Hilary Boswell’s years in roller derby eventually moved her from Saskatoon to Calgary to pursue derby at a higher level.
She is a part of both the Thrashin’ Lassies house team and the All Star charter team. But despite the hard work of her and her fellow skaters, derby isn’t always recognized as a legitimate sport. Boswell continues to work hard, training during the off-season for the upcoming tryouts in January.
Boswell started playing roller derby in Saskatoon, eventually working her way up from fresh meat to skating for the city’s travel team called, The Mind Fox.
“Fresh-meat is playing one another in your league and then b-team means you play in your province,” says Boswell. “The travel team is anywhere, you could go down to the states or you could go to other provinces.”
One memory that stands outis from 2013 when Boswell attended the Roller Derby Association of Canada’s national tournament, held in the West Edmonton Mall ice palace. The Mind Fox took home gold, despite sometimes being discounted for their small size.
“We had done what nobody expected us to do, we had set the goal at the beginning of the year that we wanted to go to championships and it was happening.”
In her life outside the rink, Boswell found derby served as a source of empowerment.
“I think that everyone that comes to roller derby finds some source of empowerment in it,” she says. “You find derby at a time in your life when you need to find it.”
It was this love of sport and competitive drive that pushed her to pursue derby at a higher level. Starting off in Saskatoon, she found there wasn’t as much competition as a larger centre. There was also a difference in expectations between those who were competitive and those who weren’t.
“It was difficult for me because I wanted to be the best,” she says. “It was different things to different people, but that’s the beauty of roller derby. It’s what you want it to be.”
As a legal assistant for the federal government, she applied to a job pool that included all the major centres that had roller derby teams. The first job she was offered was located in Calgary and after that she says things “just kind of fell into place.” A job wasn’t the only motivator for her to move to Calgary; as the second best team in western Canada, she wanted to work her way up with them.
“They were so close to breaking out, I knew that I had put in the work and that I could do the same. I just needed a place to shine.”
Although she was excited to be a pursuing her dream, being away from her family continues to be one her biggest challenges. Without knowing anyone in Calgary, Boswell found her fellow skaters to be her biggest support network.
“The good thing about roller derby is that no matter where you go, you find a home.”
Now, Boswell is a member of both the house team, the Thrashin’ Lassies and the Calgary Roller Derby Association All Star charter team. Although in Saskatoon she had primarily been a blocker, she made the All Star team as a jammer, after working on the position at the recommendation of one of her former coaches.
“While I was in Saskatoon I jammed as much as I could, when I came to Calgary I expected to make the team as a blocker,” she says. “I jammed, because they want to see you do both and they were like, ‘That’s it, you’re going to jam.’”
Most recently the All Stars have taken home gold in a playoff tournament in Lansing, MI and went on to championships in Portland, OR. The Allstars took home bronze in championships, even after a “killer” first game.
“I know we could have won if we would have played a gold medal game.”
Although Boswell wishes she could say she was just happy to make to championships, she admits she was a bit disappointed taking home third place. Because she hopes to have “no regrets when it comes to roller derby,” Boswell’s losses motivate her to come back stronger.
Despite the obvious hard work that goes into derby, there are still some misconceptions surrounding the sport.
“Lots of people kind of think it’s still like it was in the old days -- set-up and kind of choreographed,” says Boswell “It’s really not like that whatsoever anymore.”
Because of the time and dedication she puts into the sport, Boswell aims to challenge people’s outdated perceptions of roller derby.
“We’re not playing characters. We’re real women who make real sacrifices and we’re excelling at a sport.”
- By Cassandra Woods