Thursday, October 1, 2009

Even keel

While most of the roller derby eagerly awaits Friday's release of the Drew Barrymore-directed Whip It, I thought I'd tackle another facet off the sport: The expenses.

It was inspired by an Associated Press article Women make sacrifices for roller derby, published last month.

The article chiefly focused on Kelly Clocks'em, formerly of the Carolina Rollergirls. Kelly Clocks'em -- real name Abbey Dethlefs -- who had to hang up her skates after three years of roller derby due to the recession, which saw her lose two jobs in the past year.

"The economy is tougher," Miss Dethlefs, 28, said after skating in last week's Wicked Wheels of the East tournament, her last derby event for the foreseeable future. "I mean, it put me out of business."

The loss of employment has left Dethlefs without health insurance --a must for serious skaters-- and money for other side expenses of derby.

"It's gas. It's baby sitters. It's equipment," said Amy Callner, spokeswoman for Baltimore's Charm City Rollergirls. "It's all these things."

Even as a piddly college student, I would venture to say I am fortunate enough to have not had my personal finances impede my skating. I'm still covered under my father's health insurance and have money to put towards team dues and equipment (including new skates, bearings and wheels), as I am employed part-time and lack some of the other expenses my teammates have (i.e. children, babysitters, physical therapy bills, etc.). Yes, derby can be viewed as a costly hobby, though I take issue with the claim that: costs skaters hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year for the privilege of knocking each other around on the track.

Thousands of dollars seems a little extreme to me and I'm not quite sure where the Associated Press gathered their data from. I pay a few hundred in team dues every year but outside of equipment upgrades I don't find the cost of participating to be that staggering -- particularly as a former young girl who nearly drove her parents into the poorhouse with her expensive equestrian hobbies. In fact, I don't consider derby to be any more expensive than any other competitive sport, such as rugby or tennis.

Additionally, there are ways to cut costs. The Old Capitol City Roller Girls will be moving their practices to a newer, less-expensive facility in the community later this fall to defray rental costs. Teammates carpool when traveling to 'away' bouts and sometimes to and from practices to save on gas. We even keep a few hand-me-down skates for new skaters to use.

The bottom line is that in this economy, hobbies are going to be cut back or scrapped altogether. But I think roller derby is affordable for a number of people and I'd hate to think such an article would scare off any potential recruits before they even know what the sport is about.

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