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How Roller Derby Ate My Life

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Roller derby gobbled up most of my free time (and tons of money) because my gym workouts only lasted an hour. Bear with me a moment and it will all make more sense. You see, roller derby practices generally last about 2 hours, whether we're talking about the newbie training DBH was going through or the team scrimmages. Two to three times a week I'd go exercise while my wife either learned to skate or volunteered to help the team practice. But after an hour I'd be finished and go sit on the bleachers and watch, or maybe read a book. I chatted a bit with other observers - other friends and family of skaters and a few injured skaters - but mainly I just hung out until DBH was finished.

And here's where a small thing ultimately resulted in rather large personal consequences. Once a week the team would scrimmage in as close to a bout situation as possible. However, in bouts there are typically 7 skating officials (referees) - although this team's practice area could only accommodate about 4 (it's too small for outside ref lanes). There are also what are called Non-Skating Officials, or NSO's, who keep track of all the statistics, time penalties and jams, etc. You can get by with fewer than a full dozen in a scrimmage, but you still need at least 4 or 5 to do the basic jobs correctly. Because she hadn't passed the Basic Skills Test yet to begin her ref training, DBH did a lot of NSOing at scrimmage. She's hard core that way. Well, one night they were very short of NSO's, and there was me already done with my workout (I think we'd gotten there early that night so she could work out too) doing "nothing." The officials didn't know me, only that I was some dude with glasses who was always watching practices. One of them shouted at me to come help, pointing at me through the plexiglass surrounding the roller hockey rink the team was using as a practice space. I figured, why not?

And so began step 1: helping out at practices. Next was step 2: getting to know the officials and skaters as people, and getting to know the rules. Now I'm emotionally invested, see? And then one weekend DBH volunteered at a multi-day event out of town that the team was competing in. I gave her a big hug and enjoyed a day or two to myself, but when she returned DBH let me know that everyone was wondering where I was and why I wasn't supporting DBH, or (presumably) the team.

If you recall from my post a few weeks ago, this isn't what I'd had in mind. Officials have to do work - they can't drink and cheer atbouts. Plus, roller derby was supposed to be her thing. I'd thought I was being supportive by staying out of it, but somehow staying out of it had become a form of not being supportive. I hadn't understood that DBH wanted me to be involved, and I definitely didn't know (yet) about the phenomenon of the Derby Widow.

And so I started volunteering at bouts. At first I told myself that I'd only volunteer for home bouts, but that didn't last very long. Then I told myself that I'd avoid getting too deeply committed. And how do you think that worked out? Well, to give you a statistic, by this time last year I had NSO'd in 11 bouts. Now I'm up to 102 and working towards getting certified by the national organization. Next time: Things Get Out of Hand.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:34 PM

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