In Her Words - Stephanie Forsyth aka Ruthless Red on Redefining Her Identity Through Roller Derby

In my first year of college I took a writing class, my professor asked us to describe ourselves in three words. The only thing I could think of as an identifier was “ginger.” I realized at that point there wasn’t much to me. I was young and a blank canvas. I put myself through university and graduated as a Registered Nurse, which became another part of my identity. I worked to establish my career path, and started creating a home for myself. But found that I had a fair amount of free time since I no longer had to do homework.

 My first game at Sk8fest (2011) in Prince George (in white), I was asked to be starting jammer in front of 300+ people...

My first game at Sk8fest (2011) in Prince George (in white), I was asked to be starting jammer in front of 300+ people...

I heard about roller derby from a friend and thought it would help fill my spare time and keep me active. Her and I went to the Roll-a-Dome to try out skating, and that afternoon I fell in love. The thrill of speeding around the track, heart pounding, legs aching, breathing hard, and then you got to hit someone! This was new to me, and it was exhilarating. I grew up thinking I wasn’t good at sports, I’m aware now that I just had poor hand-eye coordination and was quite capable in sports if a ball wasn’t involved.

Ruthless Red Calgary Roller Derby Association

 

When I first started playing roller derby there was a prominent cultural aspect to the sport as well. It was a woman’s sport, and we encouraged each other to try new things, to push ourselves. Teammates supported you in victories and helped you through difficulties. This is when I started recognizing that I was strong, determined, driven, and capable of more that I had previously believed. My identity wasn’t just about how I looked, or my job, but the intrinsic values that were reflected in everything I did. Gradually a paradigm shift started and roller derby was becoming more like other competitive sports rather then recreational entertainment. We started wearing uniforms instead of outfits, we cross trained outside of practice times, but the community support remained. This is when I started identifying as an athlete. I would joke how quickly I would quit my day job if I could find a way to play roller derby as a career because I loved it so much...

Then my marriage fell apart. It was the worst and best thing to happen to me. I was humbled to require the support my roller derby community but beyond grateful to have them there for me without question. Running became a large part of maintaining my mental health. It was when I self reflected, though about how I was going to face challenges, gave me perspective and the ability to think about things rationally when I was overcome with so many emotions. Again through hard work and sweat I reestablished myself and who I thought I was. As the dust settled in my life I was able to see that I could face the unknown and manage whatever was thrown at me, even though I was unsure of my life direction, I realized I was capable of handling adversity.

 The joy this sport brings to me is visible all over my face. What isn’t so obvious is that I’m skating outside the track boundaries and on my way to the penalty box.

The joy this sport brings to me is visible all over my face. What isn’t so obvious is that I’m skating outside the track boundaries and on my way to the penalty box.

That’s when I decided to pursue my goal of doing what I love. I want to play high level roller derby, I want to push myself because I know my body is still capable of getting better. I made a plan of what I needed to do and put it in motion. I put my career on hold, moved cities, and got onto a higher ranked team, the Calgary Roller Derby Association All Stars. It has been terrifying leaving my job, house, friends, and team behind, but I have learned so much from this experience that even if I don’t meet my goal, it will have still all been worth it. All for the love of sports. .

 

It frustrates me to think that women don’t have a place in sports or being athletic. The human body is meant to move, regardless of its gender. I think that we as women need to continue to make our own space, to keep showing up, to apply the persistence and dedication that we give to our sport and training to the fight for our place.