Ask Kevlar: Teammates, League Loyalty and Toxic Relationships

Dear Kevlar,

I love Roller Derby and all the people I have met through the sport. I’m considering switching to a different league though. I like my team-mates and the people who run the league. It’s just that there are more opportunities for my development as a skater with another league.

The problem is this… How do I tell my league that I’m thinking of leaving them for the opportunities offered elsewhere? I’m convinced that I’ll be ostracized by my league for turning my back on them.

I’d hate to ruin friendships I’ve built and create anger and drama in the derby community, but at the same time, I’d like to Skate, Travel and Compete with a larger, more dynamic Team.


Fearful on the Flat-Track

Dear Fearful on the Flat-Track

Thank you very much for asking this question. This is something a great deal of people face at some point in their derby careers and it can be an extremely difficult and emotional experience. Right off the bat, the fact that you are convinced that you will be ostracized by your current league for “turning [your] back on them” speaks volumes. Real friends, as in friends that truly care about you, value you, support you and are happy to be in your life, DO NOT MAKE YOU FEEL THIS WAY. This, unfortunately, sounds like a textbook example of a toxic relationship to me. (Take a look at this article, make note of point #5 near the end.)

Toxic relationships come in many forms. They can be with your family, your friends, your coworkers, your employers, your neighbors, anybody really. They are sneaky in the sense that you may not know you are in one until you have already been significantly drained and/or abused. Toxic relationships often take advantage of you, they use you, they drain you of happiness and energy, they minimize your accomplishments, they keep you from being your true self and they keep you from experiences or opportunities you deserve. They can control you, they make you fear life without them, they make you feel hurt, angry, tired, anxious, frustrated and unhappy and they relish in you feeling just as miserable or bitter as they do. All around, toxic relationships just bring you down. But worst of all: toxic relationships are selfish. If your “teammates” are going to ostracize you and hate you and disown you for looking after yourself, for seeking growth in new opportunities, for wanting to experience more things and for being happy… I strongly recommend you start to distance yourself from them.

I say all of this because I have personally felt the long lasting effects of toxic relationships before, some that have certainly been more severe than others have. I used to be so concerned with those around me, so wrapped up with my relationships with others, with not upsetting people, with avoiding conflict and with striving to ensure everybody liked me that I was severely neglecting myself and holding myself back. I cannot even fathom how many opportunities and experiences I have missed in the past because I was making decisions based on not upsetting others. It sucks imagining how many beneficial, once in a lifetime doorways I have bricked up because I chose not to walk through them out of fear that I would upset somebody. God… so much regret. Please don’t do that to yourself, Fearful on the Flat-Track. Don’t sacrifice your own happiness, health and opportunities for the sake of selfish “friends”.

If they are not going to support you and be happy for you because of their own bitterness and insensitivity then they are simply not worth fighting for. Surround yourself with people who love you and value you for who you are and who will be there for you no matter what choices you make because they truly, honestly care about your well-being and happiness. THOSE are the relationships to invest in.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you stop caring about how your friends feel or to stop investing in your relationships altogether. It’s important to value our friends! But ask yourself, do these friends value YOU the same way that you value them? Do they treat you right? Do they make you feel good about yourself and are they genuinely looking out for your best interests just as you are looking out for theirs? Be honest and if you answered “no” to any of these questions then perhaps it is time to reevaluate some of your relationships.

In the end, the decision is yours, Fearful of the Flat-Track. I simply hope that you make the best choice for YOURSELF. How do you let your league know? Honestly, I’d recommend you just tell them. You can either write a letter or an email to the board to let them know or you can inform everybody in person at practice. But be sure of yourself first! Don’t say “I’m thinking about going to another league”. This will simply create false hope, conflict and anxiety as others try to pressure you into staying. Make the decision for yourself based on the information you presently have then, if you decide to move on, inform your league and teammates firmly but politely. Say something along the lines of: “I’ve decided to seek new opportunities and growth with {INSERT TEAM/LEAGUE NAME}. I will be joining them {SAY WHEN}. Thank you so much for all that you have taught me and for all of the wonderful experiences. I hope we can stay in touch and skate together again at future events!” Say it however you are most comfortable and don’t make a big scene out of it. Keep it casual but make sure you express that your decision is final. How they react will be up to them!

Best of luck to you and take care!