The Long, Long Road to the “Roster”

WillKillSomeWritten by Willkillsome

Submitted to Derby Frontier

The other day one of my league-mates was upset because she hadn’t made the team after working so hard for so long. I told her about some of my experiences, and she said that it helped her feel a little better, so I thought maybe it could help someone else out too.

See, as roller derby grows, I’m starting to see a problem.  Most leagues here on the frontier have one travel team.  They’re only big enough to support the one team, so that’s fine.  But at the same time, there are only 14 players on a roster.  So what happens to the people that don’t make the roster?

In January 2010 I joined SRDL. At the time we didn’t have a fresh meat training program, so my goal was to benchmark in one year. I had to teach myself a lot of the skills because the senior skaters weren’t always available to help me.  I was benchmarked in August and began playing games with house teams in September.  Luckily the league had decided to try focusing on house teams that year so I was able to get some game experience right away, even though I was pretty terrible at derby.

In spring of 2011 we had our first recruitment weekend.  At the same time, the Killa Bees were formed.  I didn’t make the team, even though other girls who had been playing shorter time than me did.  I was kinda bummed, but, such is life.  After all, there are only 14 spots on the roster.  It worked out okay for the league because the Bees and the All-Stars were prepping for the game, so they couldn’t devote a lot of time to training the fresh meat.  For the first couple weeks I helped run them through some basic drills so the other girls could practice for the game.

For the next few months I just practiced with whatever skill level I seemed to fit with in whatever drills we were doing.  We didn’t do much team specific drills at that time, so it wasn’t too bad.  That summer the Bees had a game in St. Albert, and I made the roster. It was a lot of fun, and I felt like my hard work was starting to pay off.

SPOILERS: Hannah rostered with the Mindfox in 2013 and was part of their win at the Central Division Tournament.

SPOILERS: Hannah rostered with the Mindfox in 2013 and was part of their win at the Central Division Tournament.

At the start of 2012, the league decided to make rosters for the two travel teams that would stay pretty much the same for the rest of the season.  I didn’t make the cut that time.  It was really heartbreaking for me.  If I was good enough to play with the Bees a few months ago, why wasn’t I good enough now? It felt like no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t going to get anywhere.  I even thought about quitting. There were other girls who didn’t make the cut either, but at the same time, there were girls that I had taught basic skills to in the spring of 2011 that had been invited to play with what would soon be called the Mindfox.

In February of 2012 we got in a new group of fresh meat, and those of us that didn’t make the bees helped out with them.  Once they were benchmarked, we started a new travel team called the Rockettes.  Some of them quickly got pulled up to play with the Bees, and after a few short months, a couple of them were even skating with the Mindfox.  I was still a non-rookie on a rookie team. This was a really difficult year for me because I didn’t really know where I fit in. I wasn’t a rookie, but I didn’t feel like I was seen as a seniour skater either. I felt like I was just lost in the shuffle. I really seriously considered quitting a few times. I would jokingly call roller derby my abusive spouse because I would get bruises at practice, and even though I felt so low, so much of the time, I still wouldn’t leave (I read a stat in a textbook that said that an abused spouse will try to leave an average of 17 times before they get out of the abusive relationship for good).

In the fall of 2012, Bonnie D. Stroir came to Saskatoon for a training camp.  I talked to her a bit and she said that the frustration often boils down to the skater being too hard on herself.  For some reason, roller derby seems to attract a lot of alpha personalities.  People with high standards.  Unfortunately, we have the highest standards for ourselves. We can be hard on other people sometimes, but we are very, very hard on ourselves all the time.  I thought that maybe she was right, and I just had to be more supportive of myself.  So after every practice I started writing down three things I did well, and one thing to work on for next time.  I would write it in my facebook status, and sometimes teammates would give some feedback, or just click “like.”  It seemed to help some.

Fast forward to February 2013, and I finally made the Bees!  It may have taken me three years and a whole lot of work, but I did it.  I even got on the Mindfox roster for the “Centrals” tournament in Moose Jaw.  I’ve contiued to work with our fresh meat, too. Can’t seem to get away from that.  I really enjoy it though.

This is just my individual story.  I don’t claim to have all the answers.  I think that rostered skaters and the members of the board need to keep making sure that the non-rostered skaters are as involved as the rostered skaters.  Make sure they feel welcome at practices.  Make sure there is a place for them to fully participate.  Have a transparent process for selecting rosters for games.  The players that have worked for it should get a spot on that roster.  Just because someone is a senior skater doesn’t mean that they automatically get that spot on the roster.

In writing this, I’m hoping that if you’re feeling down because you didn’t make the roster, you’ll know that you’re not alone. Other people have been there, and other people will be there in the future.  As members of a growing sport, we need to be supportive of all the players in our sport.  That’s probably why I’ve continued to work with the fresh meat.  I don’t want one of them feel like they were forgotten, because sometimes, that’s how I felt, and it sucks.  If you aren’t on a travel team yet, keep working.  Play in as many invitationals as you can, and try to find a way to contribute your other talents to the league.  It might take a little while, but if I can make the roster, I bet you can too.



  1. I’m glad you perserved and found your place in derby!

    One comment to other players who might be feeling frustrated with not making a team right away… consider giving officiating a try in the meantime. The shortage of refs (well explored by others on Derby Frontier) equates to a lot of opportunities if you’re willing to wear stripes. To use myself as an example, I’m a weaker skater unlikely to be put on the roster at all. But as official I can be a part of as many bouts as I can handle – I’ve had stripes on for 25 this year. Officiating can give players the opportunity to spend more time on skates, up close looks at strong teams’ style and strategy, and a greater understanding of the rules – all stuff that will pay dividends when you eventually make a roster as a player.

  2. If you’re ready for it, I can tell you the secret to getting onto a travel team roster. Listen closely because it’s three things: Come to practice, shut your mouth and skate. These three things are three things that only YOU can do for yourself. No one else can make you do those three things but if you manage them for yourself, I guarantee you will make the travel team. If you cheat on any of those three things, you cheat yourself. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow and maybe not this season, but if you do those three things consistently, you will have established your spot on the travel team roster. Easy peasy.

    Oh, and for all of you skaters who have been around for a few years and think you’re owed a spot on the travel team, get over yourself and start working harder than the newer, hungrier girls who joined after you.

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