My name bears the touch of someone who aspires to be a skater. And it’s true; I ventured into the world of roller derby with the goal of becoming a skater for Copenhagen Roller Derby. Like so many before me, I was drawn to derby through the film “Whip It”. I had no idea there were any rules or officials involved in the sport. After a few weeks of training I understood that there are in fact rules and referees to uphold those rules. But it was not until our second ever away bout where I was invited to join as a Non-Skating Official that I heard this expression for the first time. Three months after joining my local roller derby league I found something that would impact my life more than I had ever imagined.
It’s never easy being a part of a team sport when you suffer from social anxiety, no matter how mild or aggressive it may be at any given point. Joining my league over two years ago seemed to take the edge off my anxiety – because for me it was an extreme barrier to cross to show up at a random warehouse in Nordhavn on a freezing January evening and watch a group of strange women skate – and perhaps one day be a part of it.
And I fell in love with it. The sport and the feeling of “We don’t know you but we’re gonna look out for you”. So I became part of it. Strapped on my skates and trained with the toughest women I had ever met. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right. I have never ever in my life been a sporty person. I hate exercising and I hate being sweaty (unless it’s from after-party dancing – you know who you are). It was fun but it wasn’t right for me.
Late autumn that year my uncle fell very ill and I no longer had the energy to keep pretending I was interested in skating or training. I was losing interest because I wasn’t showing progress on skates – and I wasn’t showing progress because I was losing interest. The anxiety seemed to creep back into my life, too. After six months I was done being a derby girl. The officiating, however, never lost its grip on me.
Despite never attending scrimmages I still NSO’ed at home bouts. Throughout spring and summer the following year I helped out whenever I could, but it was not until late September that I was ready to return completely. It was almost terrifying to show up that evening. I was afraid what people would think. Would they think less of me? See me as some sort of coward, weak? Would they even remember me?
It is true what they say about getting a new family once you join derby. It’s quite obvious that you join into a sisterhood once you start getting comfortable with the other girls on the track. You almost have to, if you want to work as a team. But I think it is particularly true for officials, extending beyond the borders of the city limits. It stretches all across Europe, because to be honest there just aren’t that many of us. While teams may bout against each other once or twice over a few years, we officials see each other regularly because we call on each other for help. It gives us a unique bond that I have never seen anywhere else. And deep down inside, all officials are pretty damned nerdy which makes officials the perfect people to hang out with. It makes it easier to let people in.
I owe my small NSO group in Copenhagen so much. I showed up at scrimmage and was immediately thrown into the chaos. Was I shaking and sweating as I stood there in the middle of the track, penalty tracking for both teams – under the minors rule set? You bet I was. Did I love it? You bet I did. I know I was really, really shy at first. It takes time getting used to being social again and getting to know new people. People that are actually just as weird and screwed up as you are. The Army of Darkness is my family. I don’t even see them as my “derby family”. They are my family. With them, and from them, I have learned to relax in the company of strangers and learned to not be afraid of getting to know people.
What officiating means to me is that I have found something that allows me to forget the stress of my three jobs, even though I love being stressed while NSO’ing.
What officiating means to me is that I have an excuse to travel abroad for bouts, even if I can’t really afford it because there will always be a bed for me somewhere.
What officiating means to me is that I have found a group of people with whom I can be myself and not feel anxious all the time wondering if anyone in the group actually likes me.
What officiating means to me is that I have found a way to help out the sport I love so much in the best way I can think of – whilst having fun.
My name bears the touch of someone who aspires to be a skater. And it’s true; I ventured into the world of roller derby with the goal of becoming a skater for Copenhagen Roller Derby. But I am never going to be that person. I am Freddie Merciless and I am proud to say that I am a NonSkating Official and member of the Army of Darkness.