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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