By Lex Garbutt (Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide)
On Saturday 21st February, Stefanie Mainey of the London Roller Girls and Team England held a skills-sharing boot camp hosted by the Richter City Roller Derby League in Wellington, New Zealand – the last stop in her 7 week tour of Australia and New Zealand.
In 2014, Stefanie made contact with the league regarding the possibility of doing a boot camp – offering to waive her fee and asking that the proceeds of the camp be donated to a Deaf charity. This happened after the story of Marcia Taylor (Meat Train #4711), a Hard of Hearing (HoH) skater from Richter City, hit the news in late 2014 surrounded by claims of discrimination against her from the Management of Team New Zealand.
Mainey, a professional athlete in the sport, noted that the camp was “the perfect thing to end on.”
“I saw the discrimination which Meat Train had been subject to and one of my cousins is Deaf and I just thought how upset I would be if someone had done that to her. When I saw what initially had happened I posted something on Facebook saying it’s frustrating that people aren’t talking about this more, we need to talk about when things like this happen otherwise we just allow it to carry on. And then off the back of that I was just like, well, talking’s one thing but doing something is even better.”
For Marcia, it validated that what had happened to her was outside the norm of an acceptable way to treat people, and disabled athletes in particular. “It was (Stefanie’s) way of supporting me and, I think, putting a stake in the ground and saying ‘discrimination in the sport is not okay.”
Meat Train attended the boot camp and got a lot out of it, despite a technical mishap which saw her hearing aid battery go flat. “At the beginning of (the boot camp) I was completely deaf, I was just sort of following what other people were doing but that was ok because I’m used to doing that – not being able to hear, following, just being a few clicks behind people.”
The Deaf charity that was chosen to receive the funds was Deaf Sports NZ, a not-for profit organisation supporting Deaf Sports and Deaf athletes to achieve on the national and international stage. The President of Deaf Sports NZ, Daniel Harborne, came along to the boot camp to accept the funds on behalf of the organisation.
Catherine Caudwell (Bubble O’Kill, Head Coach at Richter City) said she had learned a lot from having Meat Train as part of the League, including “how to get owned! My first introduction to Meat Train was me like sliding against the stands and being like “what happened?”
She also had some advice for Leagues gaining Deaf or HoH members, saying “we’re the kind of sport where people who are excluded from participating in other sports find each other and form a community. So don’t turn people away. That just sucks. Don’t discriminate you know? It’s a good rule. Do research and find out how other leagues have done it because it’s not impossible. Coming up with some signs that we use at training is actually great for everyone.”
In a very cool twist to this feel-good story, it appears that Mainey has put her hat into the ring to bout against the first ever Deaf and HoH team in Las Vegas at Roller Con 2015. Stefanie will be skating for the ‘hearing team’ and admits she has no idea what to expect. “I’ve played against teams that speak a different language and you know we have no idea what they are talking about on the track but they know what we’re talking about on the track. This is will be my first game where I’m playing against an entire team of people who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf. I should imagine that their teamwork will probably be a lot better than ours because they won’t have to rely on verbal cues and everything will be subtle hand movements.”
All the best for the game Stefanie and thanks for your amazing support of Deaf and HoH athletes!
Don’t forget to check out Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Deafderbyskaters
Photo credit to: Geex Quad Foto