When is it too late to skate?

In an earlier post, I wrote about old-time Roller Derby and how one of the big attractions was a really old skater, “Ma” Bogash who had been told by her doctor to take up exercise to help control her diabetes, so she started skating, and skated off and on for several years in the Derby.  She was 39.

And then there was Ann Calvello who skated her first game in 1949, her last game for the IRDL in 1973 and skated various pick up games until a final “match race” with Rollerjam in the year 2000.  She bragged she skated in 7 decades.  But the game was controlled, and obviously she was not the skater in the late 70’s she was in the 50’s and early 70’s.

So what about today’s participants in a game that is fully competitive, and if you skate with the best you had better be in great condition.

There is a site on facebook that is called “Roller Derby over 40”. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/derbyover40/) Check it out.  Presently there are 5600 members and 550 on Derby over 50,  which would tell you that there are thousands out there.  And at Rollercon this year, there will be a game between two over 40’s teams.  On one of the facebook  sites on which I post so far there have been over 100 comments from skaters over 40.  Samples:  “asked my husband for Derby lessons for 39th birthday, now going into third season”, “not only does my league have multiple +40 skaters, we have mother daughter teammates.  Our most seasoned teammate is in her 50s”.

“I’m 46, started at 43, skate for the Star City Roller Girls in Roanoke.  am a single mom of 3 sons, I joined to make new friends,  get exercise, help with depression and stress and have gained so much more than I could have hoped.  Team is my second family.”  “49 now (44 when I started), skate with Philly Roller Girls….Roller Derby has not only added years to my life, but life to my years”. “Turning 50 in March…Roller Derby has saved my soul….started at 45”

And so many are in great shape, lost weight, gained friends…..one has been named jammer of the year for the past two seasons……look up Derby over 40 and read those stories.  At least one who had breast cancer and started skating to help restore her life. People looking for purpose, fun, exercise, friends…..one skates in a recreational league that is part of the Windy City Rollers and has no intention of joining a competitive league.

This is a different way to look at the game.  Not only should it be in schools and colleges, but in community exercise facilities.  Instead of worrying about how those out there who criticize look at Roller Derby, we should all be projecting it as an alternative to volleyball, softball, etc for people who want a little more excitement and team play in their sports.

I have two more bios I would like to add:  The first is from Donna “thehotflash” Kay, who heads up training and alternative leagues in Seattle and other areas:  In her words:

“Grew up playing softball and did it throughout most of my adult life.  In my 30’s managed a women’s health club, became a runner –  did 5 twenty miles weekly from  ages 30 to 50, coached little league and softball.  Started Derby at age 48, retired at 50, started again at 52, left at 54 to start my own leagues and now at almost 56 skating in  my own league!  I still run, but not as much as I used to…..I think that covers it.”  By the way, a wonderful painter….check her out at her profile page on facebook.

Added Dec 1 2013: since this is written Donna has had two mastectomies, keeps skating, formed league in conjunction with the city of Seattle, opens a Derby store and Derby over 40 store in Seattle on December 7th (please visit): is 57 and super feisty; has a great and sexy husband, and the commish became her Derby wife at Rollercon.

And now from Dick Roche, known as “Merby Dick”:

“I was born November 14, 1939.  Skated on sidewalks as a child.  My parents moved several times each school year, I never had the opportunity to participate in team sports.  After I was discharged from the Air Force in late 50’s, I played roller hockey in Arcata, Ca for about a year.  The skating rinks were the place to skate for fun and to meet girls….spent most of my adult working years as a timber faller.  In 2007 my 10-year old granddaughter, Kayla, aka “tiny Badness” joined the junior league here in Springfield, Oregon.

The next year my daughter joined the women’s league.  In November 2009 right after my 70th birthday, my son-in-law told me there were 5 guys wanting to start a men’s league.  I told them I wanted in.  My wife thought of the name Merby Dick and I chose the #70 because of my age.  Our team has had men come and go.  We now have 13 and only two of us left from the original 6. And now my granddaughter and grandson are also in Derby.

I love Roller Derby because it is a great fitness exercise for me: no impact on my joints like jogging.  I enjoy the teamwork that goes into our practices and bouts.  I am not fast like the younger men, but I’m a heavy force to deal with out on the track.  The guys on my team treat me as an equal but with respect.  They seem to think I am the oldest skater currently skating on a Roller Derby team.  The past weekend was the Big O tournament here in Springfield.  I participated in 4 bouts.  It takes me longer to recuperate, but I am not going to give it up until I have to.”

If  you love to skate Derby, there is no reason to stop.  And if you think you are too old, but have the desire, try it and gain a whole new life.  And I can’t wait until Rollercon where for the first time two over 40’s women teams compete….I hope they also let Merby Dick skate…..he deserves it, at only 78!

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41 comments on “When is it too late to skate?

  1. Never too late! I’ll be 45 in May- a year ago last Jan.; I was burned 40% in a fire….right now I’m hoping to finish my re-qualifying to bout again.

  2. I am 40 and skating men’s/coed banked track and flat track derby for South Jersey Derby using M.A.D.E. rules. I have been skating derby for 5 years.

    I’ve known a lot of old school skaters that are still skating amazing in their 50s, 60s and beyond. Richard Brown still skates amazing! Skip Schoen skates amazing.

  3. I started skating at age 41 – I made my WFTDA leagues travel team my very first season – I am now in my 3rd – will be 44 in July and have transferred to another WFTDA league and made their travel team as well. Age is only in the mind – I am in better shape than I was when I played collegiate soccer!

  4. We have a lady that came in as fresh meat who is in her 60’s. She is doing great. I can’t wait to see her bout. We also have a girl on our travel team that is in her mid 40s. She is amazing!

  5. Roller Derby IS the fountain of youth! I’m going to be 48 this year and I’m in better shape than when I was 20. Roller Derby has brought me so much more to my life than just health benefits. Never have I been so excited and dedicated to something other than my family; and Roller Derby has become my extended family, all over the world.
    My gma was crippled with RA & wheelchair bound by her 60’s. I figure I can either beat it or have some pretty damn good stories to go with it, if I end up that way too!
    But to be honest, it’s so much more than losing weight or staying active. RD has taught me to push beyond my self appointed limits, drawing deep from a place within me to keep going when my mind tells me I can’t go on. And I do it over & over again.
    I am my own hero. It has become my life as I now run a business based on Roller Derby. I can’t imagine & never want my life without some sort of involvement in this, The greatest sport in the world!
    My sister told me, ‘Youth & enthusiasm will never win over old age & treachery!’ HA! She’s right. I’m a force to be reckoned with on the track.
    It’s never too late! If there’s a will, there’s a way! Thanks for the great post Jerry! Love, Blastfemi

    • Blastfemi, a truly wonderful person and an ideal for women everywhere……I always see her when I go to Red Red in Woodland and appreciate her friendship……damn it, off your asses those of you who want to feel better and a great life!

  6. Wow, I love the open mindedness here. I was in fresh meat from 2007-2009 or so. I’m 46 now. I don’t do derby anymore but I still skate. Roller Derby gave me my skate legs back and I never feel more joy than I do while skating and listening to music. Bliss. I’m also in better shape than any other time in my life and plan to stay fit and active til the day I die!

  7. wow, i LOVE this!!!!!!! it gives me hope about my future in roller derby. i’ve skated derby for 3 years with West Texas Roller Dollz, but i had to give it up for a couple of years because i joined peace corps in Mongolia, and it’s one of the most difficult things to be without in my life. roller derby is the love of my life, truly. but i had my mom ship my skates to me, and i’ve been skating at a local park. i already have 3 or 4 Mongolian women who want me to teach them to skate!! roller derby Mongolia??!!

    • Do it and send photos…..I would love to see them on those small horses holding onto the manes with skates on!

      Derby love to you! let me hear from you again now that you have my email address.



    • You’re in Mongolia? I want to go there so bad…my dad is part Mongolian :)keep up the coaching- maybe one day I’ll join lol!

  8. WOW..this was such an exciting article as I just started derby (havent even been drafted yet) and I am 46. Totally inspiring! My favorite quote is “you dont stop playing because you grow old; You grow old because you stop playing”!!

  9. I think my dad is one of the older refs in the Uk, at 61. He watched me play a hour and was hooked, re taught himself to skate and of he went. I am very proud of him

  10. I once coached a fabulous skater we call “Golden Girl”, her daughter skates for a South Carolina team and got her mom interested in Florida. I got to see her from ‘bambi’ legs all the way up to Jamming. She’s ‘somewhere’ in her 60’s but I’m not telling.

  11. It is great to know that we never need to stoo skating, especially with the options to skake with Derby Lite. This alternative has been a blessing for me to continue skating without the pressure of performance and fear of getting hurt. If it is not available in your city request to have it come there. It will continue to save your soul.

  12. This is my 4th year & I am 46. I am part of the two over-forty teams skating at Rollercon & I regularly read the ‘derby over forty’ page (thank you, Jerry!). I started at a small league, went to a nationally ranked (top 3) league & now I have left the WFTDA nest to be on the first USARS team in my state. I look forward to the challenge of regionals this year! There are days when I don’t want to get up & do it again. Things ache. My knees have their own ortho doctor. My recovery time from a hard workout isn’t what it was when I was 20. My endurance is average at best, although I’m a good pivot & blocker. Some days, I want to give up all the committee work, training, nutritional plans…and yes, sometimes the drama does creep in….but I see my skates & I can’t help but put them on. I love the feeling they bring; so much lightness & freedom. How could I possibly give this up? My original plan was to play until I’m 50. I’m thankful for every day I’m on the track. Will I make it to 50? Who knows….but I look to those over 50 skaters out there (Donna Kay!) and I tell myself that anything is possible. Derby is my passion, my addiction, my downfall, my therapy, my social network, my exhaustion. It’s the reason I’m bruised, cranky, elated, exhausted. I have permanent Sharpie marker stains on my arm from my scrimmage number…and I don’t care. Derby also helps to drain my bank account…can you ever have too many Lift & Separate shorts? Most importantly, Derby is my soul. It moves me forward in the most positive way & when I can’t skate, I’m just not the same person. Thank you to all the other over 40’s….and over 50’s….and I heard there were some recent additions to the over 60’s. You ladies are an inspiration. Thank you Leo & Jerry for creating this sport & keeping it alive. You’ve changed so many lives.

    I am Gonzo, #2112
    Colorado Academy of Hard Knocks

  13. Great article. I have been playing 7 years, 6 on the WCR. Our travel team captain is over 40 and is an outstanding player on the international level. And just think of several Oly Rollers over 40!
    I now skate for The Red Hots, a USARS team. Just wondering if you meant Derby Lite when you said, ” skates in a recreational league that is part of the Windy City Rollers and has no intention of joining a competitive league.”
    I have been threatening to retire for years nut your article made me rethink it.

  14. You are already aware as a result significantly regarding this particular topic, created myself singularly ponder over it from the great deal of diversified aspects. The like both males and females usually are not intrigued apart from it truly is something to use Young lady crazy! Your stuffs exceptional. On a regular basis take care of up!

  15. The oldest skater from the home teams retired this year..she said she’d retire when she reached her derby number #57. She was so good, but I think she wanted to spend more time with her grandkids 🙂

  16. Pingback: When is it too late to skate? | RollerDerbyJesus.com

  17. April 21, 2014, 3833 members of Derby over 40…..I will write a blog this weekend after I get back from Chicago where I will see Kola Loka again and some other over 40s……who would have thought?

  18. I started skating for Pioneer Valley Roller Derby’s men’s team, the Dirty Dozen over 8 years ago at the age of 51. I retired two seasons ago at the end of the season. I stayed retired for only a month and came back. I retired at the end of last season and was retired for a few months and came back again. I will be 59 in June and I will be skating for this season as well. We are in Western Massachusetts and were the very first men’s team. There are only 3 of us from the original league left. …one other man, Bazooka Joe and one female, Pink Panzer….and of course me. I skated for several seasons as Rollin’ Redshirt and then changed to my surname, Ketchum.

  19. Thanks for this article. It convinced me to go to the first meeting in my town for new members later tonight. I’m 57 and can’t get it out of my head that I need to do this!

  20. I am 57 and have been skating derby for 3 seasons. I recently made the Team California men and will be traveling to Florida in less than 2 weeks to participate in State Wars. I played on the Roller-Con “Over 40 VS Over 50” and we were able to out score those young’ns. Derby has provided the post retirement motivation to stay healthy and stay active. I grew up watching Joan Weston and recently met Nic Scopas. Love the game, love the camaraderie and it’s nice to have people acknowledge the effort it takes to play over 50 derby with over 18 athletes.
    Bad Billy #415
    “Age and treachery will prevail over youth and vigor.”

    The Skaters Grim (Antioch, Ca) – Deep Valley Belligerents (Ukiah, Ca) – Charming Regulators Co-Ed (Stockton, Ca) – Team California 2015

  21. I loved roller skating and did artistic dance skating. I had to have back surgery and am now 74 years old. I was told by some doctors to not take the chance of skating anymore. I tried a few times but my balance has left me. I gave it a good try, but had an episode the last time I skated. I do miss skating so much but still enjoy watching all skaters enjoy the great sport of roller skating.

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