How Roc City Roller DERBY Influenced Your Life?

By Courtney Downing
Ahem: Dang! She Fine #369

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For the past 18 years of my life, I was someone who lacked a place to call home. Don’t worry – no tragic backstory, just a daughter of a guy in the Navy. We bounced around every 2-3 years, and although I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything, the constant mix up of friends and environment left me longing for something stable.

 

*Enter Roc City Roller Derby*

 

To say that playing with this league has influenced everything about me would be an understatement. This league made up of some of the most incredible people I’ve come to know, has done nothing but motivate and inspire me from day one. It has completely changed my mentality, physical state, and personal outlook all in a matter of two and a half years. It’s influenced how I perceive myself, my abilities and my accomplishments - perceptions that I’ve been able to apply to my everyday life.

 

Mentally, your girl here struggles to feel great sometimes. This crazy “life” thing we all do? Yeah, it gets really hard sometimes, and it was easy for me to beat myself up, until RCRD came around. My coaches have taught me that you often have to adjust your idea of an accomplishment and beating yourself up gets you nowhere but a trip to the penalty box. Messing up often has suddenly become okay, not getting things the first, or second, or third, or fifteenth time it is explained to me is just a part of the learning process. And no matter how terrible you think you are doing, someone else is always right there to tell you how incredible you look.

 

This brings me to my next point: The Freaking People

How is it possible that my teammates have found the perfect balance between challenge and support when everywhere else has yet to do that is beyond me. But, trust me when I say, this little fish in a mighty big pond is forever grateful for it. It’s easy to feel as though you aren’t doing enough all the time in every capacity and as a result wanting to change everything about yourself. I felt this way so much that when my teammates introduced the radical idea that I was good enough for them as is I was floored. Everyone at RCRD accepts you just as you are, no questions asked – they actually WANT you to be yourself. This welcoming mentality is something I only wish I could have had during my deployments, and the fact that I have a group of people who truly accept my personality and body just as it is means more than I could describe in what was supposed to be a “2-3 paragraphs long” blog post.

RCRD made me realize my body’s capabilities, my underlying physical and mental strength, and has boosted my confidence all the while giving me a new standard to rise to. Trust me when I say there’s no shortage of inspiration in this league, and watching my team grow and develop motivates me to train harder. I go to the gym so that I can play competitively alongside my teammates at the level that we want to play at. I do gross gym bro things like drink protein shakes and lift now because my whole team drinks protein shakes and lifts now because we’re all trying to push ourselves up the rankings. They’re setting the standard for what a competitive athlete looks like and trying to keep up with them is my motivation for doing stuff I otherwise wouldn’t do (looking DIRECTLY at you, protein shakes).

 

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oc City has given me a track to call home and teammates to call family. They all push me to do better while still accepting me exactly as I am. This league is a healthy, competitive atmosphere full of unconditional support and constant motivation. Out of the 18 years filled with 8 deployments to 7 different states, I have yet to find a group of people like my teammates, coaches, refs, NSO’s, and volunteers at RCRD. Roc City has given me the security and the safety (ironically enough, with it being roller derby and all) that I’ve always wanted, so yeah, I think it’s safe to say it’s been a pretty big influence for me.

SKATER SPOTLIGHT- FOE PAWS #37

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Meet RCRD’s next up and coming Jammer,

Foe Paws #37!

Now don’t let the name deceive you, friends. This short and sweet, enthusiastic skater is one heck of an athlete! From the Tough Mudder to the frequent “Zombie Runs”, Foe Paws loves to get out and stay active! Running dozens of miles at a time is a favorite hobby of hers, and she has strong admiration for all of the friendly people she’s met from scaling walls and enduring those serious army crawls. Always wanting more, however, this skater can also be found enjoying the rock walls, kayaking, and just about anything that gets her outdoors. And even with all of the activity, Foe Paws finds a way to enjoy many of the personal and social things she holds near and dear to her heart.

Stacey Bartlett is an avid dog lover, owning her own boarding kennel and doggie daycare here in Monroe County. The derby name is fitting, right? “Paws”, as known on the track, also has two of her own pups at home, with the addition of two cats that she gets to spend her free evenings with. I think plenty of you can relate, but one thing Stacey cannot live without is the compassion she has for her four legged furry friends. There’s a lot to be said about the character someone has through their kindness and appreciation for animals, too. It just makes Stacey that much more wonderful within our Roc City Roller Derby Family.

 

Even though learning to skate on quads for the first time isn’t the easiest thing to do, Paws picked it up naturally. In fact, one of Paws’ goals for the season was to pass assessments and get drafted to a team in 2018! Well, I’m happy to report that MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. You can catch Paws flying around the track with the biggest smile on her face as another pivotal member of our amazing B-Sides!

When asked, “What’s your favorite part about roller derby so far?” Paws had a wonderful response that I had to share:

“It is great to get to play on a team again; I grew up playing sports and haven't really been able to find that type of feeling in adult leagues before finding roller derby.  It is good exercise, and it feels good getting to learn something that is entirely new to me.  My favorite thing has to be the community though.  I have never felt so welcome or so at home anywhere this quickly before, and probably not anywhere ever other than my house and kennel.  I never have socialized much because I'm shy and uncertain around new people, and usually can't get past that to make new friends.  I felt like I was home at the HOB after the first few times I was there. It feels like family.”

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It is absolutely fitting and necessary to top off our introduction to the incredible Paws with one of her favorite fun facts! Did you know that otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t float away from each other? This has absolutely nothing to do with roller derby, but everything to do with why we love this skater so much.

Be sure to catch our newest family member on the track in 2018, Foe Paws!

Skater Spotlight - #206 CELESTE STEEL

This new skater will make sure you remember her name, Roc City Roller Derby’s own,

Celeste Steel!

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Known as Gwendolyn Mendoza by the Government, Celeste Joined RCRD’s training program this past year. From humble beginnings with RCRD, to passing assessments just in time for an Internship and Jamming for the Black Diamond Rollers’ Dolls of Destruction, this skater is ready to lace up wearing the black and green come 2018.You won’t miss #206 as this agile Jammer flies around the track!

Outside of the derby-verse, Celeste goes to school full time pursuing a degree in Management Information Systems and works as a cook, with over a decade of experience after her FIRST degree, while she works towards the next milestones in her life. If two full time responsibilities aren’t enough, she also does freelance photography and editing work for larger companies when needed.

Celeste has such a unique and well defined list of hobbies and interests. There’s nothing this girl won’t do or try at least once. She’s a certified blade smith, hand forging traditional layered kitchen knives, a talented fashion nerd, and has even started and continues to develop the library makerspace and STEM programs for most of Southern NY.

When asked, “What brought you to Roller Derby?”  Celeste had quite the history to share:

“So, about nine years ago, my wife at the time went to a bout in Minneapolis where we were living at the time. She loved it and it sounded so cool! A few months later we ran into the team she had seen at a booth while shopping one day. They were the Minnesota Rollergirls and they were SO FREAKING COOL, I went home and looked up roller derby and wanted to be a part of it so badly that my heart hurt. I made myself forget about it, I knew I wanted to be a skater but at the time the entire world, including myself, were convinced I was a guy. Years later I was doing work-study for a library system in NY’s southern tier and learned one of the librarians skated. I asked her millions of questions for months and helped promote her league based in Elmira, NY.

 

Right as I moved to Rochester for school, it became blatant that I had no future outside of transitioning. A year in the thought of joining a league started teasing me and I was running out of excuses not to. A friend (Neon Katt) pushed me for months to go to a recruitment meeting; my last excuse was that I wanted to wait until my legal name change went through. I got my new license on a Monday and was at a RCRD recruitment meeting that Thursday.”

Roller derby has already played such a pivotal role in this skater’s life, and Celeste has found so much enjoyment in the community as she would put it: “finding some of the best friends I’ve ever made in my life.”

It is without question that this skater will continue to shine bright as she learns and grows in the roller derby community. And we cannot express our gratitude enough to have had her join our Roc City family.

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