North Star Roller Derby had high hopes for its traveling season.
The team had been preparing, getting jacked, thinking big. Jackillope, a longtime veteran, was hoping to finish her seventh season strong.
“Everyone was trying to up our game,” she says.
Three days before the first tournament was supposed to take place, the decision was handed down. There would be no traveling derby season—no practices, no grudge matches, no whipping around the track. The flights and hotel reservations have all been canceled, and the team is scattered in various corners of the Twin Cities area.
“Everything has just stopped,” teammate Sailor Mouth says.
If you’re at all familiar with derby, you know it’s more than just a sport. It’s one of the scrappiest, queerest, femme-ist, most racially diverse corners of the athletic world. It’s a way for completely unrelated people to find a community, complete with built-in friendships, weekly ass-kicking lessons, and people with names like Judgment Bae.
Without it, Jackillope says… well, some days are harder than others. She also recently lost her job copywriting for a tech company in Minneapolis, just one among a number of massive layoff events peppering the age of COVID-19.
“You think about how much you miss seeing those people three or four times a week,” she says. She’s trying to stay optimistic, but she can’t remember the last time she wasn’t on any sort of team.
The derby gang is doing the best it can to stay close. They’re organizing surprise gift drops on teammates’ doorsteps. They have virtual happy hours and shoot the shit like they would at practice. And, recently, they invested some time and energy into making this fun video—magically passing a helmet from apartment to apartment and getting suited up and psyched in their derby kits.
The idea came from 10-year derby veteran Rude Barb, who admits it was great to get a chance to wear her travel team uniform.
“It was sad, because I put my gear on, and then I was like, ‘Aww, now I have to take it off,’” she admits.
The video itself has been passed around, too. The team sent it to some of their would-be competitors, hoping they’ll get to play together in a different sort of space until they can really get back on the track. Barb hopes everyone will be able to hold onto their health, their good spirits, their jobs, until they get another chance to compete.
“We will be skating again sometime,” she says. “I just don’t know when.”