North Coast Nightmares’ roller derby skater Sasheen “Bash-full” Wesley has returned from playing for Team Indigenous at the RollerCon competition in Las Vegas from July 15 to 19.
Wesley played amongst other players with Indigenous roots from North and South America against other international teams.
“Everybody was very positive, understanding, encouraging,” says Wesley.
Her team skated their way to the championship round, where they played against Team Canada and then lost but she says the important part of them attending this event was not to win but to place higher in the overall world rankings and have the opportunity to skate together.
This is Wesley’s second time playing for Team Indigenous. She previously played in 2018 for the Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester, England.
|Sasheen “Bash-full” Wesley|
“The next roller derby World Cup, we are going to be ranked at a higher seating and that’s what this tournament was for, was to get a higher ranking,” says Wesley. “The last world cup was our first debut… we came out 27th which was also pretty good because we only practiced that one time together before entering the tournament.”
Wesley tried out for the 25-member team virtually both times by submitting a video of herself roller skating. The team kept in touch online and only managed to get one practice in when they arrived at their meet before the tournament started.
And although they were initially strangers introduced online, she says their Indigenous roots transcended those lines.
“Everybody described it as having a connection with each other that nobody’s ever experienced on any other roller derby team. I think a lot of it comes from just understanding what it is just being indigenous,” Wesley says.
“All the barriers that we have, bringing awareness to murdered missing Indigenous women, you know that strength and that power comes from just being able to do that, let us connect… the good thing is we miss each other and can’t wait to play again together.”
Wesley says she began playing roller derby a few years ago after struggling with alcoholism. She found that the sport gave her confidence, support and time for herself that she never had before. It revived her spirit, encouraging her to take care of her health by eating well and working out regularly.
“It helped me a lot, especially with depression, connecting with other women and knowing that everybody has their own story, everybody has their own connection with roller derby and how it saves them or help them,” she says. “Each story is unique and I think that’s why I keep going back, meeting women from all over the world.”
But despite her love of roller derby, it does come with financial challenges. She had to fundraise and train on her own to be able to play with Team Indigenous this year. She says there are no grants available in Canada for Indigenous athletes that aren’t playing with Team Canada directly.
She had to take on the full cost herself and worked two jobs to be able to afford it. There are two tournaments coming up this year in Montreal and Mexico, which are important to attend as they will help pave the way for the next World Cup in 2022.
To be a part of Team Indigenous means a lot for Wesley. She’s determined to make it happen, but she’s also been feeling the strain of maintaining her training, family life and mental strength.
“I found out that I don’t qualify for [grants] because I’m not part of Team Canada… just because I’m not on Team Canada doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to access funds that are for Indigenous athlete women, so that was difficult” says Wesley. “If I had a sponsor, somebody that could help with airfare, then another sponsor for the hotel and then I would just need to worry about food… I have another three months to do it all over again.”
Overall, she says everybody has been cheering on her roller derby journey and she won’t let finances bring her down. As a mother of eight, she wants to prove that anything is possible,
“It’s things like this, stuff that goes on in life that just gets overwhelming but somehow, just playing roller derby keeps me focused,” she says. “I have a goal and [my children] also have goals, so it’s just inspiring them to not give up on things that they’re passionate about.”