Though I am extremely excited for the great experiences to come in 2014, for the first time in my derby career I have had to see several of my colleagues and friends retire or change roles within the sport. I recently had the opportunity to talk to one of these friends, Mae WasteYa of the SWSRDA Redneck Betties, about her difficult decision to retire from skating and beginning her journey as a coach. It was through this discussion that WasteYa shared some powerful words about the importance of appreciating our time in the derby roles we love because life happens and it could all be over before you know it.
Tina Helgason, aka Mae WasteYa #29+, joined Roller Derby in August of 2010. Over the past 3 years she has played in 23 bouts with the Redneck Betties, approximately 10 scrimmages and has, alongside her teammates, helped cultivate a strong derby community in South West Saskatchewan. The Betties first started with only four women, one of whom was WasteYa, learning to skate on outdoor rinks and tennis courts around the city of Swift Current. Little did they know that come 2013 they would be selling out their home games, have their team jerseys up in local restaurants, be heavily featured in local media and get the Boston Pizza lounge named after their league.
WasteYa’s very personal story of why she became involved in derby is one that truly harks back to the “derby saved my soul” sentiment many of us share. “At that time in my life our oldest son had moved to live with his real Dad and even though it was a move designed to help him and give him a second chance it broke my heart, so when the opportunity to become a part of this great sport presented itself I jumped in with two feet and never looked back,” explained WasteYa. “It gave me strength to conquer what I was going through.” Since joining she has accomplished a great deal with her fellow Betties including placing 20th in Canada within their first couple of years, beating the SRDL Mindfox (2012 RDAC National Champions) in front of their home crowd and winning 3rd place and bronze medals at the Bruise-ual Suspects: Central Division Tournament in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan this past August. “I never dreamed where this could go, but I am glad I took that first skate,” said WasteYa. “The impact it has had on my life has been tremendous, it has given me self-confidence, belief in myself and it gave me a chance to be apart of something wonderful with a lot of fantastic people. I have met so many wonderful, strong women in our community who have become such a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine not having them in my world.”
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KEVLAR: What were the 3 biggest lessons/things that you learned about yourself through your involvement in the sport?
WASTEYA: I have learned that I am strong on my own, but together we are unstoppable.
I have learned that even though things seem insurmountable at first that with a little hard work and a ton of commitment we can accomplish anything especially since I have 20+ people I can lean on when I need to.
That no matter which walk of life you come from, how you are built, what your life is like, when we all come together, magical things happen.
KEVLAR: What accomplishments (be they personal, athletic ones or team based ones) are you particularly proud of during your time with the Redneck Betties?
WASTEYA: I am very proud of being voted Player of the Year, and Most Intimidating (hee hee, not sure why I got that one), by fans and teammates, it made me feel amazing and proud. I loved receiving the White Hat in Calgary for MVP after being off on injury for a little while, it was great to get back and play a great game.
I am very proud of my team and how we went from a very rookie team in 2011 to Playing higher levels teams in 2013. Our win loss record has been amazing, in 2012 I saw how hard our team worked at practices and the level of growth and the vast improvement in our Skills and strength that happened as a result, we were very strong in mind, body and team. In 2013 we saw changes, lost vets from them moving away or retiring due to injuries or life events, struggling a little with all the changes but yet still coming out at the end of the season with a 6-3 record, placing 3rd in the Province! To me it’s a true testament of how hard we work and how well we work together.
I am proud of how much everyone has grown, how much strength I see when I look at the women on my team, I am proud of our work ethic, I am proud of the fact that this team “of mother type people” has gone on to be a team to be reckoned with, we are an older league and I think that gives us an edge for the most part, we are fiercely protective of our team and our league and we will fight tooth and nail to make things work, whether on the track or in the inner workings of our league.
KEVLAR: From what I have observed of Swift Current, the community has been HUGELY supportive of the Redneck Betties throughout the years. How appreciative are you of the fans and how have they reacted to your decision to stop competing?
WASTEYA: Swift Current has the BEST FANS in all of Derby World (I may sound biased but we have had numerous visiting teams tell us that as well). They are loud and appreciative. We have the best sponsors, fans, volunteers! They support us and are behind us, and we are so grateful for this. I have had some people tell me that they are sad that I am retiring because they love watching me play, and it warms my heart! I loved hearing the roar of the crowd when my name was announced it made me smile every time. Having fans coming up to me after the game and talking to me, having people on the street recognize me as Mae WasteYa or as a Bettie, I will miss that!
KEVLAR: How would you describe your overall experience of skating with the Redneck Betties?
WASTEYA: It was the best three years of my life. I feel such a fierce sense of Pride for my girls, I knew that anytime I put on my skates at a game or at a practice, I had 20+ people who were there for the same reason I was, working hard to improve to better than we were yesterday. SO much heart and dedication to be the best we can be. I am so grateful to have been a part of something so wonderful. I LOVE MY REDNECK BETTIES and I AM PROUD TO BE A REDNECK BETTIE!!!!
KEVLAR: When and why did you decide it was time for you to hang up your skates?
WASTEYA: At the beginning of the year I knew that this was going to be my last year, I wanted for it to be the best year I had playing with the girls, sadly for me it wasn’t, it was such a struggle from early on. I hurt my knee in Edmonton in March in the Advanced scrimmage and it was not getting better, I missed playing in our home opener, then in June we played back to back weekends, one in Swift Current and one in Billings and after the Billings game I was in so much pain I could hardly walk and needed assistance getting my equipment off. That was the longest bus ride home. For three weeks I was unable to walk without pain, I spent a full week flat on my back on the floor, finally after three weeks of agony and a few hospital visits to figure out what was wrong, the CT scan showed degeneration in my L1-L4, two bulged discs, and a bone spur. I was unable to play at another home game and ended up bench coaching again. However being the stubborn ass that I am I wanted to finish the season, I played in 4 and ¼ more games before finally being done. I had hoped that things would turn around and I would be able to play one more season, that I was just having a crap couple weeks, but sadly it’s not meant to be, it was time.
KEVLAR: It appears that you have now made the transition to the coaching/training side of the game. How have you found this new role so far?
WASTEYA: Honestly its hard, I bench coached the Betties twice last year and the first game I was in tears that afternoon of the game, it broke my heart to not be taking the track with them, but at least I was still a part of them. I know it will get easier, the girls make it easy to coach them, as they are willing to learn and work hard, plus Vic Vega and I work extremely well together. I look forward to watching the new crop of girls coming up go thru all those experiences and watching their faces when they pass their benchmarks, and step on the track for the first time. I also look forward to watching the returning players continue to grow and evolve.
KEVLAR: On September 19th you played your last home game as a Betty, what was going through your mind as you spoke to the crowd after the game?
WASTEYA: I can’t believe it’s all over, the three years went so fast, but I was happy to have skated that last game in front of my home crowd with my girls, I went out on my own terms in a sense, with the support of my family, our fans, and mostly with my teammates. During the game I focused solely on the game and the task at hand, but once the final whistle blew all the memories came crashing in, our first game, all the road trips, the wins, the losses, the events we volunteered at, the Calendars we made, the Roller Derby convention we attended and learned so much at, the growth, the changes, everything we had experienced in the past three years, finally the realization that I was done skating, and that I have so much to be proud of personally and as a member of the Redneck Betties.
I had more years playing than I had expected I would, but less than my heart desires. I will always look back at my time as a Roller Derby girl as something to be treasured and no one can ever take that away from me. To all the skaters still skating: Take the time you have as a skater and enjoy it, treasure it, play every game as though it’s your last, go to practice and before you even put on your skates, take a second and look around at all the fantastic people you have on your team, appreciate what this sport has done for you, be thankful that you have a place to be you! In a blink of an eye you will only have memories, make them count.
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The South West Saskatchewan Roller Derby Association and Redneck Betties are now in the midst of skater registration and fresh meat training for the 2014 season, follow them on their Facebook Page to see more of Mae WasteYa in her new coaching role!
Also keep your eyes out for Redneck Betties: The Movie, a mockumentary focused on the team in Swift Current. It is being co-directed by Brian Dueck, aka Osama Bin Jammin, who has served as house announcer for the Betties for years.
Appreciating what this sport has done for me too!