First Person Singular: DC Rollergirls' Meagan Henry
The first day I skated was in the parking lot of the Anacostia skate pavilion. It was cold and windy, and I was terrible. I couldn't even go around a corner. I hadn't skated since I was a kid. That Christmas, I had received two very interesting things: a pair of used roller skates and a dulcimer. The dulcimer has been out of its little case about three times since then.
I'd heard about roller derby making a comeback when we were living in Knoxville, but I'd already taken a job here -- as director of religious education at a Unitarian Universalist church. When we moved here, my husband ran into an old friend from Knoxville who was into roller derby, so it just kind of showed back up in my life when I needed it. All I had here was my job. I didn't know anyone, my daughter was going off to college, and I was completely sedentary.
I was scared as anything to go to that first league practice. I received some pretty big blocks; I was knocked down several times. It's part of the learning process. I'm not naturally a very aggressive person at all. Like most girls my age, I wasn't really brought up to be. And now I am much more self-assertive, and it's not just because of just playing the sport; it's all because I'm around all these strong women who are self-controlled and strong in a positive way. At first I thought, I'm never going to be good enough. Sometimes you just need to try something that seems like it's just out of reach to realize that we can do those things.
When people in the roller derby world are surprised about where I work, it's because they think it's conservative. It's just like people have a preconceived notion of roller derby; people on the other side have a preconceived idea of what a church is. They were definitely surprised at work. But the church is a community, and because they know me, they've come to know what I do. They've completely embraced roller derby. Members will come to bouts on Saturday and come up to me the next day at church and ask me about strategy and give me tips about the nuances of what they saw.
In my 20s, when everyone was going out and having fun, I was raising my daughter on my own and working full time. Roller derby is definitely making up for time I lost -- to just play.
Interview by Amanda Long