season five, and I’m proud to say that I’ve skated for the LDV All Stars since day one.
For me it all started in 2010. I was visiting family in Chicago one weekend, and trying to figure out something to do for the night. A Turkish friend of ours suggested going to a Windy City Roller Derby bout. While we didn’t make it to the game in time, we proceeded to spend a good chunk of the rest of the evening looking up roller derby videos on you tube. I was simply shocked that I had never heard of this American sport and was absolutely enamored with watching jam after jam, after jam.
In early March 2010, I stumbled across a Facebook page called “The Time is Now, Lansing Roller Derby”. Nothing could have been quite so serendipitous.
I sent out an email to a handful of my girlfriends:
“Hey! Anyone want to come out with me on Sun afternoon to check this out? I am all for it. If no one’s down, then I’m off solo to make some new friends!”
I decided to go it alone and met with a small group of dedicated folks like Ryan Knott (who eventually became my coach) and other passionate athletes who were trying to figure out some logistical ends to get us started. This became a series of meetings that led to something so much bigger than any of us had imagined. I hadn’t a clue that many of these great people would eventually become like a second family to me, and indeed, my very best friends.
The meetings led to establishing a practice space, where we found some pretty hilarious places to try to learn to skate. We skated at random community center gym floors, outdoors at high school tennis courts, and even once on an auditorium stage. Some started taking classes at the local skate rink Edru, others like myself went up to Mount Morris to learn 101s from a more established team. We would simply follow the lead of whoever had connections.
Not ready to make an investment in all the gear, I purchased the most basic set of pads and started in high top roller skates with plastic wheels, bought from a random Craigslist connection. My teammates nicknamed them my Barbie Skates.
There was no Fresh Meat program, we didn’t have a steady practice venue, barely any materials- no clue how to measure a derby track, and few boyfriends/husbands who were kind enough to pretend to know enough to learn to ref. Most of us didn’t know the first thing about cross overs and clung desperately to the walls around the skate rink to stay upright. I remember slamming into walls with my entire body before I knew how to stop. The first season I actually tore both of my post-cruciate ligaments (one in each knee), before I even realized there was a problem with my equipment and some basic skills.
We didn’t have much, except an incredible group of ladies and men who had a vision to aspire. Today we have grown to a full WFTDA ranked league of dedicated adult women, a flourishing junior league, and a crew of highly trained and well-regarded officials.
As Margaret Mead put it, “There’s no doubt that a small group of people can do extraordinary things”. Five years ago we established goals to be a skater owned team, become part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and be devoutly invested in the community. What we have built has exceeded any of our expectations, and I couldn’t be more proud. Truly, it has been a team effort.
Happy fifth birthday Vixens! I hope to celebrate many more with you!