My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses

My 9yo, representing her Orange Crush.

Spring Piano Recital 2012: Paisley (9yo)

Yesterday was my 9yo’s Spring Piano Recital. She played an original composition that she wrote, entitled “Orange Crush.” She wore orange-and-black-striped tights to visually represent her “Orange Crush.” On her feet, she sported her well-worn, black-and-white, skull-and-crossbones-with-orange-piping, custom-designed “Orange Crush” Converse All-Stars, rather than the black ballet flats I suggested (she’s only worn them once – for her last Spring Piano Recital). I anticipated an epic battle when I insisted that she may not, under any circumstances, wear her neon-orange “Orange Crush” hoodie (it’s a piano recital; even in Seattle, where dressing up means tucking one’s t-shirt into one’s jeans, I have my standards), but the day turned out warm and sunny, and she left her beloved sweatshirt at home.

Our family’s life has become permeated with all things “Orange Crush.” And I’m not talking about the retro-cool soda pop.

You see, my 9yo daughter’s roller derby team is called the Orange Crush. She is head over wheels in love with her new sport, and now views the entire world around her through orange-colored glasses…

It all began innocently enough when one of her best friends asked if she wanted to take a roller derby camp over the summer. I had almost no exposure to roller derby at the time, only knowing of the popularity of Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls – and the hip, if fairly risqué, pin-up fashion sensibilities of said Rollergirls – from afar; I’d never even been to a bout, but knew it involved lots of bruises inflicted from knocking each other off the track. With a touch of trepidation, I agreed she could take the six week session (every Friday night for six weeks), in spite of the lateness of the practices (6-9pm – Paisley’s bedtime is usually around 7:30/8pm). I figured, if anything, the skating practice would make her a better skater and she’d have more fun at the annual roller-skating trip her school took (which represented her entire roller skating career up until this time).

And though I worried a bit that she’d learn to body-slam some unsuspecting classmate and I’d have a call from the principal, I never expected that we were actually making a lifestyle choice.

So, we took a trip to Fast Girl Skates (the first roller derby storefront in the country is here in Seattle!) to get Paisley geared up for camp: a new pair of skates, a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a mouth guard.

Paisley's first day of New Skater Camp

Paisley (then 8yo) on her first day of New Skater Camp (Summer 2011).

Then, off to The Rat’s Nest (the industrial-style warehouse where the Rat City Rollergirls and their Junior Division, the Seattle Derby Brats, practice) we went. Gear on, and off she skated… falling, literally, every five feet. I’m not kidding. I cringed and winced every time her little body slammed into the ground. But even when her head bounced off the track (really – thank goodness for helmets!), she just kept popping up like popcorn. Falls meant nothing to her. Which is good. Because there’s LOTS of falling in roller derby. Lots. Especially for someone who was on skates for only the THIRD TIME EVER.

We were back at Fast Girl Skates the next day buying her “butt pads.” Butt pads cushion the falls. Who knew??

She couldn’t wait until her second practice, but did request one wardrobe change: instead of the leggings she was wearing, could she “maybe skate in some tights?” And, because “it was so hot” (there’s no A/C in the Rat’s Nest, and it does get rather warm in the summer months; not that the skaters ever notice such trivialities as personal comfort), her “coaches had said” (yeah, right!) that she “should probably have some of those tights with the holes in them, to help keep cool.”

Uh-huh. It turns out, my eyebrows actually can touch my hairline.

Somehow, in the moments between picking herself up from all the falls, my then-8yo daughter had (of course) observed that some of the older (read: teenaged) girls who were helping the coaches run the camp, wore FISHNET STOCKINGS under their butt pads (recall the pin-up style of roller derby).

(Deep breath.) I was quite impressed by how calm I was when I let her know that, actually, the coaches had emailed me (and all the parents) suggesting new skaters wear comfortable LEGGINGS. Leggings were fine. And I stopped there, not feeling obliged to tell her that I’d buy her “fishnet stockings” roughly NEVER.

I didn’t see her skate again until her fifth practice, and in spite of being hindered by leggings, I was totally BLOWN AWAY by the progress she’d made in such a short time. She was still falling, but less often. And she was getting fast! But mostly, she had this… this… this incredible ENERGY, this DRIVE. She was just so determined, so focused, so absolutely thrilled to be there. Bill and I have never seen her so taken with ANYTHING, not with ballet or soccer or Aikido or Jiu-Jitsu or swimming or piano or art or zoo camp or theater camp or any other activity she’s asked to do. Her passion for roller derby was RADIATING from her little body. She skated up to me during a water break, a huge, beaming smile on her face, and told me (no, she didn’t ask, there was no debate here) that she couldn’t WAIT to try out for the roller derby team!

Oooh boy. She was such a new skater, and her skills so under-developed, we worried that she’d be devastated by not making the team… But we showed up for tryouts a few weeks later anyway, and to everyone’s surprise (except Paisley’s), her enthusiasm and dedication-to-improving earned her a spot on the youngest division, the Tootsy Rollers (ages 8 through 11 or 12). After the initial shock of realizing we were now locked into Friday night practices for the entire school year, we were immediately faced with the next big challenge: coming up with her derby name. This was WAY more difficult than the fishnet stocking conversation…

You see, each skater in the entire world has their very own, unique roller derby name, most of which incorporate puns or plays on words (and most of which are completely inappropriate for an 8yo child). After weeks of agonizing over names and checking them against the international database of roller derby names (yes, it exists!*), feeling like we were naming our “unborn baby” all over again, our little ball of energy came to be known as LYKA LIVEWIRE (Ha! Don’t you LOVE that??). Her derby number: 100 Amps (contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the volts that’ll kill you; it’s the amps – and 100 amps is more than enough to do the job.). Can you tell we had fun with this?!

After several weeks of training together, the Tootsy Rollers were broken up into two teams in order to hold scrimmages and bouts (the youngest skaters don’t travel or compete with visiting derby leagues). The team divisions are completely arbitrary and all the girls skate and practice together as “one team,” but Paisley was quite thrilled to be assigned to the Orange Crush (as opposed to the Turquoise Terrors), and has slowly adapted her entire wardrobe – and even mine – into shades of black and orange in solidarity with her new team (Me: Paisley, you need a new rain coat. What color do you want? Her: Orange. Me: They don’t have orange. Her: Then black. Me: I’m getting a pedicure today! What color should I paint my toes?? Her: Neon orange. Me: Really?! Her: Duh! Please note: Yes, I painted my toes orange.).

Lyka Livewire

Lyka Livewire leads her team, the Orange Crush, on their victory lap at her first big roller derby bout! (December 2011)

And even though orange is perhaps not my favorite color of the rainbow (I’m a Spring, not an Autumn), I must admit, I, too, have an “Orange Crush.” I’ve grown to love roller derby and Paisley’s all-encompassing fervor for all things orange. I never expected roller derby, of all things, to become such a positive influence on my daughter. When she falls, she gets right back up and keeps going. That, in itself, would be enough of a life lesson for me: if she can just adapt that same attitude when confronting any challenge that life throws at her, then mission accomplished! When any skater gets hurt on the track, everyone takes a knee, and waits with baited breath until their teammate gets back up again; at which point they all applaud and cheer. Even the older, teenaged girls, in all their fishnet stocking glory (though, to be fair, those stockings are usually worn over a fun-colored pair of opaque tights – they flash very little skin), are also incredibly polite. I know, crazy, right?? But, really: they look the grown-ups around them in the eyes with confidence, not cockiness; they call each other out when they hear name calling or disparaging remarks about other girls; and they actually say sorry and move when they notice they’re in your way or blocking your view (!!). These are the kinds of role models I want for my daughter, even if pink- or red-dyed hair come with the bargain.

Yes, before I know it, Paisley will be old enough to transition from the Orange Crush to either the pink-themed Poison Skid’les or the red-themed Evil Angels. And our orange-tinted world will go the way of her Princess Phase…

Oh…

Know what? If she wants to wear her neon-orange hoodie sweatshirt to her next piano recital? So be it…

But fishnet stockings?? It ain’t gonna happen.

*After perusing the International Rollergirls’ Master Roster, I’d love to hear what your roller derby name would be!  

38 thoughts on “My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses

  1. I understand your experience perfectly! Things went down much the same way when Pooky Poundya joined the league 2-1/2 years ago, and it’s been the best thing that ever happened to her.

    • I am pretty in love with this community, I must confess. So glad to hear Pooky is loving it still… I look forward to many years of watching our girls strive and thrive on the rink!!

  2. I read the last bit with tears in my eyes resonating from the obvious pride you have in your daughter. Break a skate Lyka Livewire
    <3 River TamTrum

  3. You said it so well… I can’t roller skate, but roller derby runs my life now and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m teaching her to be a woman; roller derby is teaching her to be her own woman. Hugs to Lyka Livewire! ~Hera, mom to 15yo Eris-istible, #5 on the Columbia QuadSquad Minor Violations Minis team!

      • Let me also give you some reassurance about your eventual “pin-up” girl! There are good reasons for dressing as they do, aside from freedom of movement. Short skirts over skinz suggest a wider, ahem, blocking area (and a smidgeon more protection), while leaving the legs free to maneuver. Fishnets, which may seem risqué, are brilliant, especially over thick tights. When thighs meet the track (especially concrete), thick tights might save a bit of rink rash, but fishnets are likely to save a whole lot of it from happening! (It amazes me to see the CQS Minis comparing rink rash and bruises with such great pride after practice and bouts.) Glittery/shiny clothing is harder to focus on or get a depth/distance reading on in a hurry. Lightweight and minimal clothing that wicks saves us all from (some of) the dreaded derby funk (stay out of my car! Asphyxiation is possible!) and accessories that “intimidate” or “awe” support the “beast mode” attitude necessary to get their game on! As a side note, I didn’t know what fishnets were until my 20s and my daughter at 15 owns many, many pairs, all in team colors!

      • This is excellent!! I did quickly notice, when Lyka Livewire first started skating, that “thigh-high” socks were great for my 9yo (!!) because they helped keep the knee pads on her skinny little legs. She also thinks it’s very tough and cool to draw a Frankenstein-style scar on her face on bout nights; but if “tough” is “cool” I’m cool with that!!

  4. I coach the “Orphan Brigade” for the Quad City Rollers Junior Derby and I love this post. I have seen this with so many junior skaters (and my own son). Thank you for writing this <3 El Efino

    • Thanks, El Efino. Your comment reminds me that I’ve been remiss in not thanking *you* – and all the other coaches out there – for being so willing to share your time, experience and PASSION with all these junior derby kiddos. I’m so impressed by how the Seattle Derby Brats here (and I can only assume at the Orphan Brigade and most other junior leagues) is completely run by volunteers; without all of you, there’d be no roller derby for my daughter to fall in love with… You all deserve major kudos and a huge shout-out for being wildly and fantastically awesome!!

  5. So, this blog just made it’s way to me through the FB chain, and I plan to share it as well. It just brought tears to my eyes as I read about the love that your daughter has for this “lifestyle!” I was about to call it a sport, but it is SO much more than that, as you’ve quickly discovered. I started my derby career two years and one week ago exactly, and it has completely taken over every spare second that I have, and many that I don’t have, but dedicate to it anyways! I am 27 years old, and have never felt the way that I do about roller derby in any other activity that I have been a part of in my life, and there have been MANY over the years. To read a story about a child that is so young having the same experience that I am having, two decades later, is so inspirational and absolutely fantastic to hear…imagine where your little Lyka will be in the derby world by the time she is MY age!! I am a member of the first Womens Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) league in North Dakota, the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls, and we JUST achieved our WFTDA status last month. It was the main goal that we were building towards since our inception three years ago…now that we have that, there are MANY more things that we need to work toward in regards to that, but reading this, as well as watching the junior derby league from nearby Minneapolis MN skate two weekends in a row has definitely inspired me to want to start the motion of us forming a junior league here in Fargo! Thank you for your story, and I’m sorry that this got really long, but I just wanted to let you know how far Lyka Livewire’s story has made it, and just how inspirational it is!

    Derby Love,
    Polly Punchkin #422
    Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls, Fargo, ND

    • You just made my day!! I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I wish they had that when I was growing up!” from women around my age when they hear that my 9yo daughter is loving roller derby. I’m so glad to hear about the popularity of junior derby leagues all across the country – good luck with starting one in Fargo!! Can you imagine what AMAZING skaters are kids are going to grow up to be?? :)

  6. I am a derby player (as well as my husband and my brother in law) and I’m just getting a junior team going in my own little part of the world in Canada which will include my seven year old, Princess Sticky Skates. Just wanted to say that this was encouraging and a bit hilarious. (Fishnets are nothing. Wait until she comes home with a wife :D) Roller derby is incredibly consuming, but overall a positive experience for children and adults. The question now is, when are you going to get your skates?

    • Ha! Yep, she’s already got a derby wife, LOL! And is planning on marrying another next year… ;) I did finally put on skates (I believe it’s been 25 years – ack!!) the other month; it took me at least 30 minutes to convince myself to do a simple crossover (but at least I didn’t fall!). I seriously doubt I’ll be anything but a very proud Derby Mama, though I confess that it does sometimes look like a lot of fun. Best of luck with starting the junior league up there! Maybe Lyka Livewire and Princess Sticky Skates (love it!) will meet up on travelling teams sometime in the (nearer than I care to think about) future!

  7. I found this awsome!! :) i play derby too, were the orange crushers. I deffenatelt know where she’s coming from with the orange ;)

  8. What a great story !! What a great girl ! And
    What a great mom… To support her and make
    It possible for her to skate !!
    One of the many reasons I love playing, teaching and living roller derby !
    If you could friend my fb page I’d love to send
    Her some derby stuff from our league !!

    Skate on lil skater !!

  9. my name is Goodfight Moon. As in the classic kids book Goodnight Moon. Im also on a junior league. thought we only have skaters from 12 to 18!

    • That’s a GREAT derby name!! I am always so impressed by how creative – and thoughtful – the skaters are when they come up with their names. Hope you have a great season! :)

  10. So, when is momma gonna catch the fever and play? Ive only been playing for a little over a year but derby has changed my life. It is a great confidence booster and helps a girl (yes, even girls at 30y.o) find her strength in many ways. We dont have a junior league…yet but I am happy to see the love of derby spread across generations and states ;p
    -Stack’ddd Chassi #9er
    Palmetto State Rollergirls, Myrtle Beach, SC

    • Ha! Well, the rollerskating part looks like a LOT of fun. But then I remind myself that the falling part HURTS! I must confess, though, that when we were trying to figure out Paisley’s derby name, I did (of course) have to come up with one for myself… just so I’d be ready IF I *did* ever “catch the fever,” LOL! In the meantime, I’ll just be my daughter’s – and roller derby’s – Number One Fan. :)

  11. Wow, I knew Paisley loved derby, but I didn’t realize how much. I can really relate to this, because when I started skating at the beginning of last season, I had never worn a pair of skates in my life. I laced up my skates for the very first time on the first night of the training camp and promptly fell over. And then I got back up and fell right back down. And then I did it again. It’s been amazing to watch Lyka improve so much this season, and I feel it’s a pleasure and a wonderful opportunity that I got to coach all of these wonderful girls that I can tell will all grow up to be amazing, unique, beautiful, scary, fishnet-wearing danger-loving derby queens.

    • Duchess, thank you. And just so you know, you’re one of the older girls I refer to in this blog post: the kind of girl I’m proud to see my daughter grow up to be like! Paisley thinks the world of you, and I always admire your patience and enthusiasm as you work with the Tootsy Rollers. I’m pretty sure Lyka wants to follow in your footsteps (skate tracks??), and start coaching as soon as she can! ;)

  12. It’s so true — you don’t realize that when you sign them up for roller derby, it is indeed a lifestyle choice. We our 15 year old in Toronto Junior Roller Derby, coming up to her second year as a skater, and the changes have been so incredibly positive. It is indeed the fall down, get back up again attitude that drives through so many life lessons that make this sports venture so critical for our girls. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • It really is amazing to watch, isn’t it? These girls are learning, every time they skate around that rink, that if anything gets in their way or tries to slow them down, they can just skate around it or break on through. What could be better for young women to not just “know” (as in: “Yeah, I know I know, I’ve heard it before…”), but truly “know” all the way down to their bones? Good luck to your daughter!!

  13. Sending you derby love from Down Under. I’ve been playing derby for two years now, and I love it. It is definitely true that it changes your life, but in a good way. My whole family has been bitten by the skating bug and my 6-year-old can’t wait until she’s old enough to play. I’m under strict instructions to start a junior derby league here in Brisbane, just for her. Hope you join Lyka on the track some time soon. ;)

    • Thanks for the derby love!! I am finding that not only do I really appreciate the actual skating part of roller derby, and all the amazing lessons that come with it, but I also really appreciate the *community* part of roller derby – the girls themselves create a family, but also, a few of Lyka’s coaches are the mom’s of some of her teammates, and I adore how some girls start skating because their older (or younger!) sister is in derby. The sport just engenders a feeling of togetherness that all too often gets lost in this competitive world in which we live. It’s so exciting to hear about all these junior derby leagues across the world – good luck with starting your daughter’s in Australia!

    • Just seeing her light up like she does when she gets to the skating rink is so wonderful; I’m thinking we’re very lucky to have found this sport when she’s so young, but really, what I’m seeing from everyone’s comments, like yours, is that roller derby is a fantastic passion at every age. :) Thanks for the kind words!

  14. I just started coaching the junior derby league in my area. Tell your daughter she’s an inspiration to me. I hope I can do for my juniors what her coaches have done for her.

    • I am so impressed by the time and effort and dedication that you coaches put into your junior derby leagues; I’m so grateful! And just a fun head’s up: If Lyka Livewire is any indication (having just taken her to a Rat City Rollergirl’s bout, where she watched two of her coaches skate), your junior skaters will soon be (if they aren’t already!) your biggest fans. :) Good luck!!

    • Pepper!! So glad that you liked it. And both Paisley and I miss seeing you at practices… Though I’m guessing you’re having a GREAT time skating with the big girls. :)

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