What’s better than spending money on cool stuff? Buying cool stuff for a good cause, of course! We’re auctioning off some of our hand-sewn OG products from the early days of STEAKS. If there was a roller derby history museum (which is an awesome idea by the way—can somebody make that happen, please?), these beauties would end up there someday. The best part is, the proceeds from the auction will be going to a project that is making a difference in the derby community: Derby Without Borders.
Some of you might have heard about DWB during WFTDA playoffs, and that’s because it can only do good things if people like you help them out! As roller derby has spread across the world and grown into an international sport, it has faced many challenges that we as a community have to grapple with. Derby leagues and communities in many different regions face barriers that keep them from being able to skate or develop their skills.
What it comes down to, in many cases, is access. Access to roller derby gear (which, as we all know, is expensive), access to coaches and support, access to tournaments and games against WFTDA ranked teams, and access to the money that makes it all possible in the first place. 2×4 Roller Derby out of Argentina is an example of the kind of league that struggles with these barriers—and fought fearlessly to overcome them to earn their ticket to WFTDA Championships this year. If you haven’t, you should read this powerful article published by The Apex that talks about their journey and insists that playing sports shouldn’t be a privilege.
We talked with Derby Without Borders founder Mae Dae about how they got involved in supporting leagues like 2×4 and their advice for those looking to get involved.
Derby Without Borders founder Mae Dae at the DWB booth in NOLA during WFTDA Playoffs 2018.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your Roller derby background? How did you come up with the idea for Derby Without Borders?
I’ve been playing derby for 5 years. I started with a small league in Northern California. I travelled around for a bit visiting leagues around Europe for a while. I skated with the London Rockin Rollers for about 1.5 years while I did my master’s, then I moved to Bangkok to help coach Bangkok Roller Derby for about 5 months. I also helped start the Hot Lava Rollers around that time. I moved back to the Bay Area in May of this year and I’ve been skating Bay Area Derby since June.
When I was travelling, I attended the 2017 Roller Derby World Summit in Manchester. On the opening day of the summit, there was a panel with folks representing isolated regions of roller derby. They all discussed the various struggles they faced with playing the sport in places where they were isolated from the rest of the derby community. The theme emerged that they all struggled for various reasons to access equipment efficiently and in a way that was cost-effective to their region. This barrier impacted their ability to recruit and retain skaters and ultimately to access the sport. That’s when I was inspired to begin the equipment distribution project.
What are the barriers unique to roller derby that your project addresses?
Access to skate equipment is really difficult in the regions DWB works with. Many teams don’t have skate shops in their countries so the import taxes, exchange rates, and waiting on shipping all present huge barriers.
A lot of the teams we work with also don’t have access to a lot of coaching. Coaching is such a big resource that a lot of teams don’t realize isn’t as accessible in other regions.
We help fundraise for other leagues to travel, especially for competitive play. We hope to one day have a scholarship program for leagues and skaters who need travel funds to compete.
SAY CHEESE! 🤪 – Short Stop after coaching a Derby Without Borders boot camp in Thailand for Bangkok Roller Derby.
Derby Without Borders works with leagues and skaters from all over the world. Can you tell us a little bit about the leagues/skaters/communities you have already supported?
I’ve worked with leagues on developing infrastructure and policies, equipment, coaching and even building leagues from the ground up. My main focus this year has been supporting leagues in Asia; Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Bali. Roller derby in Asia is very sparse and often times skaters have to travel to other countries in order to play.
I’ve also continued to support 2×4 with fundraising for the past 2 years and this year have also collected and distributed equipment to a league in Quito, Ecuador. I collected cash donations for CaiRollers’ travels funds as well.
I’ve been working with like-minded individuals to further create support for teams and skaters who face barriers. We’ve created accompliceships with Queer Skate Alliance, Team Indigenous, Jewish Roller Derby, The Black Roller Derby Network, BIPOC Who Skate and the WFTDA D & I to work towards our goals.
Helping to support the league in Bali has been particularly inspiring. In January of this year, they went from one set of skates and equipment shared between 14 people to enough equipment for all their skaters. We will be hosting a coaching boot camp led by Baller Shot Caller with them this October where skaters from all over Asia will come to participate. It’s been incredible to see what can happen in less than a year!
Derby Without Borders and the fiery Hot Lava Rollers in Bali 🌋🌺 are working together with Baller Shot Caller of Atlanta Rollergirls and Team USA and are hosting a roller derby boot camp!
Many derby leagues are active in their local communities and are looking for ways to be more inclusive. Do you have any tips for leagues that want to make derby more accessible on a local level?
If you don’t have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee in your league, start one! The WFTDA Code of Conduct toolkit is also a great resource to start integrating now. Take a look at things that can be offered at sliding scale rates such as dues, equipment rentals, and even things like child-friendly practices, varied attendance policies or practices that accommodate for different types of work schedules.
A lot of your project is dedicated to getting equipment to skaters and leagues that need it. What are the most useful things that people can donate?
Skates (not just plates or boots), new/unused mouth guards and new or unimpacted helmets are the most valuable equipment donations!
Other than equipment, how can people help support Derby Without Borders?
Our organization desperately needs more funding and specialized volunteers in nonprofit management. We are applying for nonprofit 501 (c) 3 status and can use as much help as possible with those barriers, including raising $2000 for the IRS filing fees. Any cash donations you or your league can make to the organization helps us keep doing all the things that we’re doing!
What’s next on your list of goals for the project? How would you like DWB to grow in the future?
We are really excited about our boot camp in Bali and finalizing our 501 (c) 3 status. We hope to have full funding by this time next year to run all our various projects at full capacity!
None of the great things that DWB has been able to accomplish so far would have been possible without support from lots of supportive folks in the derby community. Any shout-outs you’d like to give?
I want to say a big thank you to all of our supporters and collection points! Strong Athletic, SISU Mouthguards, Riedell, Bones, STEAKS and 187 Triple 8 have all been incredible supporters! Our collection points are also continuing to grow and help make collecting equipment easier for everyone. Thanks to Derby Warehouse, Double Threat Skates, Hive Skate Club, Medusa Skates, Cleveland Men’s Roller Derby, Bridgetown Roller Derby and Buff Unicorn Coaching for facilitating equipment donations for us! And of course a HUGE thank you to the WFTDA for our equipment collection tour during the whole 2019 Post Season Tournaments!
So, now that you know a little more, it’s time to do your part! Win cool stuff in our auction, support DWB, and do whatever you can to help make this sport we all love more accessible!