Debbie Darko’s Journey

On Monday, May 24, 2010 I hesitantly climbed the dark stairs of the Heorot to the 2nd floor, a shy and awkward recent graduate of Ball State, stepping way out of my comfort zone. I sat quietly in the corner, taking in the group of women seated around me. From all walks of life, they too had gathered that day to discuss one thing: roller derby.

My entire roller derby knowledge consisted of what I was able to glean the night before from a google search. I had seen a flier up at a bar a few days before, explaining that a Muncie roller derby team was forming and that no experience was required. I hadn’t skated in years, yet the idea was intriguing to me. I knew I needed to join something now that I had graduated, lest I become a hermit. Most of my friends had moved out of town and my shyness made it nearly impossible to make friends as an adult.

I have no idea what made me brave enough to walk up those dark steps that day, but I’m forever grateful I did. Joining roller derby has, hands down, been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

It hasn’t been an easy road. I was not a natural skater by any means. I envied my teammates who seemed to have been born with skates on, and I silently struggled with the simplest moves. Merely staying on my feet was a challenge at first and often my fear and anxiety made my heart pound in my throat.

Not being able to contribute to the team with my nonexistent skating skills, I tried to contribute in other ways. From the beginning I went to every single event I possibly could, promoting the team, spreading the word about derby and volunteering in the community with my teammates. Always an obsessive photographer, I started photographing the team when I could. This was not only a way to contribute, but it also was a bit of a security blanket for me. I was painfully shy, so I could hide behind my camera and still feel useful. I joined almost every committee on the team and worked to help keep our fledgling team going.

Slowly (very slowly), I improved. Even more slowly I began to become more comfortable around my teammates. The quiet one for years, I finally began to open up. These women, this amazingly diverse group of strong, independent, funny and caring women never once made me feel stupid for always being the slowest. They always encouraged me, even when I failed. In turn, I grew more confident, less fearful, and pushed my body past what I thought I could accomplish.

It took me three and a half years to finally pass all the minimum skills. In January 2014 I passed the dreaded 27/5 (27 laps in 5 minutes), with my team cheering me on the whole time. It would take me two more years of hard work, determination, drills and scrimmages (a year and a half of which I was an alternate and a season of struggling with a knee injury) but finally I’ve earned my first non-alternate roster spot at a CFDD bout. Not only will I gear up on Sunday, February 28th at 4pm as a fully rostered skater, but for the first time ever, we’ll be playing a doubleheader at home.

12736855_10153606882144865_1108518855_oI’m so honored to have the opportunity to play in the first ever Cornfed B team game. The fact that we now have a B team is amazing! We’ve always been a small team and have, at times, struggled with numbers. But our ranks have swelled, giving each and every skater so much more opportunity to learn and grow.

As one of the few remaining original members of the team, one who was there before we had a practice space, (when we had no idea what we were doing, but worked incredibly hard anyway) the swell in numbers fills my heart with such joy. It’s incredible, as someone who struggled for years to do the simplest things on skates, to help the next generation of Dames discover the love of this amazing sport. These women have become so much more than teammates and friends. They’re my family now. And in this supportive and welcoming environment, one that is accepting of all body types, all sexual orientations and all backgrounds, I have found the confidence to finally break out of my shell and the freedom to be myself.

12735969_10153606882189865_778805169_nIt’s been a long journey from that spring day in 2010 to now. One that I’m grateful for every day. There’s been a lot of sweat, tears, tweaked muscles, one unfortunate broken tailbone and bruises beyond count, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m proud to be a Dame, honored beyond words to be rostered at the first home bout of 2016, and excited to see what season 6 will bring.

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