At my fourth or fifth Ann Arbor Derby Dimes practice, we did a warm-up that involved weaving backwards through a double pace line while skating at moderate speed, something I had never tried before. My only goal in my first weeks of skating with A2D2 was to not call attention to myself: not arrive too early or too late, wear the right colors, and fall as little as possible on the unusually slippery track. So as this warm-up started, I panicked. However, as I transitioned in the front of the pack and started slowly weaving backwards through the line, I started to feel better and better because every single pair of skaters I weaved passed said something to me that made me want to keep going: “Good job!” “You got this!” a “woo” of celebration, or a quiet “nice” as I slipped by them. Every single skater I passed made me feel capable and encouraged. This is the experience of a transfer skater with the Derby Dimes. People just want to help.
I started playing roller derby in Freiburg, Germany. I had never skated before, I didn’t know anyone who played, and I couldn’t speak German that well. But like many derby players who are just starting out, I had basically just seen the movie "Whip It" and had too much time on my hands. And while I started derby as a very lonely study-abroad student who needed more friends and weekend activities, I left my year in Germany with an immeasurable and unbreakable passion for roller derby that I don’t see myself losing any time soon.
When I moved back to Ann Arbor, I immediately found the Derby Dimes. By the time I left the Blockforest Roller Girls in Freiburg, I was finally starting to feel like a part of derby family that I could count on and that counted on me. Transferring to a new league in the US felt like having to start building my derby family all over again in a new place with new rules and new people. And, for the most part, that is what transferring is. But the way the Dimes have made my transfer less terrifying has made all the difference.
My first interaction with an A2D2 person happened when a cab driver flagged me down as I was skating down an Ann Arbor suburban street. It turned out to be Moses, a disarmingly kind and friendly guy and a seasoned A2D2 NSO who happened to recognize the quad skates and black helmet of a derby player and told me to come by Wednesday night scrimmage to meet the team. At scrimmage, I met ScarJo, who walked me through every logistical aspect of transferring and immediately coined my derby nickname: GD.
Every practice I’ve been to since then has been marked by different people helping me learn the ropes of being a Dime. The Brawlstars, who impress me constantly with how crazy-good they are, have been endlessly welcoming and kind when I attend their practices. They give me tips on how to be a better bracer and how to not break my ankles. Slamlet gave me credit for my first five practices because I was completely oblivious to the sign-in attendance sheet. Frida complimented my skating skills in passing once and it made my whole week (although I played it cool, duh).
ShamWow, another recent transfer to A2D2, has had a similar welcoming and positive experience with her transfer process to this league from the Detroit Derby Girls. Regarding her first practices with the Dimes she said, “Skaters introduced themselves and explained drills in practice and they were super, super helpful in that I'm 50% deaf, and I don't always hear everything. Someone always took the time to make sure I understood what was going on. Misu in particular was so good at anticipating needs, and did small things like point out where I could get water without me asking just because she saw I was out. It says a lot about the culture of the league.”
Sham Wow’s experience and mine had a lot of overlap in that the welcoming and overall kind and respectful nature of A2D2 made our transition to a new team smooth. Joining a new league can mean leaving old friends and traditions behind, but it can also mean being introduced to amazing new people, drills, moves, plays, and being dropped into an ultra-supportive and helpful community the moment you lace up your skates at your first practice. I don’t always know if I can do the drill everyone else seems well-versed at and I still miss my old team sometimes, but I know the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes will always have my back regardless of where I started, and for that I am intensely grateful.
I am Goddamn Goddamn, a Bank skater, writer, TV enthusiast, and the weird person asking to pet your dog.