Why play sport?

I was listening to a podcast interview with Jodie Foster today, and she talked about downhill skiing. She made the point that when she’s skiing, she needs to be fully concentrated, fully in the moment – because if she let her mind drift to the minutiae of everyday life, she might end up crashing into a tree.

It made me think about the sport I play and why I like it. It has to be said, I’m not good at sport. I’m fairly uncoordinated, and I lack that passionate desire to win. But Jodie is right – what I love about playing sport is that when I’m out there, all I’m thinking about is the puck, my position, the other players. There is no room to let my mind wander or worry about what happened before the game. It’s one of the few times that I’m not thinking about a million things. I’m just enjoying what I’m doing right then.


I made a big decision in December to quit playing derby. I gave it a good two and a half years, and it’s been an epic roller-coaster ride. When I started, it was to keep Megan company. I’d been rollerblading a few times, was enjoying ice skating and was keen to learn to roller skate. I signed up for freshmeat never intending to actually play roller derby. I love to skate and I’m glad I learned, but I never enjoyed the full contact aspect of derby. I don’t like hitting or being hit. Though, in honesty, it’s actually been really good to learn that getting smacked to the floor repeatedly really isn’t so bad – it doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like. I don’t mind the bruises and actually I am quite proud of some of them. They feel earned. Which probably sounds nutty to some.

I worry a lot about getting injured. I’ve seen more injuries in the two years I’ve played derby than in my seven seasons of ice hockey. It scares me a little. And derby has been hard on my body. People argue with me when I say I’m too old for derby. I’m not saying that I’m chronologically too old – at 42 there are people my age and older still playing. But my body is old and beat up. I haven’t taken care of it and it’s pretty wrecked. I have to be careful what I do with my poor body if I want it to carry me around for another 40 years. Last year I spent a lot of time in pain – legs, hips, back, feet, elbow (my poor elbow!). Just ask my massage therapist and osteopath. They are both very polite about the sport I play – they’d never tell me to stop, but they both support my decision that’s for sure.

Then there’s the intensity of it. Two hours, three times a week. In my busy life, that’s a huge time commitment. It doesn’t leave room for much else, and I’ve slowly given away other things I enjoy to make room for training. I’ve quit running, dancing, Sunday dates, gym classes, winter ice hockey, all for derby. In my league, part time is not an option. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no middle ground, no “social derby”. One of the things I love about hockey is that I can do as much or as little as I want, and no one really cares. If I wanted to, I could skate every other day, go to all the trainings and camps, skate outside, practice my shots. Or I could just be mediocre and have fun playing once a week in the B Grade. I love that. It’s not an option in derby. Like I say, it’s intense. And not for me. Right now I feel like the love of derby got beaten out of me in the past year.

The problem is, I really love to skate! I wish wish wish we had a roller rink that I could socially skate with my family. In lieu of that, I’d love to be a roller derby referee. One of the things I loved about doing freshmeat was learning the rules. They are plentiful and complex and interesting. As a ref, I’d get to skate, and I’d have to really know the rules, and no one is allowed to hit me, and it’s free. Sounds perfect! It means I’d get to keep participating in a sport I really enjoy, and it’s something I can continue to share with Megan and Bronwen.

So maybe it’s not so much quitting as it is shifting from player to zebra. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to give it three months. Once the season starts in February I am taking a three-month hiatus to see how much I miss it. If I don’t, I know I’ve made the right decision. And if I do miss it, I can jump back in!

Done and dusted

Another year of roller derby finished last night with our DED Arrrwards night (pirate themed). It’s been an amazing year. I have learned so much more about how to play the game, and have really enjoyed collecting new skills. Running line ups with the All Stars has been stressful but so interesting – it’s like sitting an exam (takes all my brain!) but without the quiet room to sit in.

It’s also been a very challenging year in terms of developing my skating skills. I can skate passably well, but have struggled to get to the skill level required to be on a competitive travel team. I’m not fast and I’m not agile – I’m working hard on these but progress has been slow and I find that so frustrating! I know what my feet should be doing, but I just can’t make them move fast enough, in the right direction, at the right time.

Its funny, but I have played ice hockey for 5 years now, and it has never bothered me that I am not really that good. I go out there every week and have a great time – win or lose. I just enjoy being part of the team and slowly building my skills. But with derby, it’s so much more intense. I feel like I let my team down every time I don’t quite nail a skill (or opposition skater!).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether I want to continue as a skater. I love to skate, and I love the league, but it’s a big commitment (3 x 2 hour training sessions a week) and my slow progress is disheartening. So this summer, like last, my goal is to skate as often as I can, and to push myself to try new things that will help with my agility and speed.

And polish my trophy …


This one time when we built a roller rink

You might have heard already, but Stephen and I have been building a roller rink. It’s an outdoor pop-up rink in a space that was left when the Christchurch Convention Centre was demolished.

From this...
From this…
To this...
To this…


The project has been about two years in the making. I conceived of the idea some time after the Christchurch TEDx conference, which took place in May 2011. We were still reeling from the February earthquakes, the city was closed and life was pretty bleak for most Christchurchians. This TED event was like shining a light into the darkness for me. People spoke passionately about the opportunity that the disaster represented to our city. It was hard to take in at the time, but it got an idea brewing in the back of my mind (it’s like the wild wild west back there, you wouldn’t want to go in alone).

The speaker that resonated most for me was Coralie Winn. Her idea wowed me. Here was an everyday woman who had taken an idea and run with it. I’ll let her speak for herself.



Coralie’s development, the Pallet Pavilion, gave me the courage to come back into the centre city for a look. I was too scared to go near it before this, but my curiosity about what was developing in pockets around the place – pop-up spaces – drew me back in. So awesome. And it was the Pallet Pavilion that encouraged me to think my idea just might work.

The Pallet Pavilion
The Pallet Pavilion


I wanted to build a small-scale, outdoor roller rink. First, there were lots of questions I needed to answer:

  • How would I fund it?
  • Who would help me?
  • Where would I build it?
  • How would I design it?
  • Where and how would I get supplies?

One by one, my questions were answered.

I was initially helped along by the amazing, fabulous, inventive people at the Ministry of Awesome, via their Awesome Evening, and Coffee and Jam. They gave me an outlet to speak about my idea so I could get feedback and encouragement. I started to think I could actually do it!

Oh the irony then, when after a pretty demoralising meeting with CCC about funding, I decided I wasn’t going to get the money and I should just give up. I spoke at a Coffee and Jam session about my lack of success, and what I might do next. And the VERY NEXT DAY I got the email from CCC that I had been successful in securing $12,000 to fund the build.

Things started (slowly) falling into place. The funding came through from the Transitional City Projects fund; I started Roller Restart with a group of friends and interested people; LiVS helped me find a site, and then a bigger, better site in a great location – a stone’s throw from the Pallet Pavilion; and I got advice from a range of people on construction (honestly, I started with Google and Youtube: “How to build a deck”), including F3 Design. Shane at Mitre 10 Mega Hornby was very helpful in getting me a great deal on materials.

The plan
The plan

Then it was just a matter of waiting for the the weather to improve enough to start building. The weather has been less than ideal. We built for a couple of weekends in the rain, and then the last two in the beating sun. Not that I’m complaining. I love being outside in the elements, no matter what they are.

And we are almost finished! I have blisters on my fingers, sore arms, sun-burned shoulders, and bruises all over my shins, but it’s been an amazing experience. Sometimes Stephen and I are there by ourselves, hammering and drilling and scratching our heads about levelling. Sometimes we have people pop in and out, doing their bit to help. It’s been hard giving up every weekend to do exhausting and sometimes frustrating work.  When I get discouraged and think it’s never going to happen, I put my head down and get on with it, because it HAS to happen. Our community roller rink is tantalisingly close.

Come visit and have a look – we are at 100 Peterborough St (between Colombo and Durham Sts).

Taking a break ... dreaming of completion
Taking a break … dreaming of completion

Keeping up

I’ve been trying to blog at least once a month, but to be honest, there hasn’t been much new to say. Lately my life has descended into a whirlwind of work, roller derby, gym sessions, family time, ice hockey, housework, coffee dates and sleep. So let’s talk about that.

It might sound like hard work to some people, but I love having a busy life and I’m not very good at going slow. Sometimes when I’m running from activity to activity I wish I had more spare time. But the reality is that after a couple of hours sitting around at home, I’m ready to do something more interesting.

From what I gather, some people need quiet time to rejuvenate. I reckon I’m the opposite. I’ve been that way for a long time. When I was younger, people would tell me it wasn’t good to be so busy, that I should be careful or I’d burn out. I used to listen to this advice – I struggled against my desire to do a million things at once. But then I’d feel like I was missing out on things I really wanted to do. More recently, I’ve paid less attention to that advice – I’m busy and happy.

The trick is to find the balance. I do get over-tired and it’s not fun when I have a meltdown (just ask Stephen). This usually happens when the things I want to do clash with the things I need to do, and I try and do both. Then sometimes it gets a bit out of hand. Case in point, every hour of my day last weekend, Saturday and Sunday, was accounted for. I didn’t have a moment to spare. I couldn’t have one of those every weekend. But this weekend will be more low key, so it balances out.

The most important thing to me is that I always make room for my family. As much as possible, my whirlwind world revolves around Stephen and the other important people in my life. Luckily Stephen is always up for an adventure so we get to experience life in the fast lane together. I’m having the time of my life.

Let the fun times roll

Stephen and I went to our first roller derby bout in 2008. At that time it was new to Christchurch – the Dead End Derby league was formed in 2007. Roller derby itself has only made a comeback in the last 10 years, so it’s still a pretty new sport. We had no idea what was going on in the game, but it was great fun to watch – derby is definitely a spectator sport! We learned more about the rules (thanks Google) and looked out for the next bout. We’ve been to heaps of bouts since then, supporting our favourite teams and watching the league grow and improve.

Then mid-last year, Megan saw an advert for ‘fresh meat’, roller derby’s name for the new member intake. She was keen to give it a go, and I agreed to go along to the ‘learn to skate’ part of the training (I planned to exit before the bashing started). We went along to Shirley Boys High School on 7th October 2012 for our 4-week skills training. I loved it. I fell on my ass heaps, and it hurt, but I didn’t care. It was so much fun. After four weeks of training I was invited to sign up for fresh meat. I didn’t hesitate – Stephen thought I was mad. I thought I might be too, but went for it anyway. In four weeks I’d learned how to do crossovers, knee falls, various stops, and I was getting to grips with the basic lingo (PACK IT UP!).

Fresh meat training was intense. Twice a week all through the heat of summer we learned the basic skills required of a roller derby girl. So much to take in. Along the way, I got to know my 14 fellow freshies well. They are amazing women, all of them. I love spending time with them. We did our 3-hour long skills/written test on 3rd March, after 20 weeks of hard out training. The following week Megan and I went to our first Dead End Derby league training. We were terrified! Luckily they went easy on us (that night).

We celebrated our transition into the league with our Graduation bout on 24th March, our first ever proper game! I had no idea what I was doing, but it was amazing fun.

It’s hard to believe that I’m skating with girls I’ve been admiring (hero-worshipping) for years. They are such fantastic skaters. And now I get to skate up-close-and-personal with them.

I’m never going to be the best or fastest skater on the track. I just seem to have no natural proficiency at sports. I have to work really hard at it. But in derby, I think I’ve found a sport I can do well at. This might be the beginning of a beautiful thing.

New skates
New skates

Practise makes perfect!
Practise makes perfect!
Roller family <3
Roller family ❤
Team Black Sabbath, ready to do some bashing and smashing
Team Black Sabbath, ready to do some bashing and smashing
Meet Bebe McBash - one happy roller derby girl
Meet Bebe McBash – one happy roller derby girl